Forever 21 store closures will leave gaping holes in four Metro Vancouver malls

Fast fashion is going out of style with climate-conscious young consumers

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      Financial problems plaguing a fast-fashion giant will not only have ramifications on its 2,000 Canadian employees, but also on some large Metro Vancouver landlords.

      Forever 21 is closing all of its 44 Canadian stores, including outlets at Metropolis @ Metrotown, Richmond Centre, Guildford Town Centre, and Park Royal.

      The news came after Forever 21's Canadian subsidiary sought bankruptcy protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

      Once in bankruptcy protection, a company can cancel leases without penalty. 

      Ivanhoé Cambridge owns Metropolis @ Metrotown and Guildford Town Centre.

      Larco Enterprises owns Park Royal, which is on Squamish Nation land.

      Cadillac Fairview owns Richmond Centre, which is undergoing a major redevelopment that will incude the addition of 2,300 residential units.

      According to Retail Insider, many Forever 21 stores in Canada were recording less than $3 million in annual sales.

      "In one prominent mall, a landlord said that Forever 21's sales were less than $2 million annually, and that the landlord was actively looking for a tenant to replace it," the publication reported.

      A Forever 21 store closed last year in a trendy block on Robson Street in downtown Vancouver.

      Forever 21 has also obtained bankruptcy protection in the United States under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

      Watch this UN Climate Change video on the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.

      Fast fashion has high carbon footprint

      Part of Forever 21's problems are rooted in environmentally minded young people turning away from fast fashion. That's because of its significant contribution to climate change, not to mention the amount of disposable clothing going to landfills.

      Metro Vancouver's Think Thrice About Your Clothes campaign urges the public to consider reducing textile purchases.

      In 2016, residents of the region threw out 17 pounds of clothing per person. According to Metro Vancouver, it takes 2,650 litres of water to make just one cotton T-shirt.

      That's why the regional government is calling on residents to repair and reuse garments to preserve the environment.

      "Cheaper clothing, fast fashion trends, and an overall increase in consumption is resulting in more and more clothing waste!" Metro Vancouver states on its website. "Did you know that in Metro Vancouver we threw away 44 million pounds of clothing last year?"

      According to the journal Nature, textile production generates 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per year, which is significantly more than the airline industry.

      "Over 60% of textiles are used in the clothing industry and a large proportions of clothing manufacturing occurs in China and India, countries which rely on coal-fuelled power plants, increasing the footprint of each garment," the publication stated last year. "It has been stated that around 5% of total global emissions come from the fashion industry."

      In 2018, the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action was launched at the UN's COP24 climate conference in Katowice, Poland. It targed emissions reductions of 30 percent by 2030 and a commitment to create a decarbonization approach for the fashion industry.

      Some designers are exploring ways to make carbon-neutral clothes rather than relying on petroleum-based polyester. For more on that, watch the video below.

      Watch this Guardian Australia video on a project to make fashion fabrics from sustainable micro algae.

      One of the leaders in this movement is designer Stella McCartney, who was a vocal advocate for the charter.

      Yesterday at Paris Fashion Week, she hosted a roundtable discussion to once again draw attention to sustainability issues in her industry.

      She was joined on the panel by members of Extinction Rebellion. It's a loosely affiliated international group of climate activists who practise Gandhian peaceful civil disobedience to force polluting industries and governments to reduce emissions.