June 8, 2011 -- Retail behemoth Forever 21 is taking aim at a sassy young blogger for her satirical blog WTForever21.com.
The company has threatened to sue the blog's 26-year-old creator, Rachel Kane, for "trademark infringement, unfair competition, and dilution" for poking fun at clothing items sold at the store.
"I've been shopping at Forever 21 for years and the company actually started in Highland Park, which is about five minutes from my apartment. It was local. I was a fan. What they've done as a business is honestly amazing, so that's why I was interested in it," Kane said about her decision to write about the brand.
But after a cease and desist letter from the legal department of the retail giant, the blogger has two days to remove the Web site or she finds herself at risk for a lawsuit.
Kane said the blog, created in April 2010, was a fun way for her as a then unemployed writer to continue to hone her writing and journalistic skills.
A self-described "big shopper," Kane said the Web site idea stemmed from her weekly trips to Forever 21, or online at forever21.com, where Kane would find items on the racks that were "just crazy."
"I would just wonder 'who is buying this? Why would they make this? Are there time travelers shopping at this store?'" Kane said. The blog takes its name from the department store and the popular texting acronym for "what the [expletive]."
The fashion blog pokes fun at the garments sold by the store "that made you utter the immortal acronym, WTF?" she said.
Manned by Kane, the blog has pictures of different items sold at the store, such as a beaded mosiac clutch that costs $23.80.
On the blog she writes, "Yet another clutch originating from the planet CosbySweater in the constellation A*sUgly in the universe of WTF. This is obviously something that would only be purchased and worn by an alien being, not familiar with our social mores and also not familiar with The Cosby Show and its many sweaters of comical style. Forever 21, WTF?"
Or, there's the ruffled romper that receives this mocking, "Seriously. Why does this romper exist? Is it the official uniform of some highly unfashionable flight attendants from the 50's?"
And, then there's a poncho from the retailer doesn't get much sympathy either. "This hot to trot poncho is perfect for catching boys AND tuna. Reel 'em with this neon stunner. Keep those fellas AND those fish dangling on your line. Have them gasping for air as they look up at you through their frightened and dimming eyes, fins flailing desperately as they wriggle for their lives in the luxurious, dayglow net of their demise. That last one is mainly for the fish. Forever 21, Why Do You Hate Sea Creatures?"
The web site that once received 25 hits on a good day leaped to more than 50,000 hits after a write-up on the popular blog Jezebel.com. And, with the write-up came popularity that may have placed the blogger on the radar of Forever 21 Inc.
At the end of April, the company sent the blogger a letter stating: "Your Web site's name refers to an abbreviation for colloquial expression that the general public may find offensive, and such colloquial expression is being used in conjunction with our Company's name, registered trademark, and domain name."
In the letter, the company demanded Kane remove the "infringing Web site" and provide "written reassurances" that she will no longer "register or use any domain names consisting or comprising of a part of the company's trademark now" or use images from the Company's Web site without written permission from the company.
The initial excitement that came from receiving an email from the brand she is a fan of turned to fretting over her next step as the blogger looks for legal counsel.
"I resolved myself that I definitely need to retain counsel. My only fear is if I take the Web site down by June 10 I might still face a lawsuit," Kane said. "I would really be disappointed and hurt to take down this blog which has a community built around it and then be sued anyway."
Is Kane still a fan of the retailer?
"I'm finding myself kind of less inclined to want to give them my money just as a consumer just knowing this particular decision they made is now in their corporate identity," she said.
As of now, the clock is ticking on what will happen to the Web site. Forever 21 did not respond to our calls or emails by press time.
"I really just want to keep the site going. I don't make any money off of it. I'm not getting rich off of it. It's just a fun thing. It just makes people laugh. I don't get what the big deal is," Kane said.
"I want to talk about them. I want to feel good about the brand. I want to be a consumer," she said. "I want to exercise any right I have civilly. That's it."