That pretty glittering store in the mall with an amazing array of dresses! We have all seen it and probably been there too. Forever 21 has now become a common name among the youth, as it provides quality which is accessible to all. However, what most of us are unaware of is, that it was once just a dream seen by a South Korean man Do Wan, and his wife Jin Sook Chang.

An immigrant, Do Wan was born in Myeong-Dong in Seoul, South Korea. Growing up, he did not attend any university and worked in coffee shops. He moved to California in 1981 with his wife Jin Sook Chang. Luck did not instantly favour him as he had to work as many as three jobs to make ends meet. He used to work in a coffee shop, as a janitor, and also as a gas station attendant. Realizing how important fashion was in America, he and his wife came up with the idea of a retail clothing store.

Jin Sook and Do Wan Chang opened a 900 square-feet store in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles named ‘Fashion 21’. Investing $11,000, their savings, they laid the foundation of an empire. Targeted towards their fellow Korean-Americans, the sales soared in the first year itself, leading to a total of $700,000. In order to increase their demographics, it was renamed to Forever 21, however, the first store is still in operation with the original name on display. The brand quickly gained popularity among Americans and 11 stores were opened in the next five years. By 2013, it had 480 stores generating a revenue of $3.7 billion. Today, Forever 21 stylized by FOREVER 21 has more than 700 stores worldwide, including London and Birmingham. Initially focused on women apparel only, it has now expanded to provide men’s clothing, accessories and beauty products as well.

Forever 21, which was started 35 years ago is a family-owned business, the cornerstone of which was laid by a simple Korean immigrant with a dream.

Forever 21 gives hope and inspiration to people who come here with almost nothing, and that is a reward that humbles me: the fact that immigrants coming to America, much like I did, can come into a Forever 21 and know that all of this was started by a simple Korean immigrant with a dream.”

Don Wan Chang: Founder and CEO ‘FOREVER 21’


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