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Forever 21 relaunches in Japan, with upmarket aspirations

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Forever 21 by FashionUnited

When Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy in 2019 it had exited nearly 40 markets, closed hundreds of stores and was dousing the flames of a pr disaster for insulting the plus-size community. It was, by all accounts, not a good year for the fast fashion retailer.

Yet bankruptcy did not spell the end of the brand, which relaunched the following January as an e-commerce first business via a series of new licensing deals, more market exits, changes of ownership and navigating the pandemic. It was a year that compounded more turbulence than growth.

Japan, once a key market for the retailer, was keen to see the brand return under a new umbrella and formula, with Forever 21 announcing it has formed a partnership deal with local retail giant Itochu and Adastria, where it will launch as digital first company along with a pop-up in Tokyo. More store openings are planned in the future, with up to 18 outlets to be opened by 2028, according to the Japan Times newspaper.

The strategy in Japan, however, is to move away from its fast fashion past and embrace are more high-end image and product.

“We hope to thoroughly manage production and remove ourselves from the image of mass production and mass disposal,” Osamu Kimura, president of Adastria, said during a news conference in Tokyo.

This would make the product different from its other markets. Currently the majority of Forever 21’s retail network is in its home market, operating some 400 stores in the U.S.

In the UK and Europe Poetic Brands was granted licensee rights to manufacture, market, and distribute the brand. As in Japan, most of Forever 21 stores are franchised or, in some markets, operated as joint ventures with a local partners.

The retailer is targeting sales of 10 billion yen (70 million dollars) for the year ending February 2028, the newspaper reported.

Forever 21