Forever 21: A Virtual Fitting Experience

by Wanxi Yang

Being an iconic fast-fashion brand, Forever 21 used to be one of the most successful chains in the business. With 549 stores in the United States and 251 internationally, the fashion chain founded in 1984 generated $4 billion of revenue at its peak. However, this famous clothing line targeting teenage girls filed for bankruptcy in September 2019 and has sold all of its assets to a group of mall operators at a relatively low price.

User Pains

  • The Rise of E-Commerce
    • Although Forever 21 did attempt to create their own e-commerce strategies, it does not put enough emphasis on both the website and the mobile application.
  • Low-quality and Untrendy Designs
    • While the company achieved its success by selling low-cost clothing quickly, its designs become less popular as the company expands.
  • Massive Department Stores
    • Forever 21 takes up a lot of space in each mall when its competitors are trying to move their business online.
  • Bad In-store Experience
    • Unorganized clothing racks and messy clothes piles make the shopping experience distracting and unpleasurable.
  • Unsustainability
    • Customers, especially young customers, care more about sustainability and environment-friendliness. Fast fashion brands often have business models that are contradictory to these concepts.

Our Design

For this challenge, we do not attempt to solve all of the existing problems. Our goal is to reposition Forever 21 by changing the style of its digital webpage, adjusting the user population, and combining fashion with technology to emphasize an engaging and enjoyable in-store experience.

Pastel Color Scheme

Our digital front page represents the new branding concept. We want to cater to a broader user population, from only teenage girls to including women in their 20s. We also want to emphasize a more curated, modern selection of clothing to modify the disorganized image that Forever 21 has had in the past. The pastel color scheme (shown on the right) we selected signifies the more minimal style we want to embrace, a refreshing contrast from the loud and unappealing neons the brand has previously used.

This digital rebranding is designed with physio- and ideo-pleasures in mind because not only is it meant to cater to the user’s senses in how they receive and take in the brand, but also because it will reflect on how the user views themself and how others view them — in this case, we want to communicate a sense of modernity and minimalistic chicness. The low saturated color scheme and the simplistic web page design is easy to look at and has visceral appeal. By eliminating the distracting and flashy banners and unnecessary categories in the old web design, we present a more user-friendly interface by incorporating the flat design aesthetics, and this allows for a more seamless behavioral experience. As the new home page also focuses more on the curation and quality of the clothing items, it is also a reflective experience because the user will self-identify and be identified by others with the brand’s image. People who shop at Forever 21 should feel they are modern and trend-conscious.

Finally, our digital redesign hopes to sustain user engagement through managing users’ expectations. We are keeping consistent with the overarching idea of Forever 21 as a trendy fashion brand for young women, but we hope to exceed expectations in terms of clothing quality, curation, and a greatly improved in-store experience, which we will describe in the following segment.

The Virtual Fitting Room

To provide a more pleasurable shopping experience, we re-imagined the use of store space and dressing room space and added interactive technology to make the in-store experience much more exciting as well as provide helpful tools.

Specifically, our new in-store experience is largely focused around the virtual fitting room. In our virtual fitting room, we incorporate Augmented Reality mirrors that allow customers to view recommendations for related items that can help them style the clothing items they’ve picked out, as well as virtually try on those items so they can visualize how they would look without having to go through the trouble of physically finding and trying them on. Finally, the mirrors also allow customers to log in to their Forever 21 accounts to save these items for later reference, or for online checkout if the items they are looking at aren’t available at that store.

Here is a demonstration of how the mirror works:

Furthermore, the dressing rooms that these AR mirrors are placed in are designed to be very chic and comfortable to further improve the enjoyability of the dressing room experience, which is usually quite frustrating and unglamorous. The decorations in the room can also be seasonal, having different themes that correspond with the brand’s marketing plans. A potential fitting room design is shown below:

By adding these opportunities for engagement, the store captures the customers’ attention and provides entertainment that people waiting for their friends could enjoy. The novel technology provides stimulation that keeps the shopping experience exciting. Since customers do not expect to use technological devices and instagramable spaces, there is a surprising and unique element in the shopping process. By connecting the in-store experience with their Forever 21 accounts, there also exist opportunities for acquiring new registered users as members and returning users to develop loyalty for the brand. In addition, the redesign of the shopping floor improves the behavioral experience of going through clothing racks, using dressing rooms, and making the decision to purchase.

A comparison between the old and new user journey is linked here:

As e-commerce continues to replace the big department stores, the in-store experience includes much more than the action of purchasing items. By providing a novel tool/entertainment, Forever 21 should be able to attract more users. A combination of the online and in-store experiences gives a more energetic dynamic and the impression of a modern and fashion-forward company.

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Eleanor Blum February 19, 2020 - 10:17 pm

I totally agree with your assessment of user pains–your first slide with the picture of the giant messy pile of sweaters gave me a visceral reaction and is completely something that motivates me to shop online over in stores. I think the augmented reality mirror concept is really interesting–the part that was most exciting to me was suggesting similar clothing items in the store. As stores are huge and often not super organized I always feel like I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for, and this suggestion feature would be super helpful. The one thing I’m wondering about is if there might be an angle to work on the environmental impact of fast fashion, maybe through some sort of shared closet model for people with similar sizes?

Lucy Golub February 20, 2020 - 3:31 am

I don’t shop at the forever21 store because of how overwhelming it is and how long the lines are. Occasionally I order online, but with a fast fashion brand like this one, it’s hard to know how the clothes will fit or feel without seeing them in real life. You’ve solved both those problems! Your idea reminds me a lot of The Reformation’s high tech dressing room in Soho, NYC, where you use a tablet to request different sizes/ more clothes, and they’re delivered through a two-way closet. The mirror seems like a more advanced version of that where the tablet and mirror are integrated. You could also think about adding other customization options, like the ability to play your own music in the dressing room. Additionally, some “recommended” complements to certain items would be great for someone like me (I’m not so good at creating full outfits). Great work!

Annabelle Paterson February 20, 2020 - 6:52 pm

I would love to see this Virtual Fitting Room incorporate some AR/actual body interaction so I would know what it would look like on myself. There are so many possibilities with AR these days that this would be possible. The neutral tones are very in at the moment. Cool idea!

Rachel Kang February 24, 2020 - 3:50 am

I like the new pastel color scheme and the simplified website! It’s very easy to navigate. My one concern is if this would change the brand’s target audience? I feel like right now, Forever21 has a “young casual” & “flashy” image that appeals to young adults. The thumbnail is definitely stylish & I would click on it, but it also looks a lot like other brands like Reformation and Anthropologie that have a very different price range! That being said, I see how you could also argue that the brand could maintain customer loyalty by having “grown up” with its main customer base. 🙂

Lauren Toman February 24, 2020 - 1:15 pm

I think the concept of the mirror is so inventive and fun. I want to walk into a store now and use this feature. Currently there are the mirrors that have related functions that are for exercise or pure entertainment so I feel this can actually happen and will in the future. Really interesting to put it into Forever21 when they are cutting back on number of stores, but could be a new draw for the stores that remain open.

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