Thursday, 28 July 2011

Forever 21 opens Flagship store in London

Today, was the Opening of the Flagship Forever 21 (360 Oxford Street, London). It opened where an HMV used to be, which is directly opposite Bond Street tube station.

The first two stores opened in November 2010 in Birmingham at the Bullring Shopping Centre and also in Dublin. 

The UK brand Ambassador for 2011 is a Art Seller, Fashion Blogger, DJ, Model and Presenter, Bip Ling. Bip's first name is Bipasha and she's a 21 year old London girl. 

Flagship Store in London

Architect, JT Nakaoka works alongside Esther Chang, daughter of the Forever 21’s Korean American founders Don and Jin Sook Chang, on visual merchandising, including graphics, store displays and window design.

The store's are painted completely white and offer a very bright shopping experience with beautifully lit chandeliers and mirrors throughout and lots of visual displays.

The London store (as well as the Birmingham store) are spread out over 3 floors so these stores are quite big and if your not used to shopping in a big stores, it can be overwhelming which I found the first time I went to the store in Birmingham. 

My tips for successful shopping at Forever 21:

Firstly, it's logical but either start on the ground (or basement floor in London) and work your way up, or start at the top and work your way down. I don't think it makes any sense to start in a department eg like accessories then move to shoes and handbags, unless you are limited for time or looking for something specific. I made this mistake the first time in Birmingham and I decided on the next visit to start at the bottom and take it all in and look at things properly.

Also the first time I was there (Birmingham) the bright lighting was definitely a very different experience. I'm used to shopping in darkly lit shops, some of the UK stores are almost as dark as caves at times and no matter where you are spot lighting isn't your friend!

It's a new shopping experience so be prepared for a lot of people and for sizing foibles, unless they have fixed that since the first two stores launched. The Birmingham F21 is the store I'd mentioned my UK Size 10 friend had trouble with sizing which run from XS (extra small), S (small), M (medium), L (large) and XL (extra large). She tried on a Medium, a Large and an Extra Large and everything was too small for her, which is ridiculous. When asking a male sales assistant which of their sizes would be a UK size 10 he said a Medium but when she said I'd tried that on and the Large and Extra Large but they were all too small, he suggested their Plus Size section upstairs had many cardigans in her size range as well as other clothing! We just laughed but soon laugh turned to anger because we both realised a UK size 10 is not a plus size and it is ridiculous for him to have suggested it.

Also be prepared to wait in queues for the cash register, they only seem to have a bank of about 4 or maybe 6 in one place on the entire floor. There are also either a set of escalators up to the two higher floors as well as down and in the middle of the shop a wide staircase between floors. Birmingham store has a Costa inside but I don't know about other stores.

The fitting/change rooms in Forever 21 are tiny. They also don't have full sized doors.

I'd wanted to go to the London opening today but then decided at the last minute to avoid it, because I knew it'd be complete kaos and I read online people started queuing early to be potentially scouted by a Modelling Agency and/or to Win £100 store gift cards.

Forever 21 is owned by Korean American's, they are catering for petite people, bear this in mind. There is a small Plus Size section but the Birmingham store didn't have much and nothing stood out to me. I'm not writing it off, except perhaps in the case of the shoe sizing but I'm prepared to keep trying but none of the shoes I'd seen had grabbed my attention.

When the business first started the shop and brand were called 21, but somehow the name Forever crept up in front of the 21 and they've expanded very quickly. There are currently over 460 stores in the US, Canada, Austria, England. India, Indonesia, Ireland, Japan, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Oman, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

I've been reading a lot of US blogs and it seems not everyone is taken with Forever 21, there have been claims of copying Designer's and making and selling Forever 21 knock-offs at cheaper prices, not being one knowing much about designers I can't confirm this, but lots of other fashion chains do this so its not a new concept.

I think the Accessories prices are fantastic and mostly are good quality (I've only had to return one item due to being faulty by losing links and gems and it was refunded) also be warned the shoe sizing is off - be prepared to try lots of shoes on before you find a size that fits. I'm a UK size 8 (a Eur 42) in most cases, or at a push perhaps a UK size 7.5 or a Eur41 (as in the case of my ASOS boots) but I couldn't find any shoes in my size on three trips to the Birmingham store so I've since given up finding a proper fitting shoes at any of their shops, but their handbags are I'd say mid-priced, definitely not as expensive as GAP or Banana Republic and those are usually good quality, these are mainly leather, tweed or suede and I think they're a bit pricey, the quality on the bags I looked at wasn't up to my standard or the quality of say Banana Republic but they are cheaper than Banana Republic and GAP. Forever 21 also have a Sales section on their UK website here and some very nice designs so maybe check out the bags in-store and wait for an online sale to buy it cheaper.

So that's my tips and a look at the new shop on the block. I will of course be going into the London store after the kids return to school from Summer holidays and I'll let you know what the shopping experience was like.

Where else can you find Forever 21 in the UK?

Soon to arrive at Westfield in Stratford, Bluewater in Kent, Lakeside in Essex and more. 

UK comparison

Forever 21 is very similar to Topshop, River Island and New Look and perhaps H & M, but F21 seems a bit more pricey on certain things and slightly perhaps a bit less quality. I personally haven't shopped at New Look very much in recent years but I frequent Topshop, H & M, Dorothy Perkins, Banana Republic and Evans and I loved the French store Etam.

The next Forever 21 store to open is this Saturday in Brussels.

Find Forever 21 on Facebook here. This is the EU facebook page.

Final thoughts are be prepared (if you like to vlog or take photos) for the staff to politely ask you not to. I don't know why, maybe this was only in the Birmingham store, but just a heads up. I can't recall seeing signs photography etc wasn't allowed, but noticed a staff member ask a guy to stop filming in the Birmingham store in May. Maybe other locations are a bit more relaxed with that as Birmingham is in the Bullring and I know that security are very tough on photography there as I've also found out at Westfield in London.

Are you excited about Forever 21 in the UK?

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