Bankruptcy Can't Keep Wet Seal Down, So What Is The Store's New Look?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 07: The Wet Seal logo is displayed on the exterior of a closed store on January 7, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Wet Seal, a teen clothing retailer, announced that it has closed 338 of its retail stores and will lay off nearly 3,700 employees. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Though Forever21 and Zara are credited with the fast fashion phenomenon, there was another outstanding store that began the retail trend much earlier. Wet Seal was the one-stop shop for date night dresses, dance-ready ensembles, and a quick fix for a fashion craving in the '90s. Despite its popularity, Wet Seal announced bankruptcy on January 15 and was subsequently offered a $20 million loan to restore the brand to its former glory, Women's Wear Daily reports. On the heels of the surprising news, only one question remains: What will the revamped Wet Seal look like?

The brand's quirky basics aren't incredibly different from the wares you might find in Forever21 or H&M, though admittedly some of the store's styles haven't left the '90s. The taupe grey Cozy Chunky Knit Duster is remarkably similar to one which resided in my closet in 1999, but the store's pastel Girly Floral Ruffle Dress looks like it could have walked off the pages of a Free People catalogue or out of the American Eagle website. Likewise, Wet Seal's shoe collection is peppered with classics and throwback styles including combat boots and gladiator sandals, a perfectly adequate selection for whatever a 16-year-old girl might need for school or after-hours excursions. And as ever, Wet Seal's nine pairs of earrings for $9.90 deal is difficult to beat for a chic impulse purchase. 

Where the brand appears to be lacking is its eye for street style-inspired, couture-esque offerings. Whereas Forever21 possesses a more sophisticated Capsule 2.1 collection, which maintains a high-end look and feel, and H&M recruits a new influencer every several months to create a coveted collection, Wet Seal remains firmly rooted in bohemian basics. And with more enticing choices on the market, teens likely aren't as impressed with the limited options at Wet Seal. 

In addition, the brand's social media presence is lackluster at best, with a questionable #WSonME hashtag depicting young consumers in Wet Seal attire or creating individualized looks using the company's clothing. However, the company was founded in 1962; perhaps Wet Seal simply needs a bump to fit into the 21st century. 

With the help of forward-thinking designers and celebrity style icons, Wet Seal could easily become the new fast fashion powerhouse. I selfishly hope for a reasonably-priced online and in-person retailer where I can find innovative, edgy pieces to mix in with wardrobe staples for an entirely customized high-low look. And of course, what would Wet Seal be without an assortment of date-worthy mini dresses and trendy jewelry? Hopefully, the store's next incarnation will simply be an improved version of its '90s glory days.

Images: Wet Seal

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