BENGALURU: It was a bright Saturday morning, the kind of day you’d imagine that pretty young things would be lunching with friends or sunning themselves at the park, instead, here they were at a mall, standing in a serpentine queue (at a quick count I estimated nearly 150 people standing in line) for a chance to catch the opening of the much-awaited affordable and trendy high-street fashion store, Forever 21.
On the selfsame Saturday afternoon, Garuda Mall was dotted with young girls and well preserved older women carrying the huge signature bright-yellow shopping bags. Some, barely able to contain their excitement had upended their bags on the benches outside the store and were comparing notes about their loot with friends.
The queue that I contemplated standing in for precisely two seconds, was full of young girls of 21 and less, dressed in their fashionable best with candy coloured lips and skinny jeans in pop colours. With indie dance music booming from the interiors of the store, keeping spirits buoyant, the girls (apart from the few accompanied by the occasional dutiful boyfriend) were waiting patiently, conserving their energy reserves like sprinters waiting to take their turns at athletic heats. The atmosphere was charged as the security guards would remove the ropes guarding the entrance and let the next group in. All around me I could here whispered asides about the fashion and affordability quotient of the brand that was enough to send young’uns into a tizzy.
I shamelessly eavesdropped as one girl recounted stories of a sale at another Forever 21. There was jostling and pushing, tugging at errant arms and legs of the same pair of jeans and tops, and jackets and even shoes sent flying by the fashion marauders. This was a whole new retail experience, slightly surreal and entirely exciting.
I was hardly a callow youth and had few pretensions of being forever 21 in any part of me apart from my head. Yet, even I wasn’t immune to the attraction of this store, counting down the days till its opening. While, I made it a point to shop for big brands only during the sale season, this store offered stylish alternatives of the same outfits at full price that were otherwise available on some lucky days on some backstreet alley export rejects store. While, out of respect for my age, I didn’t stand in the queue and returned in the evening, I also did get my Forever 21 fix.
By the time I returned to the store, the staff was seemingly on their last legs. There were mountains of tried and discarded outfits just about everywhere. The brave would stick their arms in and pull out gems from the pile, while a more lazy shopper like me dawdles through the stands of the sprawling 8000 sq feet of neon-lit space and picked up bits and bobs in various shades of black that suited my fancy and body type.
Showcasing their winter wear line, by 9 pm, the store was one large blur of plaid minis, woolly shrugs, faux leather jackets, trendy tan-coloured workman boots, cropped jerseys and distressed denims. It was also populated with dazed boyfriends, tired mothers and giggly girls whose energy had not waned in the least after standing in lines for the changing room, lines for bills and lines to reach particular stands. As I managed to grab my purchases and make my way to the billing counter without losing either limb or life, I spotted a pile of ankle socks with little pugs and lions going Roarrrr. Next to it was a makeup bag blowing smoochies at you. It made me realize that it was perhaps this quirky take on style that made every shopper here truly feel the lightness of youth!