BELLA: Welcome to The Podcast by StyleCircle. My name is Bella, and I’m here with Madeline, and you’re listening to Episode 3 of The Podcast by StyleCircle.
The land where StyleCircle operates has an important history, present and future that we need to understand and acknowledge. This land is called Turtle Island, and it is originally the home of many Indigenous peoples. It is the unceded traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, the Wendat and the Mississaugas of the New Credit. We acknowledge and respect these nations as the past, present, and future true inhabitant people of this land. What is today known as Toronto is located in the Dish with One Spoon Territory. The Dish with One Spoon is a treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee that bound them to share the territory and protect the land. We want to recognize that we are sharing this land on which Toronto sits with each other.
BELLA: Hello, Madeline. How are you today?
MADELINE: How are you doing Bella?
BELLA: I’m good. As we can see, our second co-host, Arushi, is missing today because we’re all currently doing final projects and she’s working on her capstone collection, actually, which is super exciting, but she’s also super stressed out.
MADELINE: Yes, we’re all very busy right now—it’s like a never-ending list of things to do. I wish we could get a break just for watching an episode of Schitt’s Creek.
BELLA: Oh, my god, yeah, I love Schitt’s Creek so much. And also, The Crown. The new season came out—
MADELINE: Yes, my mom is telling me to watch it but I haven’t watched any of the series, so she’s like, “You need to watch it, you need to watch it!”.
BELLA: Ok, yeah, you need to watch it in order, but I literally just want to watch it so badly because I’ve been so into it, but it’s like, you have to pay attention ‘cause every episode is like an hour long—it’s just one of those shows. Super sad that I can’t watch that right now.
So, I actually saw something interesting that kind of leads into our topic for today. I was going through my email, and I actually got a notification from—
MADELINE: Me too!
BELLA: —Forever 21. She’s back, baby! She’s basically re-opening online stores in Canada after basically going bankrupt, last year I think it was?
MADELINE: Yeah, no, I also got that email. I’m still on their subscription list and I did go to their website and look through what they had to offer and it was very limited—they do not have that much stock yet.
BELLA: Oh, really?
MADELINE: No. And it was like, gross clothing pieces. It gave me a lot of, like, Urban Planet vibes, which I mean, it already did give me, but now it’s like, amped up.
BELLA: It’s like, double?
MADELINE: Mhm. So, like, I don’t plan on placing an order anytime soon.
Bella: It’s actually interesting ‘cause last year (me just plugging myself) I wrote an article about just working at Forever 21 ‘cause I worked there for, I think since I turned 16, it was my first retail job, and I was there for, like, 3 years, I think, and, um, I kind of worked like, pretty much every single position, but was still considered, like, a sales associate, so I kind of, I guess, wrote an article about it after realizing they were going bankrupt, because I thought that would be interesting. Because as we know, Forever 21 is sketchy. They’ve done some stuff in the past like greenwashing, kind of just pretending they’re sustainable, and they’re not, also with stuff with their factories, and their shipments, and just their clothes and how they treat their employees in general.
MADELINE: Yeah, I can’t say I’ve heard anything positive about the company, besides like, being the cheap place to get a clothing item if you wanted something for, like, a party, or going out. But other than that, it doesn’t hold a positive memory in my head.
BELLA: Yeah, I feel like everyone I’ve ever talked to who has worked at Forever 21 has had, like, a pretty negative experience, but I guess we’re going to kind of figure out more of that today, because we’re actually going to be having two guests, our first guests, who both worked different positions at Forever 21, different locations; Danica and Hunter, who are actually a part of the StyleCircle team. One of the things we’re really trying to do with the podcast is look into as many diverse experiences that people have within the fashion industry. So, in terms of retail, I know a lot of people work it, it’s a really popular job to get into, and I kind of just wanted to debunk, I guess specifically Forever 21 and that experience of working there and kind of compare and contrast.
MADELINE: Yeah, no, definitely. I feel like a lot of people who are in the fashion—or who think of the fashion industry—they think of working in retail, but almost everyone who actually likes the fashion industry doesn’t like working retail, so I think it’s really important that we get these perspectives of people who have experienced it, and can specifically talk to what makes it not the most fun work environment.
BELLA: Yeah, exactly! So, I hope you guys are excited, ‘cause our first guest is going to be Hunter, right after this!
BELLA: Hey, Hunter!
BELLA: Um, how are you?
HUNTER: I’m good, how are you?
BELLA: I’m doing well. Would you like to introduce yourself and kind of—not specifically in retail, but just who you are, what you do at StyleCircle, um, and your program?
HUNTER: Ok, so, I’m Hunter, I’m 21 years old, I’m at Ryerson for the Image Arts program, I’m a photographer for StyleCircle, and I used to work at Forever 21 as a visual merchandiser.
BELLA: It’s like we’re doing, like, an AA meeting.
MADELINE: Or, like, a dating profile—that’s what I got from it too.
BELLA: Yeah, I’m like, reading someone’s—
HUNTER: Did you swipe right?
BELLA & MADELINE: Of course!
BELLA: So, getting into the actual discussion for today, retail and Forever 21, Hunter, you worked as a visual merchandiser, um, why did you decide to get into the retail environment?
HUNTER: Um, well, little baby ole me thought it was cool to work at a retail store around a bunch of, you know, clothing and fashion, um, but little did I know how it was going to be—how it was going to turn out, I guess.
BELLA: Yeah, I have, kind of the same experience, getting into retail. Me and Hunter actually worked at the same Forever 21 location, so yeah, we kind of both had that experience, but obviously you were promoted, but yeah, so you ended up becoming—what was your position?
HUNTER: I was the brand manager, but the way it ended up working out, so, basically there’s, like, a structure, to the visual merchandisers, um, in terms of, like, hierarchy, um, so there’s like, ASMM, which is like the highest in command, and then you have, like, a, uh, Forever 21 Women’s’ visual merchandiser, and a brands merchandiser, and they’re like, about the same, um, but, brands is like, more so focused on, like, Mens’, Girls’, Boys’ collection, and not the Women’s, but for us, I was kind of just all alone, I didn’t have a Forever 21 manager to, like, rock out with, so I was basically doing all the Forever 21 Women’s, and Girl’s, and Boy’s, and the active and everything, because, you know, I had a lot on my plate.
BELLA: Yeah, for sure.
MADELINE: So, what exactly did you position entail when you were doing all the visuals for the store?
HUNTER: For the most part, it was, like, we had these things called directives, uh, that we would have to follow and, uh, it would basically be the layout of what the store would look like for the customer. So, every day, you would come in, you’d get a new directive, and you would have to make whatever section of the store look like that, and follow a particular girl they were trying to sell to the customer. So, um, we would do a lot of, like, layouts, moving the clothing around, um, and styling as you were doing that to make it look like the Forever 21 brand. Um, you would change mannequins and style mannequins, um, sometimes you would help out with, like, the stock room, and you would try to get as much clothing out as possible onto the sales floor, because we were getting, like, massive amounts of clothing in on a daily basis that would have to be put out.
MADELINE: So, did you have—
HUNTER: Yeah, so it was like, a lot of—
MADELINE: Oh, you keep going.
HUNTER: No, no. It was just like, a lot of work, like, now that I look back at it, I’m like, I was so stressed for, like, no reason. Like, why did I do that?
MADELINE: Did you get to have much freedom with the styling? Or was it a lot of, like, you were just told, like, the exact clothing item to put on the mannequin? Or did you get to kind of pick from a category of stuff?
HUNTER: So, here’s the tea on that, because when I first started—I was maybe a brands manager for, like, a year and a half—and for the first, like, six months of the job, you would get the directive of what they wanted for the styling and even, like, the layout of the store, and it was, like, very much geared like, “Ok, this is what we want you to do, but, like, you can make it your own.” And it was so much fun! Like, I used to make the dopest mannequin outfits, like, it was so much fun. And, like, I could just do whatever I wanted but it would still have to kind of resemble the girl. But then, looking back, I guess it was more so they were trying to rebrand themselves because they were going bankrupt, and it got so specific to the point, like, we had to follow it exactly. We had to follow the directives to the ‘T’. We would have, um, our, uh, what’s her name? Like, I guess our overseer for, like, the multiple Forever 21’s in, like, the district—
BELLA: The district visual—
HUNTER: Yeah, like, the district visual manager. That’s when, like, the creative freedom started slipping away, and I guess that’s when I got, like, more and more miserable on the job. So, yeah.
MADELINE: It’s kind of interesting that you can look back now, and see, like, this was a company going bankrupt, and obviously they were trying to do everything to a ‘T’, and that started to remove, as you said, your creative freedom in your position, which is what made you enjoy the position so much.
HUNTER: Yeah! Like, I loved it, like I said, for, like, the first five or six months—I was in love with it! I got to basically play dress-up on all the mannequins on the entire sales floor. I would just, like, like, each rack, I believe it had to go, like, top, pant, blazer, dress, or whatever, or, like, outerwear, and then dress, and, like, that had to, like, flow as an outfit that could be styled together. And just playing around with that even, was, like, so cool! You could just make a million outfits with, like, an endless supply of clothing!
BELLA: That’s another thing that they changed a lot, actually, was, like, the way that we would be able to style the racks, so, like, a lot of the time they were, like, supposed to be like lifestyle racks, which is like what Hunter just explained, which is basically, like, the top, the bottom or a dress, and, like, um, outerwear, and, like, etcetera, etcetera. So, they would switch it back and forth to commodities, which essentially means an entire rack would be, would consist of just one type of thing. So, like, and entire rack would be tank tops, an entire rack would be tights, an entire rack would be jeans.
BELLA: And a lot of the time, they, like, move that around.
HUNTER: Yeah, and I feel like, because they were starting to go back into commodity and stepping away from lifestyle, it just started making the store look so messy.
HUNTER: And you would have racks on racks on racks that would be, like, all pants, all tank tops, all t-shirts, and people wouldn’t even, like, bother to look through them, because they’re, like, “I don’t—”—it’s not appealing, you don’t get to see what the actual individual item is or how it’s being styled, you know?
MADELINE: Yeah, I feel like that really takes away from, like, the retail experience, ‘cause sometimes, when you’re shopping in a store, you see a clothing item that you never would have picked up before, but you, like, the way it’s styled is what makes you gravitate towards it, and when it is just a rack of t-shirts, you’re not going to be gravitating towards that unless you’re looking for a new t-shirt, ‘cause if you’re looking for a pair of pants, why would you go to a t-shirt rack?
HUNTER: Yeah, exactly.
BELLA: Especially because we know, like, I think, everyone who has ever shopped at Forever 21, it’s usually very full, um, so, a lot of the times, we’d have these things called onesies, and it’d be, kind of, the last couple of items of left in the store that just weren’t selling, and instead of—some stores, I think Zara maybe does it, I’m not sure—they kind of put their onesies in the back and they don’t use them anymore ‘cause it’s not appealing, and they kind of bring it out for sale. Um, we weren’t allowed to do that; we had to keep everything on the floor. So, it was like, when everything became a commodity, it was just so, it looked like it was a department store, almost—very Costco.
HUNTER: Even, like, Walmart vibes, honestly.
BELLA: Walmart…yeah it was just, like, not appealing to look at; the racks were, like, overflowing, um…
HUNTER: Yeah, and the prices were not even reasonable. I feel like, as they were going bankrupt, like, before they had their massive sales, they were trying to do, like, Zara pricing, like, they were doing, like, s***** blazer, like, low quality, was, like, eighty bucks. You could just tell; you could just tell the quality was not it.
MADELINE: Yeah, no, I think that was definitely the case. My mom used to hate to go into a Forever 21 store with me, like, she would not. She would go anywhere else besides Forever 21, and she never liked the environment in there, which I feel like always says a lot with, like, you can’t get parents to go into a store, because half the time, they’re the ones opening their wallet to buy the clothing.
BELLA: Like in Hollister. I feel like everyone was always, like, everyone’s parents were like, “I can’t see!”
MADELINE: Yes! Or, like, they hated the smell. My dad would not go in there. He’d be like, “I can smell that store from the other end of the mall.”
BELLA: So, Hunter, I know that you also went from brands manager and you also did accessories, can you compare, and just, what was the difference between accessories and clothes?
HUNTER: Oh, girl, it is the biggest, biggest difference. It is, I don’t know if I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, but it was corrupt!
BELLA: It was corrupt?
HUNTER: Corrupt! The amount of work they expect one person to do, as an accessories person, like, the visual merchandiser for accessories, it’s insane. Especially when it’s, like, large stores and they only have one person—it’s ridiculous. Because, if you think about it, if you’ve ever gone into a Forever 21 with, like, an accessories section, it’s just like anarchy. There’s necklaces everywhere that are tangled, there’s earrings that have missing, like, half of the plastic piece that has all the different pairs, there’s like, half the pairs are missing, and then they expect you to, like, clean all of it and make it look presentable, it’s just, it’s so much. And they would change the directives for it, like, every day, and you would have, like, no space. I think I remember too, like, we would get so much shipment for accessories, and then not have the, like, capacity for it on the sales floor, and it was just so overwhelming because I would have so much stock that I would have to put out, and so many people telling me to put it on the sales floor, and then I just, like, would have, like, nowhere to put it.
MADELINE: Um, well Hunter, it sounds like your experience at Forever 21 was kind of never-ending excitement, if you want to describe it that way. Do you feel like there was something unique, working there, like, I know you kind of touched on how, once you started to lose creative freedom, you didn’t enjoy the job as much, so, is there something that you distinctly remember impacting your time there?
HUNTER: So, I feel like, even though I lost creative freedom, and that kind of made the job horrible, and, like, I honestly just didn’t want to go into work every day, it kind of equalled out, because, at that point, I, um, all of my friends started working there, and I think that’s, like, a really good part about Forever 21, is, like, a lot of the times, they’re really chill about who they hire, so, it was kind of nice to have an environment with dope people to be around. Like, Isabella was there all the time, we had become really close friends with a lot of the other sales associates, and they were all, like, really good people. Some of my really good friends, actually, I met through Forever 21. So yeah, I’d say that’s one of the unique things about Forever 21, is that you kind of build a family, and it’s weird, because they’re not even, like, a family-oriented brand, it kind of just happens, it’s strange. But yeah, it was great.
BELLA: Any customer horror stories you’d like to share before we get into the last, kind of, questions?
HUNTER: This one day, it was really busy—it was, like, during a holiday and we were having a sale—and so, I was on cash, and I was, uh, checking out this one lady, and she had quite a bunch of stuff, and, like, majority of it was sale, but, like, a lot of the stuff was regular priced clothes, and so, I was ringing it through, and as I was ringing it through, I was like, “This is not sale, just so you know,” like, “Just so you know, your total’s probably going to be a lot more than you expect.” It was like, I don’t know, it was a lot. I think it was almost, like, two-hundred dollars or something. And, like, she just looked at me after I told her her total, and she’s like, “What do you mean?”, and I was like, “What do you mean?”, and she was like, “Oh, well I found them in the sales section,” and I was like, “Well, not everything that’s in the sales section is on sale, you have to look at the price tag. A lot of times the customers will, like, just dump the clothes that they don’t want there, um, and so, you have to read—like, check the tags.” So, she started getting really frustrated with me, and she threatened to call the police on me if I didn’t make them all on sale. When I told her I couldn’t do that because it’s not my responsibility to mark down an item, she threatened to call the police and took a picture of me so that, I guess, she could report me to the police later? I don’t know—very strange. So, now a random woman now has a phone of me—I mean a picture of me on her phone—
BELLA: “A phone of me!”
HUNTER: A phone of me—yeah. A picture of me.
BELLA: And that’s on retail.
HUNTER: Yeah, that’s on retail.
BELLA: So, final question for this little segment, do you think that there’s a connection between your experiences with Forever 21 and your student career?
HUNTER: Absolutely not!
HUNTER: No. I mean, I think it definitely taught me a lot of life lessons, like, especially within, like, um, building a career, like, knowing what you’re worth, fighting for your rights as an employee, and just, like, knowing your, I guess, point of no return in terms of, like, your limit, like, your work limit. But, like, in terms of my career, I want to go into photography. The most I can say there’s a connection is like, I’d, it’d be dope to do some fashion photography, like, some editorials, but I really don’t think I can ever see myself crossing paths with Forever 21 ever again. I can say that very happily.
BELLA: Well, that’s great to know, thank you. So, thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll talk to you again a bit in the little conclusion area of the discussion, um, but I hope you had fun, and I hope to talk to you again soon and bring you back on!
So, after this, we’re going to be bringing on Danica, who was also a visual merchandiser at Forever 21.
MADELINE: The Book by StyleCircle Issue 05, “Voices”, is currently available for $15.00, and can be purchased by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. All purchase proceeds will be donated to Black Lives Matter Toronto.
MADELINE: So, our second guest for this week’s episode is Danica, Danica is also a part of the StyleCircle team, so, welcome to The Podcast! If you want to just quickly introduce us to your role at StyleCircle, what program you’re in, and what got you into working at retail.
DANICA: Hi! My name is Danica, my pronouns are she/her, and in StyleCircle I’m the Director of Events, and sometimes I write articles, but only sometimes—I’ve only written, like, 3. I’m in fashion communications, in my fourth year, but I am doing an extra semester because online school it’s not— it’s not it.
I actually decided to get into retail environments because it was the summer and I needed money, so I’ve only really ever worked in retail over the summer, because during school, I’ve liked to focus on that, and yeah, I felt like retail was the easiest, like, job to get into as a student, and it was easy to quit if I needed to, to focus on school. So, that’s why I did that.
MADELINE: Yeah, no, definitely. As Hunter kind of mentioned, Forever 21 just hired people if they looked like they were cool enough for the part, and so I feel like you don’t need experience to check people out at a till.
DANICA: Yeah, exactly, and yeah, there were always positions open—especially at Forever 21. But I didn’t do any sales associate stuff. I didn’t deal with customers, um, so, they asked me to be in the visuals team, but for legal reasons, I was a sales associate.
BELLA: Um, but, so, did you just kind of start off as a sales associate and you never got trained, like, to do sales, like, you just went right into visual?
DANICA: Before I applied for, like, a sales associate position, I noticed that, online, they were also looking for visual people, so, in my interview, I asked about that, and then they just said, “You’ll be a sales associate (legally) and then we’ll just train you for all the visuals stuff.” So, that’s how I got into the visuals team, even though I was technically not in the visuals team—if that makes sense!
BELLA: Nice! So, as you said, you are in Fashion Communication—I am too—and as we both know, the School of Fashion really emphasizes sustainability. So, when you worked at Forever 21—’cause I know you worked there during the summers—did that ever kind of, like, affect you in any way, or did it ever make you feel, I guess, guilty? Or kind of, I don’t know, did it effect your choices at all when shopping?
DANICA: Yeah, for sure! Um, as Hunter said earlier, we always had a bunch of things coming in every day, so, our stock room was, like, filled, and um, like, at the time, um, I was already starting to get into sustainable and ethical fashion, and I just worked there ‘cause I needed the money, um, and so, it turned me off even more, just because there was so much waste going into it, and they just kept pushing all these clothes that weren’t nice, and they kept telling us to just sell, sell, sell, and, like, put it on the floor, um, and so as like, a fashion person and as a visual person, it was so cluttered, and I really hated it. Especially near the end, where, um, like, sales, like, sales season, we had all of these, like, dresses, tops, from the summer, and we had to put them right in front of the door, so it was the first thing the customers would see, but it was so ugly the way that they were all just there. Yeah, so, since working at fast fashion, I don’t ever buy fast fashion—well, I can’t say that; I try not to buy fast fashion, I haven’t bought anything new from fast fashion in about a year, and I mostly thrift and buy local, and, I think, just working at fast fashion really turned me off from just, just this consuming, in general, um, so, I try not to consume as much as I used to, but I’m really specific about my choices when I’m buying things.
BELLA: Ok. Um, I kind of felt the same, like, I didn’t really have, like, an understanding of it when I worked at Forever 21 in high school, or just like, retail environments in high school, um, but when I started at Ryerson for fashion, and we started learning about fast fashion and sustainability, I got that exact same feeling of just being like, turned off by like, everything, like, feeling the fabric even was just like, ugh, this is just, like, not nice and its bad quality, and it’s not the greatest fabric and it’s probably just— you know how we learnt about polyester—the little beads that come [off] when you wash the polyester—that’s all I could really think about.
MADELINE: Yeah, I think we all have that turning point when you’re like, in school and you’re kind of—maybe not learning about fast fashion for the first time—but like, learning more in depth about it and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, what I’m buying is awful for the environment.” But then there’s always that pressure of, “Oh, you’re in fashion, like, you must like, be always up on the trends.” But to be up on the trends ethically requires way too much money, so it’s always kind of debating with yourself, “How do I keep doing that?”, which is impacted by working at retail because you start to see a lot more of the waste, like if a damaged product happens, that just gets thrown out and stuff, which, so many consumers aren’t aware of the repercussions of that kind of work, which is really a different topic, but really interesting to look into. But I’m sure, Danica, you’ve experienced just, like, seeing mistreatment or poor construction of clothing that has stemmed from fast fashion, especially at a store as Forever 21.
DANICA: Yeah, for sure. Like, sometimes we would get clothes with, like, holes in them already, and I’m like, “Are we allowed to sell this?’ uh, yeah, and it’s just, um, like, going back to like, trends and stuff, I personally don’t think I’m that trendy anymore, um, because I feel like I kind of know my personal style now, and so I don’t really follow trends as much as I used to, like in high school, obviously—I didn’t really know what I was doing. But yeah, that’s why I haven’t really, like, bought anything new or from fast fashion places, just because if, like, since I know what I like, I kind of stick with that, and if I have time to be trendy or to try new things, I thrift it instead of buying new from fast fashion.
MADELINE: Yeah, that’s definitely like, a way better approach to have when maybe wanting to test out a new trend—to try and find it at a thrift store before going to a fast fashion retailer, but that can be really hard sometimes. But I feel, like, you said you’ve identified your personal style, which is something that I still feel like it’s hard to do because I’ll see something on a rack and be like, “Oh my gosh I love this shirt!”, and then I bring it home and I’m like, “Wait, this doesn’t really go with anything in my closet, and now how do I style it and stuff?”, and then it just sits there with tags on it and lingers collecting dust. But I know you said you’ve worked at Topshop, were you in visual merchandising in Topshop as well?
DANICA: No, at Topshop I was actually the personal shopping assistant. So, basically, personal shopping is a free service at Topshop, and you book an appointment, and you just say, like, “Oh, I’m going to this event,” or “I just want a wardrobe revamp.” And so, me and the personal shopper, we would choose the outfits for the client and just kind of build multiple outfits for them, and I would also be working with professional stylists who would come in, and I would kind of, like, deal with them, because they always had to, like, pull a bunch of clothes, so we don’t really want them going into the main [area] and just pulling clothes, and yeah.
MADELINE: Did you work at—sorry, I should have asked this before—did you work at Topshop or Forever 21 first?
DANICA: I worked at Topshop first. So, my first retail experience was at Topshop.
MADELINE: Ok. Did you find that the experience that you got from being a personal styling assistant help you in your visual merchandising role at Forever 21?
DANICA: Um, I think it did, but then it didn’t, because at Topshop, I was styling, and I could—at Topshop, they had better options just because it’s a higher-end fast fashion, like, it’s still not high-end, but like, it’s a higher-end fast fashion, and so I worked with a few pieces that were a bit cooler, and I could, like, make cooler outfits but uh, at Forever 21, we had the directive—derivative? Directive? I forget.
MADELINE: Yeah, directive.
DANICA: Oh! Yeah, we had the directive and we basically had to follow that, and if we didn’t have an item on stock, we just had to find something similar to it. So, I didn’t really have a lot of freedom in styling, uh, so, like, in my first, in the first two weeks, I had this manager and she, she was really fun to work with, because we followed the directive, but then she would always be, like, putting accessories that weren’t a part of the directive, so, she was putting her own twist in it, so I kind of liked doing that, but then she moved to a different branch, and so we had this other manager from another branch, and it was, like, completely different with him. He was like, so super into the directive—like, I had to follow it—so, I just didn’t feel like there was creativity at all, working at Forever.
MADELINE: Yeah, which I feel like we kin d of heard from Hunter a bit, saying when they were able to do their own thing a bit with the directive, it was fun, but as soon as it was like, they had to follow it to a t, it removes the enjoyment from the job. So, is it fair to say that you enjoyed working at Topshop more than Forever 21?
DANICA: Yeah, I think I did, um, it was also because I had my own suite, and it was just me and the personal shopper working together, and yeah, it was—I felt like I had more fun because I worked with stylists, like, personally, and so that was pretty cool to see how they pulled outfits for different photoshoots.
MADELINE: Has that inspired any of your work so far, like, as a student at Ryerson? Have you used your, either experience in retail to impact your learning?
DANICA: Um, honestly, no, ‘cause I don’t ever want to do retail again. Like, I’m not really interested in retail, so it hasn’t really impacted how I work, or how, um, or like, how I see myself in the future, it just taught me a lot about how terrible it is to be shopping at those places. Like, for me personally—I know it’s, like, different for everyone—but for me, it just really turned me off from retail and consumerism in general.
MADELINE: Yeah, and I think that’s how a lot of people walk away from working in the retail setting, especially when you go from a time where you see the mark-up on an item, and then it’s marked down, you’re like, “If this is how every store operate, why would I ever buy anything full price?”, like, even if you desperately need it—just wait, it’s going to go on sale. Everything goes on sale.
DANICA: In two weeks—in two week it’ll go on sale. They just want to get rid of it.
MADELINE: No, literally. They just need to get it off the floor so that they can bring you another overpriced jacket.
So, I know a recent event that you put on with StyleCircle was the Marketplace, and a big aspect of that was taking pictures of the clothing items, and sometimes styling them on a model. Do you think you used any of your experience at Topshop or Forever 21 to help with that, or do you just disregard all of that time working in retail when doing those kinds of tasks?
DANICA: I kind of just disregarded everything I learned from working at retail, because, um, I wasn’t the main stylist for the photoshoots, but I did help out. And so, I felt like it was a bit more editorial even though we were focusing on like, catalogue photos, it was a bit more editorial than just, like, a picture of an item.
BELLA: So, I know you said it was more of a catalogue styling, but you guys did more of an editorial approach—how did you find that experience overall?
DANICA: I liked it a lot, because I think editorial styling is a lot cooler in general, it’s more interesting, and, like, we’re working with pieces that don’t really go with each other because they’re from different people from our team, and so we kind of just had find a way to get all these different types of clothing to look good together. And so that kind of, like, that’s what I love about fashion, um, is that you get all of these pieces that are from different trends or subcultures, and you just make it work somehow.
BELLA: Thanks for bringing that up, do you want to talk a bit more about that? Give yourself a bit of a plug.
DANICA: Yeah! So, the StyleCircle Marketplace is an event, um, it’s an event fundraiser for the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, and 50% of clothing sales go to them, and the clothes that we’re selling are, they’re from the closets of team members from StyleCircle, and they’re available on Depop, @stylecircleorg, and every day we have new arrivals. And so yeah, you can buy them on Depop, and during the fundraiser that happened late October, we had performances by Toronto-based artists, so, we had some singers, rappers, uh, we even had some art demonstrations, and so, those performances can be viewed on our YouTube, StyleCircle. It’s in two parts, parts one and two are both there, or you can watch them on our website—there’s just like, a little tab for the Marketplace.
MADELINE: Thank you so much, Danica, for coming on and talking about your retail experience, it’s always a never-ending story, and a different story, I think, for each individual that works at a retail store.
DANICA: Yeah, for sure, no worries! Thanks for having me, it was fun!
BELLA: Alright, we’re back with Danica and Hunter. So, I’ll just start by thanking you guys again for coming on, especially because it’s super busy right now, everyone’s stressed out with final projects. I guess I wanted to kind of ask you guys and see your opinions on it; in your opinions, why do people love and hate retail? Like, why is it such a popular job, and why do people talk about their experience so much but also continue to work there?
DANICA: I think it’s a lot of shared experiences with a lot of people, and a lot of people get into it because there’s always a lot of jobs available for retail, and it’s just something you can do for a little bit just to get a little bit of money and just to put your foot into the fashion world just a little bit.
HUNTER: I think it’s interesting too, going off what Danica said, that for a lot of people it’s almost like their first job, just because it’s like, easier to get into, just like Danica mentioned. And without any experience, like, what else are you doing? Like, you can’t just become a barista without any barista training, and a lot of times, you can’t get into food without food training. So, it’s like, what else are people supposed to do, you know?
BELLA: I know something that I’m noticing, I don’t know if this is happening to you guys, but the more that I continue in my program and the more that I continue to do school, the less I have the desire to even go out there and do the jobs like retail, because I feel like we’re specializing on like, in terms of money it’s unrealistic, but, because we’re starting to specialize on so many things that actually are like—we care about and are actually really cool, it sucks to kind of go back to those places and be like, “Well…we’re back.”
Do you guys think that Forever 21 is going to reopen their stores?
DANICA: I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be like American Apparel where it’s just online…yeah, I don’t think it has the capability to open as many stores as they had all over the world, but I don’t think in Canada, it’s not the market anymore.
BELLA: People just really, yeah, aren’t really caring for it as much anymore.
DANICA: Mhm. And a lot of people just know about all of the controversies that have come out from Forever 21, and I think that people in our generation, we’re more aware of stuff like that, and so, I think it’s turning a lot of people off from Forever 21.
BELLA: Yeah. Alright, well, this has been Episode 3 of The Podcast, the trials and tribulations of retail. Thank you guys again so much `for coming on the podcast and discussing your personal experiences with us. To close, I wanted to ask the audience, how do you think retail and branding create values and clothes that employees align with and speak to?
Let us know your responses—we would love to know! And, uh, we’ll see you—well, not see you guys—but you will hear me in two weeks!
MADELINE: Yeah, thank you Bella for that question to our listeners. I love it when we get to see your guys’ feedback to the episodes and stuff, and I can’t wait to put out another episode with you, Bella, and Arushi, hopefully, in two weeks’ time.
BELLA: This has been Bella,
MADELINE: and Madeline,
BELLA: …for The Podcast by StyleCircle. Subscribe to continue listening to new episodes of The Podcast every 2 weeks on Spotify and iTunes. The Podcast is sponsored by the Student Initiative Fund, produced by StyleCircle and hosted by Isabella Papagiannis. Administration is by Samantha Cass, Media Production is by Norah Kim, Original Music Arrangement is by Particle House, and additional Contributions from Hunter and Danica.