Forever21 says sexist songs from staff member's own playlist; shoppers weigh in on issue

The Forever21 store at 313@Somerset. -- ST PHOTO: BRYNA SINGH
The Forever21 store at 313@Somerset. -- ST PHOTO: BRYNA SINGH

SINGAPORE - Fashion retailer Forever21 has responded to the incident involving Gurmit Singh's daughter Gabrielle, and explained that the songs she had heard were from a staff member's personal playlist.

"A staff member had played his own personal list, which was not part of the company recommendations," said Forever21 in a statement to The Straits Times on Thursday night.

Gabrielle had criticised fashion retailer Forever21 for playing "horribly misogynistic" music at its 313@Somerset mall outlet in a Tumblr post, and had also said she would boycott the store.

In its statement, Forever21 said it has "strict guidelines" on the music played in stores. "Only the recommended list should be played in the stores," the statement read.

It also said the "error" was "immediately rectified on the same day", when the store management realised the song was not in line with its brand guidelines.

It is uncertain, however, if this realisation was a result of Gabrielle's post or from the store's own efforts.

In any case, Forever 21 ended its statement saying: "Our priority is to ensure (this) is resolved as quickly as possible and that it doesn't happen again in the future."

Gabrielle's post has gone viral over the last two days, after her father shared a link to her post on his Facebook page.

An online poll conducted by The Straits Times, which asked readers if she was making a mountain out of a molehill, showed that a majority of readers supported what she did.

The 2,692 votes by readers as of 9pm on Thursday showed that about 70 per cent of the voters disagreed with that suggestion, which meant only 30 per cent of the respondents felt she was making a fuss over a minor issue.

The Straits Times also interviewed shoppers who were seen at the Forever21 outlet at 313@Somerset mall on Thursday evening.

Several of them said they were aware of Gabrielle's post, and said they agreed with her take on the songs being played in the store.

Said student Cheryl Lee, 17: "The lyrics that Gabrielle mentioned were downright insulting and degrading to women. But I would still shop here because the clothes are reasonably priced."

Another shopper, student Grace Tan, 20, said the incident also made her pay special attention to the songs playing in the outlet. "When I walked in today, I told myself I would listen to the songs they played. But they sounded okay," she said.

There were also those who said they usually do not pay much attention to the lyrics of the songs they hear when they are shopping.

Accountant Tammy Chua, 23, said she was "focusing more on the clothing items" than on the songs when browsing in Forever21.

The Straits Times listened to four songs in a row at the store on Thursday evening. Three were lovey-dovey tunes, while one - with the most attention-grabbing lyrics of the four - made constant mention of "big, big booty" and called for women to "grab a man, bring him to the dance floor", and "give him what he asks for".

brynasim@sph.com.sg