polo big pony hoodie Forever 21’s maternity line draws concerns about teen pregnancy
CHICO Advertised as the “newest addition to the family,” young women’s fashionable clothing retailer Forever 21 has added a maternity line to several select markets this summer. But the line is not a new bundle of joy for everyone. The clothing store, which caters to teens and young women and is popular for its affordable prices, has sparked some concerns that it’s inadvertently promoting teen pregnancy. The new line, called “Love 21 Maternity,” is a part of the store’s Love 21 brand that was created to target an older demographic than teens, said Linda Chang, senior marketing manager for Forever 21 stores. “It was never intended to be a teen targeted line,” she said, adding that the company was simply trying to get new demographics into the store. Forever 21 recently acquired many larger stores and is trying to fill the space with new clothing lines, said Chang, citing the new lines for children and men in the previously women’s clothing only stores. National naysayers are primarily attacking the company’s promotion strategy, citing that out of the five states the maternity line has launched in, three traditionally have abnormally high teen pregnancy rates. The five states chosen to launch the brand are Texas, Utah, Alaska, Arizona and California. The Chico Mall’s Forever 21 is one of only 16 stores in California to carry the brand. Chang said “it’s pure coincidence” that three out the five states Texas, Arizona and California have purportedly high statistics. Information from Planned Parenthood of America shows that in the most recent study from 2005, only Texas still ranks in the top five states for teen pregnancy births at 61.6 percent per thousand females ages 15 years old to 19 years old. The District of Columbia leads the nation at 63.4 percent. California actually ranks under the national average of 40.5 percent to come in at 38.8 percent a 47 percent drop from the same research study done in 1991. Sales said she was “flabbergasted” at the concerns and thought it was “very, very funny that cute maternity clothes might encourage anyone to become pregnant.” “I don’t think that’s why teens become pregnant,” she said. “I was surprised by how provocative some of the fashions looked . That’s where the controversy would be, I think.” Sales added that the purpose of Planned Parenthood is to help sexually active teens avoid unplanned pregnancies, and that the State of California provides teens and women in poverty with free contraception. Other problems cited with the promotion of the line are concerns about how young the models wearing the new fashions look and the store’s religious affiliation. Forever 21 bags have the words “John 3:16” printed on the bottom, which gained national media attention a few years ago. Chang dismissed both concerns, stating that the model in the promotional advertising is actually 30 years old and was pregnant during the photo shoot, and that while the store’s owners have Christian affiliations, “the company is not religiously affiliated.” “We all know it’s not for teen pregnancy. In our minds it’s a little bit ridiculous,” she said. “We’re hoping that the whole thing will blow over.” The Forever 21 store in Chico had only two racks and one table set up to carry the still small brand on Saturday afternoon during a summer sale. Although the display was merely a few feet from the front door, the advertising was small and unassuming and many customers walked right past it. Mayra Bogarin, 22, was there with her daughter Islyn, 4. Though she said she doesn’t shop at Forever 21 often, Bogarin said she’d probably buy the maternity clothes there if she ever became pregnant again. “I really don’t think it promotes teen pregnancy. Not everyone thinks it’s ‘cute’ to be pregnant at a young age,” she said. Being pregnant is not fun, added Bogarin, who had her daughter at age 18.