Like many other fast fashion giants, Forever 21 is regularly accused of ripping off independent designers. The latest to accuse the retailer of producing lookalike pieces? Alice Saunders of Massachusetts-based tote bag and carryall company Forestbound.
Alongside the post, she wrote, “Well, this is unfortunate. It’s heartbreaking that this just keeps happening to artists & small businesses. We’re over here working our butts off day and night, pouring our hearts and souls into our work, and then this happens. The bag on the right is for sale at Forever21 and it is in no way associated with me and Forestbound. Thank you so much to all who sent messages & photos. Knowing you guys have my back means everything.”
She tells Yahoo Style that her design was released in early December 2014 — and that major time and effort was spent on its production.
“I wanted it to have a very classic style, and be a bag that you could carry for years and would never get tired of using because it was simple and thoughtfully designed to outlast trends,” she says. “I worked with a brilliant graphic designer, Mason McFee, for weeks on creating a custom font for ESCAPE that was based on letters from old newspapers from the 1950s and 1960s.”
It wasn’t until the beginning of April — when a customer brought Forever 21’s tote to her attention — that she learned about the lookalike.
She doesn’t think independent designers should be subjected to this.
“Running a small business on your own is hard enough as it is, it shouldn’t be made that much harder because you’re always worrying that a large company can profit off the work that you’ve created and shared online,” she says. “[And then] a company like Forever21 comes out with a bag like the one in question — a product that has been manufactured overseas — and is being sold for a fraction of the price that I’m asking for my bags. Knowing that someone could see the Forever 21 bag and mistake it for a Forestbound product is distressing to me — not only because of the similarity in design, but also because of the compromised quality and ethics behind the Forever 21 bag.”
Saunders also shared just how much the company means to her and how much she has invested in the brand. “Forestbound is my livelihood, and I have worked tirelessly for 10 years to build my company as well as establish a reputation of creating unique, high-quality bags — that are 100 percent manufactured in the U.S.A.”
In response to her Instagram post alerting her social followers about the lookalike tote bag, Saunders has gotten a lot of support.
“I received so many direct messages and photos on Instagram from customers and people who are fans of my brand, who were concerned after seeing the bag at Forever 21 and wanted to be sure that I knew about it,” she shares. “Many of my customers choose to support small businesses like Forestbound and are aware that big retailers like Forever 21, Zara, and Urban Outfitters are notorious for lifting the designs of artists, and are not afraid to speak out when they see something suspicious.”
She said she even received messages from buyers of Forever 21’s “Escape” tote who are now interested in buying from her.
“Once I started receiving messages from people on Instagram that said things like, ‘Hey I purchased the ESCAPE Bag at Forever 21 and want to buy more of them directly from you. Is that possible?’ I knew that I needed to speak out about it,” she says. “I do not want my products in any way confused with an item that has been manufactured in China for fast fashion purposes.”
Saunders is consulting with her legal team to determine whether or not she will seek legal action. We have reached out to Forever 21 and will update when we hear back.
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