Forever 21 working conditions
The Takashimaya store on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue was spare, exquisite, and often too quiet for its own good. It closed in June. Five months later, only the Japanese department store's marble floors and high ceilings remain. The six-floor, 30, 000-square-foot space has been transformed into a glittery, dizzying showplace for Forever 21, the cheap chic teen retailer with sprawling ambitions, not the least of which is wanting the grown-up world to take it seriously.
On a late November morning the day before the store is to open for the first time, Linda Chang takes a moment to contemplate her family's ambitions. "It's pretty historic that we're on Fifth Avenue, " she says. "We've tried hard not to make it feel like fast fashion." Chang has recently become the slightly more public face of the very private family that owns Forever 21, and she's still feeling her way into the role. Chang is 29 with an undergraduate business degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and she's been leading the marketing department for the past two years. One day she'll likely run the nearly $3 billion, 477-store, 35, 000-employee chain. For now, Do Won and Jin Sook, or Mr. and Mrs. Chang, as everyone at Forever 21 calls them, are still very much in charge. Mrs. takes care of the merchandise; Mr. takes care of everything else.
He is here today, a youthful-looking man in his 50s wearing a dark blazer, jeans, and a wool scarf. No one dares approach him uninvited. Linda is far more outgoing. "This is our rock-and-roll section: sequins, black lace, leopard, some leather, a mix of the wild things, our faux fur, crochet, " she says, sweeping her arm across just some of what's on the first floor. She's dressed modestly in a Forever 21 black T-shirt and jeans with a boyfriend blazer. Her necklace, of interlocking Cs, is Chanel.
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