If you have driven on Figueroa in Highland Park, you have definitely have noticed a little store called Fashion 21. A friend casually mentioned that the space is where megahuge fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 started. We thought it was an attempt at a joke but they insisted that it was a fact: the brand did start there. After some cross-referencing with the very respected Wikipedia, the store did open as Fashion 21 in Highland Park on April 21, 1984. What?!?!? We couldn’t believe it. We had to go into Fashion 21. Were there hidden treasures? Was this a secret sample store? Is it just a Forever 21? Is it a Forever 21…but on steroids? Is this the lowest level of the bargain basement or a land of hidden fashion finds? We had to know.
While in the area for a meeting this week, we decided it was time to stop into Fashion 21. We stood outside to guess what was through those doors: Piles of amazing, low priced t-shirts? Droves of people shopping at noon on a Tuesday? Businessman, now billionaire, and super Christian owner of the company, Do Won Chang? What could be in there?! The outside looks like a cross between a suburban Fashion Bug and New York’s now deceased Daffy’s. With some trepidation and sweaty palms, we stepped inside. A N D…
It’s just a Forever 21. That’s it! There isn’t even a placard that says, “Beholden Shoppers, take heed: Upon this ground, within these walls, you stand in a sacred space for this is where Forever 21 began it’s global domination!” There were maybe three or four people shopping in there and–in true F21 style–there were clothes everywhere, nothing made sense, and it was soundtracked with so much bubblegum that I still have some in my hair. There were tons of fake animal prints and patterns and lots of rayon and acrylic and sadness: it is just a Forever 21! There wasn’t even an Easter egg of a “Fashion 21″ bag written in the brand’s signature New Gothic font. I would be selling the shit out of ironic “Fashion 21″ somethings up in there if this were my place. You know Forever 21 nerds would be selling that shit on ebay for big money, too–and Forever 21 has money to burn so why not do it?!
Also: There wasn’t even a men’s section!!
It was a little disappointing that there was no element of suburban fashion house or low end design sampler platter: it was all just Forever 21 crammed into a Highland Park corner that is trapped in 1984. Although a let down, it is fascinating that such a big brand hasn’t even flipped the store to look like the rest of their high gloss, over the top megastores. It is cute that the place still has the former name “Fashion 21″ and is virtually untouched on the outside. That is kind of cool! If you want to stop by to see the place for yourself, it’s on the corner of Figueroa and Avenue 57. We warn you: it is just a Forever 21 (WITHOUT A MEN’S SECTION!!). The allure of it ends when you step inside.