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The Rise And Fall Of Forever 21


On 29 September, Forever 21 has filed for bankruptcy. While all eyes across the globe is on this retail giant and talking about their “retail mistakes”.I’m much impressed by their entrepreneurial story.

The Founders of Forever 21

Do Won and Jin Sook the founders of Forever 21 immigrated from South Korea landed in US on 80’s – penniless, no college degrees and can’t even speak proper english.

They started off working in various jobs. Do Won worked as a janitor, a gas station attendant, and washed dishes in a coffee shop, while Jin Sook worked as a hairdresser.

Do Won told Los Angeles Times he noticed people who drove nicest car were in garment business. That’s how he spark on the concept of Forever 21.

In 1984, They started their business, a 900sqft store in LA with USD11,000 which was all their savings.They named it Fashion 21 and the Korean American community made up their initial clientele. They hit USD 700,000 for their 1st year and ambitious enough they open a new stores every 6 month.

The 1st Forever 21 Store _ Fashion 21

In 1987, They renamed Fashion 21 to Forever 21 and 4 years later they established their first international store in Canada. They were also trying to cater interests of different demographics by establishing Men 21 , their lingerie line, cosmetics, Forever 21+ for plus-sized as well as expanding their business online through it’s website,

Men 21

Forever 21 reached its peak in 2015 when it was bringing in USD$4.4 billion in sales from over 600 stores. Forbes  reported that Do Won and Jin Sook had a combined net worth of USD$5.9 billion at the time.

By 2018, they had about 800 stores in 623 locations spanning from Africa to Asia, Europe, and even Oceania. As of 2019, they have 32,800 employees across the globe.

Although Forever 21 may have filed for bankruptcy but it doesn’t mean the brand had come to the “end”. They obtained USD$350 million to facilitate in its restructuring: USD$275 million from JP Morgan Chase and USD$75 million from TPG Sixth Street Partners.

The founders’ daughter Linda Chang, who’s the brand’s Executive Vice President, said that this would enable them to reorganise their business and reposition Forever 21.

Linda Chang

She went on to say, “With support from our key landlord and vendor constituents, we are confident we will emerge as a stronger, more competitive enterprise that is better positioned to prosper for years to come, and we remain committed to delivering the fast fashion trends that our customers have come to expect from Forever 21.”

We can’t wait for the next chapter of Forever 21!

Source: Business Wire | Business Insider | Forbes