The younger generation continues to demand we get woke about everything from carbon-emitting air travel to sustainably harvested coffee beans to cheap, trendy clothes cut and sewn by too-tiny fingers in countries that might as well be Narnia to most of us.
We’re shamed on the daily for paying eight bucks for a sweater made in Cambovietstan that will last exactly four months before it disintegrates in the dryer (and, yes, we shouldn’t even own one of those.)
Young, principled shoppers eschew “conscious consumption” in favor of embracing brands that are sustainable and value an ethical business model. They haunt resale shops for bargains to be remade and repurposed. And, in so doing, they have plunged a dagger into one of their own: Forever 21, the high-gloss, low-quality retail beast who wanted to be their BFF and has now filed for bankruptcy.
Truthfully, I’ll miss Forever 21, where a 50 something could rage-shop after too many “grown up” retail chains seemed not to hear the song of my people: “We’re Not Dead Yet!”
Yes, Forever 21 scratched the midlife itch to wear something other than an anemic vanilla sweater layered over colorless slacks. Ugh. Slacks. The clothes are noisy and fun and make our souls sing like new patent leather Easter shoes. Come for the cheetah leggings, stay for the surprisingly generous cut of the palazzo pants.
Forever 21, its retail model now unraveling like a sloppily machine-stitched hem, isn’t just in peril from all that teenage wokeness, of course. It’s also in trouble because of overbuilding and corporate greed in general. As Columbia professor and retail studies expert Mark Cohen told “Time” recently, “Mindless expansion has been Forever 21’s downfall.” (I would’ve guessed it was the purple faux fur thigh-highs, but what do I know?)
Having undergone a bit of a “mindless expansion” of my own, I will miss the store’s generously proportioned ponchos in happy colors, truly a fat girl’s friend and, God help me, on trend.
But, the kids are right. Old folks who scorn enviro-teen Greta Thunberg and her ilk, do it at their own peril. If there’s one thing I like less than old-lady clothes, it’s the “adults” in my generation who mock young people concerned about climate change and who bravely won’t back down and push for sensible gun legislation.
How many times have I seen the far-right scolds throw hissy fits about how these young folks don’t know their place? How we have a way of doing things in this country and if you don’t like it, well, maybe you should move to Canada and learn to love poutin, you commie.
Sometimes, it’s OK to let the little child lead us. Because, yeah, when it comes to giving up the greed and putting the planet ahead of increasing shareholder value, this generation of teens and 20’s seems to, mostly, have its priorities in the right order. How very grown up. Now let us lead them to the polls.
Celia Rivenbark is a New York Times-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.