Forever 21 declined to comment on its future plans, but in an interview with The New York Times, executives said that in addition to closing some stores, the company would seek to renegotiate other leases with malls, many of which are eager to retain large retailers. Forever 21 also still has excellent name recognition among young shoppers, and the company claims that as much as 40 percent of its clientele is between 25 and 40—a group of people whose shopping habits are better understood by the corporations selling to them. Still, Serdari says that older shoppers tend to follow along with what younger people do, which means many people over 25 are likely adopting Gen Z’s tactics as we speak.

A desire for individuality isn’t the only thing driving young people away from mall retailers, according to Serdari. “We have a new generation that is more sophisticated in the sense that they are more interested in what they’re consuming,” she says. “They have strong convictions about what they should be wearing and the ethical and authenticity aspects of it, and transparency in terms of manufacturing—especially the ones that are really concerned about climate change.” She pointed to Greta Thunberg and the success of her recent student climate protests as an indicator of what Generation Z is willing to do in order to stand up for their beliefs.

For some young consumers, those beliefs mean eschewing fast fashion—a business shot through with ethical, environmental, and human-rights problems—in favor of buying clothes secondhand. Teens have been gifted thrifters for generations, but start-ups like Depop have turned that facility into something that can be done on a far larger scale. These start-ups allow young people to buy used clothing from each other and scour the internet for weird finds from the backs of strangers’ closets. Coming up with a real Guns N’ Roses tour shirt is far more of a triumph than buying a reproduction off the rack at the local mall—plus, no one else at school will have it.

Depop has become so popular with young people that the app is now its own social-media ecosystem, complete with its own entrepreneurial success stories and breakout stars. That growth, along with all the other ways that the internet lets teens explore identities and aesthetics for themselves and find things they like, has started to change how fashion trends form in and of themselves. “It’s now much more common to see trends growing from the bottom up, and then the press catches on to them, and then they become mass-marketed,” says Serdari.

This time, though, the winner isn’t a business, but young people themselves, who have outsmarted the very businesses that used to be so good at raiding the paychecks from their summer jobs. Before social media—and particularly before Instagram, which is massively popular among American adolescents—fast-fashion retailers could crib from luxury designers and deposit their own spins on high-end trends in stores before price-conscious consumers could know what was coming. Now, by the time Forever 21 catches on to something, even its quick supply chain might not be enough to satisfy people who have already known about a trend for weeks.

Forever 21

BRANDS AT FOREVER 21

  • Dickies®
  • Keds®
  • Lush
  • Young & Reckless
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  • Winky Lux
  • Members Only
  • Umbro
  • MIA Shoes
  • Motel Rocks
  • Reason
  • Superga®
  • Poo-Pourri
  • DOPE
  • Uppercut Deluxe
  • The Fifth Label
  • Havaianas
  • #40 Degrees
  • #EVERYBODYSKATES
  • 8 Other Reasons
  • ad-lib
  • Aisle 316
  • akademiks
  • Alex and Max
  • All Good
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  • Alternative Apparel
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  • Amber Sceats
  • America & Beyond
  • American Stitch
  • Angie
  • Antler & Woods
  • Any Memes
  • Artistry in Motion
  • Aryn K
  • Ash Rain + Oak
  • Batiste
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  • Bench/Body
  • Big Boy
  • Bless’ed Are The Meek
  • Blind Barber
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  • Blush Noir
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  • Brashy
  • Brooklyn Hat Co.
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  • Cross Colours
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  • Daya by Zendaya
  • Defend Paris
  • DEFYANT
  • Drill Clothing
  • e.l.f. Cosmetics
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  • From St. Xavier
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  • HALF UNITED
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  • Hollywood Fashion Secrets
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  • Hunter® Boots
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  • Made
  • Magnolia
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  • Married To The Mob
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  • Men’s Society
  • Ministry of Style
  • Miss Truth
  • Mister
  • MLM Label
  • MYVL
  • New Friends Colony
  • Nightwalker
  • NYX Cosmetics
  • Ocean Current
  • Official
  • Oh La La Cheri

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