By: Susan Scharfman

Today�s woman has choices her mother didn�t. But does mom have her daughter�s figure? Mom can go to the gym, and starve herself slim, but sooner or later her hormones kick in. And unless she�s a fan of Suzanne Somers� bioidentical hormone therapy, what�s a mom to do?

Forever Young

She can start by browsing stylish fashion emporiums like H&M or its formidable competitor Forever 21/Forever XXI, a billion dollar fashion house with over 400 locations and footage five times most Gap stores. From Pasadena, California to Union Square, New York, Canada and everywhere in between, this shopping mecca is ahead of its European counterparts and sprouting like Chia products. Not just for teenagers, Forever 21 caters to family shoppers, which means men, boys and big bucks. 2006 saw the first opening exclusively for men. Typically, �Forever XXI� stores are larger than �Forever 21.�

A Guy�s Candid Review

�The size branded on the clothes is the actual size. The Medium is an actual Medium. They know the clothes, they smile, I can ask for advice. Plus I get to hang out with really good looking women.�

A tip for you men who are into style but need some help: Check out the latest GQ online for men�s designers. I happen to favor Donna Karen (DKNY Men�s) fall 2007 collection. But you�ll find all of them there. Then compare at H&M or Forever 21 stores. If you bring your wife or girlfriend, prepare to spend some time.

When Fashion Chic is Fashion Cheap

So when mother and daughter�let�s call them the Tomases�set off on their monthly shopping-bonding safari, they might steer a course through the aisles of Forever 21, one of the most successful retail fashion houses in the business. Mostly in shopping malls, this Forever 21 is in Manhattan�s Union Square location on 14th Street where Mrs. Tomases is looking for trendy that conceals, and sexy that reveals.

Her daughter�s approval is important; what mom chooses should be cool but not too young. Mrs. Tomases makes a $17.80 purchase of a blue-patterned sheer chiffon tunic with ruffled placket. Her 26-year-old chooses a red and black floral tunic ($19.80), and chocolate brown wide leg linen pant ($27.80). Who wouldn�t shop here? These are chic designer clothes at subway prices! Savvy consumers have learned that to ensure quality, not all roads must lead to Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue. When clothing that�s cut couture can be sold at affordable prices, what more can shoppers ask?

Is There a Fox in The Basement?

The founders and owners of the Forever 21/XXI chain are Don and Jin Chang who immigrated to Los Angeles from South Korea in the mid-1980s. Aggressively marketing young and mature women as well as men and children, the Changs have achieved what every immigrant hopes for�the American Dream. Starting with one store in L.A., they began adding new stores every six months. Last year they acquired 40,000-square feet of a former Saks store in Pasadena, California, turning it into a palace of rich looking clothes and other desirable articles for the not so rich.

Preferring to remain a mystery, Mrs. Chang gives no interviews and maintains a profile so low her physical body is off the radar. Ask top designers like Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Furstenberg and they will say it takes months to get their clothes from the runways to the stores. The Changs deliver interpretations of the same item down to the tiniest patterns and finest quality material, within six weeks!

So Sue Me

The Changs say they employ no designers, �just very savvy designer merchants.� Yet when you examine their product adaptations it�s clear these designer merchants are the reason for the success of Forever 21. But the company refuses to make them or their names public. In other words, the designer merchants, along with Mrs. Chang, remain invisible. When questioned, a spokeswoman replied, smiling: �� our clothes are on trend, almost indistinguishable from designer clothes. Our design process is proprietary.�

According to the New York Times, Diane Von Furstenberg has filed a lawsuit against Forever 21 for replicating one of her dresses down to its print, fabric and color. �Current law does not protect clothing design from being copied (logos are an exception),� said the Times. �But Ms. Von Furstenberg and other American designers have been lobbying Congress since last year to expand the copyright statute that protects music and books. Such a change is considered a long shot,� the Times said.

Dirty Little Secrets Everyone Knows

Are there dimly lit places somewhere offshore where, under the supervision of master designers, tiny little fingers work at warp speed, swing-shifts-around-the-clock to manufacture these garments? Does it bother shoppers that an Oscar de la Renta dress selling for $400 at Bergdorf Goodman can be bought for about $40 at Forever 21; that Ralph Lauren, now the Official Outfitter of Wimbledon can see his knock-offs coming and going on Main Street? If there�s any consumer guilt, it�s not evident at the cash register. The bigger question is, where do most mega designers get their clothes made, and by whom? If they are in areas where child labor laws and forced labor laws are non-existent, how is it possible to enforce them?

About the author:

As freelance writer/editor I think it's important to establish good working relationships with my clients. Both time and cost effective, I focus on one manuscript or one news release or the text of one book jacket, until the project is completed. Beginner or seasoned writer, the process is the same. You will find my portfolio on my website, plus other examples of how I can help you with your work. SIGNED copies of my novel "The Sword & The Chrysanthemum, Journey of the Heart" are available in paperback at reduced rates directly from me. Or, you can get unsigned copies at standard rates from and . An ebook is also available.

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