Forever 21's Hidden Message

July 9, 2009 1:26:33 AM PDT
The colorful designs and the prices at Fresno's Forever 21 clothing store attract both the young and the young at heart but hidden at the bottom of each shopping bag, there's a message you might have missed: the inscription of John 3:16 at the bottom of the bag. "I'm surprised that a lot more people don't bring it up or talk about it. 'Cause usually biblical things, people always want to bring it up and talk about it a lot, or don't want to mix it with business. But I think it's neat, it makes it different," said shopper Fatima Ashaq.

John 3:16 has been called "the gospel in a nutshell" by some. It reads, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Forever 21's executive vice president calls the biblical passage evidence of the founders' faith. "God is very important to them. And it leads them in every aspect of what we do," said Larry Meyer.

Meyer is referring to Do Won and Jin Sook Chang, Korean immigrants who founded the company back in 1984. The couple keeps a very low profile, and there are few pictures of them on the internet. A housing complex bearing their names on the campus of the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena is another visual example of their strong Christian faith. They've donated millions to the school to fund capital improvements as well as scholarships and college officials say those contributions have shaped their student body. "Their scholarship contributions fund 20 or 30 partial scholarships for students every year. So their contributions are quite significant to our corporate life," said H. Lee Merritt, the school's Vice President for Finance.

But Forever 21's rise to a billion dollar business hasn't come without controversy. A lawsuit over working conditions in its factories was settled out of court and critics call some of their designs designer rip-offs. The company has faced dozens of lawsuits claiming trademark and copyright infringement. When dealing with tens of thousands of clothing designs, Meyer says mistakes do happen, but they're being addressed. "We've gotten better at ensuring our vendors are more compliant. That has done well for us. We're confident over time we will reduce the amount of claims," said Meyer.

Meyer says the trends you see on the store's racks may be designer inspired, but they are not intended to be knock-offs. "We want to have a unique style that you can only find at Forever 21."

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