Archive for December, 2010

Returns came second to Forever21 opening

December 26th, 2010

Nadine Kam photos
About 800 people braved the rain to wait in line for the 10 a.m. grand opening of Forever21 at Royal Hawaiian Center the morning after Christmas. The first 400 received gift cards valued from $10 to one at $210.

There were probably other things I would have preferred to do the day after Christmas, but it was grand opening day at Forever21 at Royal Hawaiian Center (next to The Cheesecake Factory), a no-miss occasion, especially for the 800 who were in line before the store opened at 10 a.m.

The first person in line arrived before 4 a.m. but didn’t want to be identified. She asked me if I could tell the TV stations to turn off their cameras, but I couldn’t even stop myself from being filmed after talking to people in line and trying to slip into the store before the line was set loose. Unfortunately, to the cameras, it looked like I was the first in line to enter the store!

The de facto first in line were Rachel Wong, Shanshan Ge and Kerrie Wong. They had partied Christmas night, slept a few hours and arrived at the store per Rachel’s insistence, since she’s the big Forever21 fan. “They’re not as crazy as I am,” she said. Kerrie said they were too tired to put up a fight.

No doubt many in line were lured by the promise of gift cards awaiting the first 400 in line. Cards were valued at $10 (286 cards) to $210 (1 card). Even $10 goes a long way at the store, where many accessories are a few dollars, some T-shirts are $8.99, and even when I spot something I really, really like, it’s usually something like $15.80 to $24.90. I’m so used to things I like being priced from $395 to $995, it’s like reverse sticker shock.

The first person in line didn’t want to be identified, but second was Rachel Wong, right, who dragged Shanshan Ge, center, and Kerrie Wong along with her, arriving at 4:30 a.m. Rachel had a Forever21 headband with her and put it on  for the photo.

Doors opened at 10 a.m. and most bypassed the first-floor accessories to get to the clothes on the second and third floors.

About 20 minutes after the doors opened, I found Rachel again. She fell in love with this T-shirt and was looking for a couple more so her friends could all wear them with her. I told her she was a nut … in a good way of course!

I thought there would be a mob scene, but at 42,520 square feet (the Ala Moana store is only about 7,000 square feet), the new store absorbed the crowd pretty well, and because there is so much merchandise on the floors, there was no fighting and grabbing. It was all very orderly and well-behaved, much more so than I would have been if I’d been waiting hours to get in.

The bummer was waiting in lines for a dressing room or to pay. I was bummed when I waited in one line to pay, only to find that it was to a dressing room I didn’t need. Speaking of which, if you need or know of someone who needs a part-time job, the store’s still hiring. They need a lot of bodies to fill three floors over multiple shifts from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

I don’t shop at Forever21 very often, but when I have crossed the threshold, I find it hard to walk out with fewer than four items. It starts by picking one thing you like, then you see another thing that would make it an outfit, then one other thing to complete the ensemble, etc. It may be harder to leave unscathed as they continue to build cohesive collections, rather than churning out random product.

I’m not a big fan of fast fashion because of the waste factor involved. When pieces are as inexpensive as they are here, shoppers tend not to edit and end up being literal clones of each other. But I can see the charm for those who want to get a look without spending a lot of money, especially when it comes to trend pieces like the fall’s fur vest or sequined shifts, which for most people would only be good for a few outings.

Forever21 executive vice president Larry Meyer wasn’t surprised by the turnout. He said, “People have become more conscious of value. Forever21 has always been about everyday low prices. They know they can trust our prices.”

And even when money is in short supply, people can treat themselves to a quick wardrobe update, with every trend well represented.

“I know people like that we have new product every day,” Meyer said. “It’s good for residents who come back, because every time they visit, they’ll see something new.”

Toward that end, the company’s vision team of stylists will be working overnight, at least for a month, to change up the displays so shoppers can pick up new styling tips and ideas every time they check out the manikins.

Women have been value shopping at Forever21 for decades, but what’s new here is that men will now get a taste of 21Men style, and it’ll be interesting to see how men’s style here evolves. I love menswear and think Hawaii’s men have been underserved for years, to the point where I’ve been contemplating opening a men’s store to help guys meet women’s expectations. Well, this is a start. Baby steps.

Also new for Hawaii is the arrival of the company’s Faith21 line of plus-size garments up to 3X.

A display featuring a wave of denim paid homage to the store’s new home.

Forever21 executive vice president Larry Meyer was there to make sure the opening went smoothly.

I heard KITV’s Dan Meisenzahl picked up this T-shirt that was shown as part of a layered look.

A display of men’s denim and tees.

Feliciano Dahilog III tried on some of the men’s jackets.

Can Cui, visiting from New York, was also trying on jackets. He was going to pick one up because it’s snowing there.


Merry Christmas!

December 24th, 2010

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