Washington, D.C., United States (AHN) – Clothing retailer Forever 21 if facing controversy over a new maternity line that critics say targets pregnant teens.
The fashion chain is offering trendy apparel for pregnant women, called Love 21 Maternity , in Arizona, Alaska, California, Utah and Texas. Pundits have raised concerns about whether the company’s choice of states was in any way related to teen pregnancy rates.
California and Texas have the highest number of teenage pregnancies in the nation, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit and official collaborating center of the World Health Organization.
Arizona and Texas, meanwhile, have the the highest teen birthrates.
Forever 21 has issued a statement saying it “did not create, design or distribute Love 21 Maternity to target or appeal specifically to pregnant teens.”
“Any correlation between teen pregnancy rates and the locations of our stores is unintentional. Claims to the contrary are false,” it added.
The company’s senior marketing manager has also told Mercury News that Love 21 was never envisioned as a line catering to teenagers.
Many customers have come to the defense of the retailer, saying pregnant women also need stylish and affordable clothes. One Twitter user called the claims “ridiculous” and said, “It’s like saying they promote obesity with faith 21. Everyone deserves good fashion.”
Faith 21 is the company’s line for plus-size women.
The Los Angeles-based retailer previously faced controversy over its failure to pay the wages of workers. The labor dispute, which was settled out of court, was widely reported and exposed sweatshop-conditions endured by workers that Forever 21 said were employees of a contractor.
The company later became the subject of lawsuits from designers accusing it of copying their designs.
Whether Forever 21 planned to attract teens with its maternity line is perhaps moot since even supportive customers admit the company is popular mainly among teens.
“Obviously a majority of Forever 21’s consumer base is teens because they used to only carry juniors sizing,” Courtney McCary commented on Facebook. “Why would pregnant women shop there if they didn’t have their size”
“It’s called diversification,” McCary added. “Forever 21 is doing well in this… economy… If they were really targeting teens pretty sure they would use different models.”
Salon’s Sara Libby has acknowledged that “over-reactive parents and pundits” habitually blaming movies and other aspects of pop culture that focus on teenage pregnancy. But she says the questions surrounding Forever 21’s maternity line are much more realistic because “makes a concerted effort to court customers who can’t yet drive themselves to the mall.”
Libby pointed out that the 14-year-old sister of Kim Kardashian models the retailer’s Twist line.
The model for Love 21 itself is Cameron Richardson, a 30-year-old model who has appeared in movies.
“Of course they’re not explicitly endorsing teen pregnancy,” Libby wrote, before referring to the nation’s most popular teen mom, “but by nudging teens and saying ‘If you do find yourself pregnant, looking fashionable is one less thing you’ll have to worry about!” the chain is going the Bristol route of unwittingly glamorizing teen pregnancy.”
Three in 10 girls in the United States get pregnant by age 20, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and Unplanned Pregnancy. There are more than 400,000 teen births every year.