Have you ever walked into a Forever 21 store and thought to yourself, "Why isn't everything here cheaper?"
Probably not, because prices at Forever 21 are about as low as fashion can go. The retailer has been a notoriously cheap player in the fast fashion game for a long time — right now, on their website, you can snag a peplum top for $10.80, a crop top for $5.80, and a tube top for $4.80 — but a new offshoot promises to drive prices down even lower. On May 3, the first F21 RED location will open in the Azalea Shopping Center in South Gate, CA, bringing to the masses what the masses can't get enough of: dirt-cheap clothes.
According to the press release, F21 RED will be selling camisoles for $1.80 and jeans for $7.80, along with men's t-shirts for $3.80 and plus-sized leggings for $5.80. No word yet on whether these items will be part of a separate F21 RED brand, or just ultra-cheap Forever 21 staples, but you can officially purchase a brand-new tank top for the price of a cup of coffee, and stock up on new skinny jeans for less than the price of a gourmet sandwich. F21 RED will also carry selections from Forever 21's other lines, like 21MEN, Forever 21 Girls, and their cosmetics line, Love & Beauty.
When Laura Heller at Forbes heard the news, she wondered, "How can a retailer sell camisoles for $1.80 and T-shirts for $3.80? Bangladesh comes to mind." A cami that retails for less than $2 is mind-boggling, and it's hard to imagine there's not dangerous factory labor involved somewhere down the line, especially since we're dealing with a retailer accused of everything from using sweatshops in LA to stealing and copying independent designers' work. We've reached out to Forever 21 for comment and will update if we hear back.
What does it cost to make a shirt, anyway? Take a look at Everlane, a company that sells beautiful t-shirts at shockingly low prices. The major reason they manage to keep costs down isn't because they use sweatshops; it's because they're online only. Since they eliminate the costs that come with brick-and-mortar locations, they're able to pass the savings onto the customer. But they also operate on something they term "radical transparency" — a customer can find out exactly where their Everlane purchase came from, using a map of Everlane's factory locations around the globe. (Spoiler alert: all the factories are ethical and beautifully run.)
With all that, how much does a tank top from Everlane cost? $20.
Something has to give when a company retails a brand-new tank top for $1.80. Somewhere down the production line, someone is losing out. We're just waiting to find out who.