Forever 21 is a famous clothing store that sells across the world. Known for selling accessories, products for the home, beauty products, and of course clothing. Forever 21 is considered the embodiment of what is known as the fast fashion industry because of how the clothes are made, making them very affordable. But, do you know who owns Forever 21?
However, Forever 21 has had a long history and in fact, this past April marked its 38th anniversary. So how does one get a famous clothing store with affordable pricing? Perhaps the Changs can answer that question.
The Beginnings of Forever 21
Founding of Fashion 21
Before ever being known as Forever 21, it was actually known as Fashion 21. The store was founded by Do Won Chang and Jin Sook Chang, a husband, and wife from South Korea. They opened on April 16, 1984. The original store was there up until 2020. In its beginning, Forever 21 catered toward the Korean American community and made over $700K in its first year.
By 2011, Forever 21 was making $124 million annually and had over a billion in assets. However, the store chain was mired in controversy. For starters, the CEH, or the Center of Environmental Health discovered that Forever 21 was one of over two dozen stores that were selling jewelry containing toxic metals.
Later, a blogger named Archer Kane created a blog called WTForever21.com. There, she posted and gave opinions about the clothing choices that Forever 21 carried. The blog grew very popular and the store asked to remove the site or face a lawsuit. In September 2012, Forever 21 was given a lawsuit by a lawyer claiming that the store was”penny-pinching”. Regardless, the matter fell off the radar and nothing came of it.
Forever 21 was soon known for its various lawsuits. Labor groups and environmentalists have filed lawsuits against the company stating that they have violated labor laws. It cost the store a lot in damages and included a three-year strike and many protests.
Over the years, Forever 21 also had multiple lawsuits involving intellectual property design lawsuits. For instance, in 2015, a Canadian family-owned business had one of its designers notice that their designs were being used and mass-produced by Forever 21. Even software developers sued for using unlicensed copies.
Around 2013, The store was worldwide and was making over $3 billion in sales. They peaked in 2015 at over $4.4 billion before decreasing afterward.
By 2018, Forever 21 was suffering from strong competition which was also offering fast fashion. They closed dozens of stores in other countries such as Thailand and Ireland.
Because of competition, damage to their reputation, high costs, and more, they almost collapsed. It dropped in sales by 32% in 2019. The media stated that the store had overextended and did not have the proper way of dealing with e-commerce competition.
In September 2019, they filed for bankruptcy. It then downsized and removed its operations from 40 countries. In 2020, the brand was sold to Authentic Brands Group. Authentic Brands Group also owns companies such as Reebok, Brooks Brothers, etc.
About Authentic Brands Group
Authentic Brands Group (ABG) is a dynamic and influential brand development and licensing company that has rapidly grown to become a major player in the global fashion and entertainment industry. Founded in 2010 by entrepreneur and visionary Jamie Salter, ABG has carved out a niche by acquiring and revitalizing iconic brands, bringing them back to the forefront of consumer consciousness. With a unique business model that focuses on brand management and strategic partnerships, ABG has evolved into a powerhouse in the world of intellectual property and brand licensing.
Acquisition and Brand Portfolio
One of ABG’s defining characteristics is its impressive portfolio of iconic brands. The company has a knack for identifying distressed or underutilized brands with significant heritage and then acquiring them to revitalize and expand their reach. ABG has successfully added a diverse range of brands to its portfolio, spanning various industries including fashion, sports, entertainment, and more.
Some of the notable brands in ABG’s portfolio include:
- Marilyn Monroe: ABG acquired the rights to the iconic Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe’s estate, enabling them to license her image and likeness for a wide range of products and collaborations.
- Juicy Couture: ABG acquired the popular fashion brand Juicy Couture, known for its velour tracksuits and glamorous aesthetic. They have since rejuvenated the brand, expanding its product lines and global presence.
- Nine West: The acquisition of Nine West, a well-known footwear and accessory brand, has allowed ABG to continue its efforts in the fashion industry.
- Sports Illustrated: ABG acquired the intellectual property rights to Sports Illustrated, one of the most recognized and respected sports media brands in the world. This acquisition has enabled them to explore various avenues in sports and entertainment.
- Forever 21: ABG played a significant role in the acquisition of the fast-fashion brand Forever 21, partnering with Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners to bring the brand back to life.
Brand Management and Licensing
ABG’s core strength lies in its ability to effectively manage and leverage these brands. They work with a vast network of licensees, retailers, and partners to create and market products that resonate with consumers. Whether it’s fashion, beauty, sports, or entertainment, ABG’s approach is to maintain the brand’s authenticity while adapting it to contemporary trends and consumer preferences.
ABG also focuses on strategic collaborations and partnerships to extend the reach of its brands. These collaborations often involve celebrities, influencers, and designers who share a connection with the brand’s heritage and target audience. By bringing in fresh perspectives and creative input, ABG ensures that the brands remain relevant and appealing to new generations of consumers.
ABG has a global footprint, with a presence in North America, Europe, Asia, and beyond. They work with a wide range of retailers and e-commerce platforms to distribute products bearing their licensed brands. This global reach allows them to tap into diverse markets and demographics, ensuring that the brands remain influential on a worldwide scale.
What sets ABG apart is its innovative approach to brand management. The company constantly seeks new ways to engage with consumers, whether through immersive brand experiences, digital content, or limited-edition collaborations. This forward-thinking strategy keeps ABG’s brands at the forefront of consumer culture and ensures their longevity.
Environmental and Social Responsibility
ABG is also committed to sustainability and social responsibility. They have taken steps to align their brands with eco-friendly and socially conscious initiatives, reflecting the growing awareness and values of today’s consumers.
Forever 21 in the Present
So who owns Forever 21? In February 2020, Forever 21 sold its assets to a mall consortium. This included:
- Simon Property Group
- Brookfield Properties
- Authentic Brands Group
Presently, the store has over 600 stores with over 400 of them being in the United States. Outside of the United States, many of these stores tend to be a part of a franchise. Other times, it operates with a local partner via a joint venture.
Do Won Chang
Do Won Chang was born in South Korea in 1954 and immigrated to the United States in 1981. He started his journey in America with very limited English language skills and financial resources. To make ends meet, he worked as a janitor, gas station attendant, and in various low-paying jobs.
In 1984, Do Won Chang and his wife, Jin Sook Chang, opened their first clothing store called “Fashion 21” in Highland Park, Los Angeles. The store initially sold clothing at affordable prices, primarily targeting young adults. The store’s success led them to expand, and in 1987, they renamed it “Forever 21,” emphasizing their vision of providing fashionable clothing for people of all ages.
Under Do Won Chang’s leadership, Forever 21 grew rapidly. The brand became known for its trendy and budget-friendly clothing, attracting a broad customer base. The company’s business model involved quick turnover of inventory, keeping up with the latest fashion trends, and providing an ever-changing assortment of clothing items.
Over the years, Forever 21 expanded globally, with stores in multiple countries and a strong online presence. The company’s success made the Changs one of the wealthiest immigrant families in the United States.
However, in the face of changing consumer preferences, increasing competition, and economic challenges, Forever 21 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2019. The bankruptcy filing was part of a restructuring plan to keep the business afloat and ultimately led to the closure of numerous stores.
Do Won Chang’s story is often cited as an example of the American Dream, where an immigrant couple with determination and hard work built a successful business empire from scratch. His journey exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit and resilience required to overcome adversity.
The founder of Forever 21 was a South Korean immigrant along with his wife, Jin Sook Chang. Together, they had two daughters who would be executives in the business.
The Changs are also known to be faithful Christians. Because of this, at the bottom of every Forever 21 Bag is John 3:16 from the Bible. They also have donated to many faith groups and churches. Do Won provides missionary work, as well.
Some Lesser Known Facts about Forever21
1. An Early Name Change
Before adopting the name “Forever 21” in 1987, the store was originally called “Fashion 21.” The name was changed to emphasize the brand’s goal of providing fashionable clothing for people of all ages.
2. Fast-Fashion Pioneer
Forever 21 was one of the pioneers of the fast-fashion retail model. The company quickly adapted to fashion trends, allowing it to bring new styles to the market at an affordable price point rapidly.
3. Rapid Expansion
At its peak, Forever 21 had more than 800 stores in 57 countries, making it one of the largest fast-fashion retailers in the world.
4. Legal Challenges
Forever 21 faced multiple lawsuits from fashion designers and brands over the years, alleging copyright infringement and intellectual property violations due to the company’s practice of quickly replicating designer styles. Many of these lawsuits were settled out of court.
5. Bankruptcy Filings
The 2019 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing was not Forever 21’s first experience with financial difficulties. In 2010, the company faced a lawsuit over its failure to pay rent, which prompted discussions of bankruptcy. However, they were able to resolve the issue without filing for bankruptcy at that time.
6. Size-Inclusive Line
Forever 21 launched a plus-size line called “Forever 21+” in 2009, aimed at providing trendy clothing options for customers of all sizes. This move was part of the brand’s commitment to inclusivity.
7. Sustainability Efforts
In response to growing concerns about environmental sustainability, Forever 21 initiated a few eco-friendly efforts, such as launching a recycled clothing line and setting goals to reduce its carbon footprint. However, it faced criticism for not doing enough to address the environmental impact of fast fashion.
Forever 21 collaborated with various celebrities and designers over the years, releasing limited-edition collections. Some notable collaborations included collections with Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Coca-Cola, among others.
9. International Expansion Challenges
While Forever 21 expanded globally, it faced challenges in some international markets. In countries like Japan, the company struggled to adapt to local consumer preferences and faced stiff competition from domestic retailers.
10. Social Media Influence
Forever 21 was among the early adopters of social media marketing in the fashion industry. The brand had a strong presence on platforms like Instagram, using it to showcase its products and engage with its audience.
11. Change in Leadership
In early 2019, the company underwent a leadership change as Do Won Chang stepped down as CEO, making way for a new CEO, Daniel Kulle. This change was seen as a response to the company’s financial challenges and the need for new strategies.
Forever 21, despite its fame for teenagers everywhere, has always had some skeletons in its closet. With lawsuit after lawsuit, the business did all it could, but it still ended up bankrupt. However, the Changs still have control over the company.
Now that you know who owns Forever 21, as well as some of its history, you understand that the clock is ticking. Malls have been decreasing throughout the years as e-commerce has become a more popular tool. With more and more malls closing down, that leaves the franchise an endangered species.
No matter what happens, a good businessman should be able to work with changes. Forever 21 suffered in the past with e-commerce. Now, individuals wonder who owns Forever 21. If anything, it needs to do everything in its power to remain relevant by having a larger presence through online and e-commerce.