Monday, May 30, 2011

Sitting in Limbo


What makes Forever 21 such a dispiriting, soul-sucking purgatory?

I admit I have a grudge against the place. I have mixed feelings about whether high fashion is an art or a scam (I think it's probably a little of both), but I balk at creative people's work simply being stolen outright, and Forever 21 thrives on stolen ideas. Far worse, for me, is the way they abuse workers. Cheap clothes aren't really cheap. If the price is low, it's probably because someone else is paying the cost -- someone who really can't afford it.

But I was in the store with Lucia over the weekend, and I wasn't thinking about the big issues. I was just sitting down, watching people shop, and I couldn't help noticing a couple of things.

First, almost everyone in the story looked alike. There are two or three basic teenage girl styles and virtually every girl wore one of them. The store is enormous, and packed with clothes. You would think that would inspire some variety, but you'd be wrong. It inspires mind-numbing conformity.

Second, no one looked happy. Even the mannequins in all their bright colors look pissed off and bored. The customers were worse. I saw several women my age whose arms were loaded with clothes as they traipsed behind girls I assume were their daughters. Neither seemed to be enjoying themselves. No one goes to a trendy clothes store because they desperately need new clothes. It's an indulgence. But what's the point of indulging yourself if it isn't even fun?

I doubt there's any connection between the big issues of honesty and justice, and level of depression the store induces, but maybe there's something karmic going on.

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