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How Forever 21’s New Beauty Brand Is Targeting the Instagram Generation

Forever 21’s new beauty/lifestyle store Riley Rose is Instagrammable, trend-forward, and has Gen Z and Millennial shoppers in their sights. We talked to the brand’s co-founder to find out how they plan to build the future of beauty retail…

Forever 21 has launched a new store to target a niche audience of young, trendy, and social media-savvy consumers. Riley Rose, created by the two daughters of Forever 21’s co-founders, will cater to young shoppers by taking on trends like K-beauty (which Millennial and Gen Z females tell Ypulse they want to try) and stocking up on “cult brands,” according to Elle. Internet sensations with cult followings like Lime Crime and Winky Lux can be found at the flagship Glendale Galleria store. Beyond the beauty products, Riley Rose offers shoppers trendy home décor and coveted candies to become an all-around lifestyle store.

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketingBut it’s not the product lineup that’s turning heads—it’s the high-tech, highly-Instagrammable in-store experience. The first store has “digitally-focused features” like selfie stations and tablets for watching tutorials or checking out the latest social posts tagged #rileyrose. From neon signs with kitsch sayings (think: “Makeup fades, memories last”) to a wall of upside down single-stem roses, the décor is clearly designed to be photographed for a social media moment. Not to mention the overall, minimalist, Millennial-pink hued aesthetic aimed at bringing out everyone’s inner Instagrammer. And the flagship is just the beginning, with Riley Rose execs saying stores to come will be larger, and have “full-on lounges” (charging stations included, of course).

We caught up with Linda Chang, one of the co-founders of Riley Rose, to find out more about the inventive new lifestyle brand. Here’s what she had to say about tapping into the coveted Millennial & Gen Z demographic, breaking through the clutter in the beauty industry, setting themselves apart from other stores (including parent company, Forever 21), and more.

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketingYpulse: Who is Riley Rose’s target audience and why does Riley Rose appeal to them?

Linda Chang: We have created Riley Rose to appeal to the Millennial and Gen Z customer who follows trends and likes to curate her personal brand through beauty and lifestyle products. She is hungry to be first to embrace budding trends, and wants access to of-the-moment products she sees on social media at the pace of a snap!

Ypulse: What does Riley Rose offer to Millennial & Gen Z shoppers that other beauty retailers aren’t currently?

LC: Our stores will offer the customer an experience she can’t find in retailers today, that was born out of our own observations and frustrations as shoppers. The entire store experience is built around how the Millennial and Gen Z demo shop, from digital touch screens displaying multi-branded looks as she would view them within her social media world to a playful selfie wall. We know our customer can open her phone and research anything she sees in our store within seconds, and we embrace this reality by empowering her to explore our offerings through digital and social moments throughout the store. Our in-store marketing will feature authentic, real-girl product reviews, with the intent to teach the customer how she can use our products or why they’re trending, rather than to tell her what to buy.

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketingYpulse: What inspired the aesthetic of Riley Rose’s store? Was Instragrammability a consideration and are there elements of the store made with Instagram in mind?

LC: Yes, Instagrammability was a huge consideration in our store as there is no other beauty and lifestyle destination that is extremely Instagrammable and is highly sensory. We wanted every corner of the store to play homage to Millennials and be the perfect Instagram or social post. Our stores are extremely Instagrammable with neon pink signs throughout the store, a selfie wall, and more!

Ypulse: How are Riley Rose and Forever 21 similar, and different?

LC: Forever 21 will still sell beauty products. Riley Rose is a brand carrying what the modern girl craves for a trendy lifestyle. This includes cult beauty brands that have made a name for themselves online, such as Lime Crime, Lemonhead.LA, and Lipland, as well as brands not available in U.S. brick and mortar stores, such as Korean skincare brands B.By Banila, Dearpacker, and Nuca. Our major point of difference from other retailers is that we let her shop a complete lifestyle: our home assortment makes up one third of the store, and includes everything from pillows and décor to succulents and tech accessories. We’ve also focused special attention into the food & beverage category, which will include unique snacks from around the world, and fine confectionaries like Compartés and Amborella Organics.

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketingYpulse: What trends is Riley Rose hoping to tap into to appeal to young shoppers – and how are you deciding what trends are worth chasing?

LC: The trend that Riley Rose is tapping into in order to appeal to young shoppers is primarily the K-beauty trend that has taken over in recent years, providing customers with brands that they usually can only find online, now in their store. Additionally, the brand looks to social and Instagram to find the brands they will sell in store, often always on the hunt for the “it” brands of the moment, or surveying our followers on Instagram what they want the next brand we carry to be.

Ypulse: Your site describes Riley Rose as a “beauty and lifestyle universe.” Tell us about the lifestyle side of Riley Rose—do you feel that brands have to offer more than products to appeal to the next generation of shoppers?

LC: The lifestyle side of the brand is that Riley Rose offers not only beauty products ranging from hair, makeup, skincare and nails, but also home essentials such as trays and mugs, as well as tech accessories such as phone cases and chargers. We also have a candy wall providing customers with treats from all around the world.

Ypulse: What is Riley Rose’s e-commerce experience going to be like? How does it complement the in-store experience?

LC: Everything we will have in store, we will offer on our e-commerce site, which will also include real girl reviews of each product to help guide our customer to the best product fit for them. We plan on launching our e-commerce site in December.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Millennial research, Millennial insight, Millennial marketing, Gen Z research, Gen Z marketing, Gen Z insight, youth research, youth marketingLINDA CHANG


Linda Chang is co-founder of Riley Rose, alongside her sister, Esther. They’re the daughters of Forever 21’s founders, Don and Jin Sook Chang. Linda studied at the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School before working at Merrill Lynch as an investment banker and Pottery Barn as a product planner. She then moved to Forever 21 to head the marketing department. At Forever 21, she took a digital approach to reaching young consumers by bolstering the brand’s social media presence, creating a blog, and working with fashion bloggers directly. The Los Angeles Times describes Linda as “the quintessential young professional in Alexander Wang boyfriend jackets and Forever 21 jeans, cooking lasagna on weekends for friends in her Hollywood apartment.”

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