Forever 21 CEO: 'L.A. Is Our Perfect Brand Canvas'

Forever 21 has launched its first-ever brand campaign, and new CEO Winnie Park says the L.A.-loving ads sum up everything the retailer stands for.

The campaign reflects a strategic shift and a new marketing direction. "We're transforming the company from being just fast fashion to focusing on what is relevant,” says Park. “We will always deliver the newest trends and styles, but we want to do it in a more conscientious way."

Founded in L.A. by Do Won and Jin Sook Chang, a husband-and-wife team of Korean immigrants, the once high-flying company filed for bankruptcy in 2019. Within months, Authentic Brands had swooped in and acquired it in a partnership with Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Group.

That group hired Park four months ago from the Chicago-based Paper Source, where she was also CEO.



While she's still finding her way around the company, "it feels very much to me like a 30-something-year-old startup." Forever 21 "still retains that hustle that comes with fast fashion. It's still entrepreneurial and watchful of what's next. For a long time, we could rely on that," she tells Marketing Daily. "But in those 30-plus years, customers and their value have changed."

While the company still caters to those titular 21-year-olds, "it's also popular with millennials and Gen-Xers. I shop this brand, and so does my 17-year-old daughter."

One difference is that Gen Z-ers "are social natives. They value shopping in stores, social commerce and engaging in online shopping. But they want brands to mean something to them."

Park says the new campaign addresses that meaning. It's careful not to focus on one style or look. "Our customer may be goth in the morning and preppy at night. They have their own point of view -- we're here to help them express their individuality."

That insight, she says, is the backbone of the new ads, which kick off with a video called "A Little Bit of L.A. in All of Us."

"Individuality is the zeitgeist of Los Angeles. It's a place where cinema, music, fashion and art come together in a melting pot. And it's diverse, not just in terms of ethnicity, but in terms of lifestyles," says Park.

L.A.,"is that kind of inspiring canvas, from downtown to the Hollywood Hills to Korea Town to Malibu -- all these neighborhoods are so Californian, and they are all amazing."

The Salon, Campbell Ewald’s newly formed cultural consultancy, created the effort. The campaign also includes new store designs and will reach into its internet and metaverse offerings, too.

*Correction: An earlier version of the story did not credit the ad agency.

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