A chain of fashion stores that prints a famous Bible verse on its bags has opened a shop in London.
LA-based Forever 21 opened its doors on Oxford Street to scores of cheering shoppers last week.
The company is owned by Korean business couple Don and Jin Sook, who are committed Christians. After opening up their first store in 1984, they made the decision to print Bible verse ‘John 3:16’ on the underside of each fluorescent bag that is given to customers.
And the Sooks believe God has helped them turn the business into an international empire. They now have more than 500 stores with revenues of more than $3billion (£1.8 billlion) per year.
The couple’s daughter, Linda, was in London for the opening of the store.
She told BBC Radio 4: “The biblical verse on the bags is a statement of our family’s personal faith. I would think of it as no different than a favourite quote of someone’s.
“For us, faith is a very important component in our personal lives, and, therefore, that is something we stand for. Our personal faith is separate from the business. Forever 21 as a company, a business, is a separate entity from something the owners stand for; so I wouldn’t say that it necessarily overlaps too much.”
However, standing for their faith hasn’t come without opposition.
Professor Jenny Harrow, of the Cass Business School, said that by printing a verse from the Bible on their bags, Forever 21 was opening itself to criticism.
“Firms should expect to be scrutinised in terms of their wage levels, in terms of their relationship with supply chains, in terms of the expectations they put on their employees, and the logic is they are open to scrutiny — as is anybody who makes a declaration of faith,” she said.
Forever 21 has faced several lawsuits, including one brought by garment workers protesting at working conditions and pay. The company eventually settled this out of court.
Its prospects in the UK, however, are for the moment bright. The opening of the London branch followed the launch of a store in Birmingham. Forever 21 plans to open three more outlets in the South East in the next few months.
Bible verses on bags at Forever 21
Published 10 August 2011 | Christian Today correspondent