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Honda teams up with Forever 21 to lure new, younger motorcycle riders

It's an admittedly unusual pairing. Forever 21 -- LA's most iconic purveyor of fast fashion -- has partnered with American Honda on a new clothing line that features vintage motorcycle dirt bike images from the '80s and '90s. 

"They wanted to use our racing heritage, which is something we have a good history with," said Ben Hoang, with American Honda in Torrance. "It's kind of what was old is new again... The '80s and '90s style is in. We're going back into those hyper colors and those big starter jackets, so that's where the fashion is driving towards."

How that translates into clothing is, for the guys, long-sleeved t-shirts that look like motocross jerseys. Eye-popping, color-blocked jackets that incorporate black and white checkers lifted from racing flags. And, of course, graphic tees with dirt bikes catching air. For the ladies, there's a variety of pieces with vintage Honda logos striping their way across crop tops and skirts.

The Forever 21 x Honda Racing capsule collection arrived in stores Tuesday. Forever 21 says working with Honda is a result of its hunt for "new and unexpected partnerships." Racing and motorsport designs, according to its press statement, are especially popular right now.

Honda's involvement has more to do with cultivating a new ridership.

"We've kind of taken on this new direction of collaborating with more youthful brands specifically because we're looking to expand the motorcycle industry," Hoang said. "We've noticed a trend toward our customer base getting a little bit older. We wanted to bring in a more youthful audience."

2017 Aviator Nation + Honda Motorcycle
2017 Aviator Nation + Honda Motorcycle
Nick Onken

Honda's Forever 21 collaboration is its second with a youth fashion brand. Last year it partnered with the California surfwear company, Aviator Nation.

"Hearing that Honda wanted to work with Aviator Nation really got us excited," said Paige Mycoskie, founder of Aviator Nation, in a YouTube video that came out last year. "The brand is all about living life to the fullest."

The average motorcycle rider right now is middle-aged and male. Compare that with Forever 21's target audience, which is 13 to 30, and mostly female.

Honda says partnering with these types of brands isn't about selling motorcycles but exposing young people to the culture -- the coolness of motorcycling -- to start them thinking that someday they'll throw a leg over. 

Because right now - they just aren't. The motorcycle industry never recovered from the Great Recession. New bike sales today are less than half of what they were at their peak, back in 2006.