The fast-fashion retailer, often criticized for copying designs, is taking cues from H&M and Target, and is joining forces with designers on collaborations. Los Angeles-based celebrity favorite Brian Lichtenberg is first up with a series of bold graphic T-shirts and tank tops.
Lichtenberg’s collection will launch Aug. 13 in the fast-fashion retailer’s top 200 doors with an initial run of 150,000 to 200,000 pieces, he said. It contains nine women’s styles priced at $14.80 each and three men’s styles at $14.90 each.
His edgy designs have gained attention on the red carpet and in music videos. Lady Gaga raised Lichtenberg’s profile by wearing his customized caution-tape outfit in her “Telephone” video and his geometric necklace in the “Poker Face” video. His thigh-skimming glitter dresses also have been worn by Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan.
“We wanted to work with Brian because he is a true L.A. talent who encompasses L.A. culture and style,” said Linda Chang, a spokeswoman for Forever 21.
Until now, Forever 21’s relationship with designers has been primarily through their attorneys. More than 50 lawsuits, including those initiated by Trovata, Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Sui, Bebe and Anthropologie, have been brought against the Los Angeles-based company with an estimated $2 billion in annual sales. In no case was Forever 21 found guilty, and out-of-court settlements have been the norm.
Lichtenberg is keenly aware that many designers have accused Forever 21 of selling knockoffs of their work, but he argued that the retailer is trying to elevate itself as a design resource by collaborating, and mentioned he’s a fan. “They [have] affordable basics and, I’m not going to lie, some of their jeans fit me well,” he said.
Lichtenberg hopes the Forever 21 collaboration will introduce his designs to a broader audience that finds his custom clothing or boutique line out of reach. The boutique line, which is entering Bloomingdale’s for fall and is available at about 40 stores in 17 countries, has tops wholesaling for $40 to $80 and dresses for $180 to $300.
“It is going to be for the customer that is younger and has seen my work on celebrities and musicians, but doesn’t have the money to plunk down for my main line,” he said. “This is definitely going to be a great opportunity to be on a more global scale.”
Not everyone is Lady Gaga, and Lichtenberg recounted one of the main challenges over the six months he spent crafting the Forever 21 collection was to make it appeal to a youthful, more mainstream shopper than he’s accustomed to, while retaining his aesthetic. He said T-shirts and tanks were the ideal vehicles for that because they allowed him to put his spin on everyday classics.
“They were very open,” he said of Forever 21. “At the same time, I was understanding of their customer. It’s more feminine than something I’d do [usually.]”
Still, Lichtenberg’s styles for Forever 21 aren’t bashful. In a nod to the Lady Gaga outfit in “Telephone,” there’s a tank crisscrossed with yellow caution tape that has “Lichtenberg” and “No21” scrolled across it. Lichtenberg predicted that tank will be the best-selling style in his Forever 21 collection.
Other looks play on a beauty theme. One shows nail polish bottles that are spilling to spell out “Lichtenberg,” while another has lipsticks shaped into Lichtenberg’s initials, BL, which are used frequently in the Forever 21 collection. Although Lichtenberg mostly avoided extremely masculine design elements in the collection, a dark helmet graphic adds a masculine touch to two styles.
In the long run, Lichtenberg is betting the Forever 21 collaboration will help propel his business. This year marks his brand’s 10th anniversary, and he projects it will generate close to $1 million in wholesale sales. Brand extensions are in the plans for next year, including possibly a T-shirt line, handbags, sunglasses and jeans.
“There are only so many places that a woman can wear a glitter dress; I want to open up my brand,” he said.
Taking the final spot on the mens’ portion of New York Fashion Week calendar next month will be none other than @tomford. Though he’s shown his men’s wear in New York in the past, this will mark the first time the designer has shown his men’s collection alone during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. His runway show will debut on February 6 at the Park Avenue Armory. #wwdfashion
London-based couture house @ralphandrusso has certainly been in the spotlight, having its dresses worn by @beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Meghan Markle in her engagement photos and more. For couture, Tamara Ralph focused on ornamentation — think: feathers with chain mail, jet embroidery and clusters of pearls and crystals. See the rest of the collection on WWD.com #wwdfashion #couture (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
Minnie Mouse celebrated her 90th birthday by getting her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her celebratory luncheon, @coach’s creative director @stuartvevers dressed her in a custom made prairie dress, complete with Vever’s take on the polka dot – black sequined versions – under a cropped motorcycle jacket. The designer also put his own mark on Minnie’s classic red shoes, infusing the color with sparkles and adding some Coach crystals. “We chose colors that were very Minnie and also represented quintessential Coach elements,” said Vevers. #wwdfashion #nationalpolkadotday (📷: George Chinsee)
@nickjonas is unveiling his first-ever apparel collection through a partnership with John Varvatos. The limited-edition capsule, which makes its debut in spring, also marks the first time the designer has collaborated with anyone on a line. “The process in working with Nick is amazing. It’s inspiring to be around someone who is not only connected with the trade that they do, but also with what’s happening in the environment around him, and how that connects to what we do with style,” said Varvatos. (RG: @johnvarvatos) #wwdfashion
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)