‘The days of the $5 T-shirt are numbered’: Forever 21 closure could signal end of fast fashion

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WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton photographer is on a mission to create a space where all bodies can feel celebrated. She sits down with Global News at Noon to talk about her new body-inclusive photo studio and changes she’d like to see from the fashion industry. – Oct 1, 2019

Fashion and business experts in Edmonton say this week’s announcement from Forever 21 that the company would be closing all its Canadian stores comes as no surprise, as shoppers turn their backs on “fast fashion” and take their interest towards sustainable brands.

“Fast fashion” is the model employed by companies such as Zara, H&M, Old Navy and the outgoing Forever 21, in which instead of following seasons, brands put out inexpensive garments in high volume to see what will take off.

READ MORE: ‘Fast Fashion’: environmental impacts and what you can do as a consumer

“We’re ending this era of just clothing appearing, and actually starting to care about who makes our products, and looking at the waste and the amount of materials that are used in every single garment we consume,” Edmonton-based fashion blogger and photographer Marielle Terhart said.

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Forever 21 made the announcement Sunday that it has filed for bankruptcy in both the U.S. and Canada.

All 44 Canadian stores will be closed by the end of the year.

Associate professor John Pracejus, director of the University of Alberta’s Business School of Retailing, says he believes it was a combination of competition and a consumer move away from wastefulness that contributed to the failure of the company.

“Obviously there are other places where consumers can go for similar merchandise,” Pracejus said.

Pracejus said that initially, the fast fashion concept began as an answer to meet affordability needs from consumers that were not being met by department stores, and while it was a successful strategy for a time, consumers are turning away.

“There certainly seems to be some consumer backlash towards the whole fast fashion idea,” he said.

“I think Forever 21 was met with competition, both from other stores with a similar format, as well as from big box stores who are able to adopt the methods of the fast fashion-versed companies.

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“There’s certainly a mega trend away from wastefulness and a mega trend towards sustainability.”

Terhart says she believes there is also a recent push for shoppers to know where their clothing comes from.

“I think people really want to support their local economy and support their local makers, and so people are saving up and choosing what to invest in,” she said.

“Consumers on a whole are starting to ask brands to do better,” said Terhart.

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