Husband-and-wife duo Do Won Chang and Jin Sook Chang founded Los Angeles-based clothing company Forever 21, which filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, in 1984. The couple still owns the sprawling chain, which has more than 800 worldwide locations, and runs it as a family business: Do Won serves as CEO, Jin Sook is the chief merchandising officer, and their two daughters run marketing and storefront visuals. The company's financial woes make it just the latest victim of the evolution of the retail industry.
Three years prior to founding the company, the Changs emigrated from South Korea. They were 26 and without college degrees, money, or fluency in English. They dreamed of entrepreneurship -- originally in the coffee industry, as Business Insider reported in 2015 -- and worked odd jobs to make ends meet.
The Changs built massive wealth and success through their clothing empire. Forbes estimates that at Forever 21's peak, in 2015, the company made $4.4 billion in annual revenue, making the couple's combined net worth $5.9 billion. But by July, as bankruptcy rumors swirled, their net worth reportedly had fallen to $1.6 billion, dropping them individually below billionaire status.
The first Forever 21 location in Los Angeles still bears the company's original name, Fashion 21. It's likely to stay open, despite impending store closings. The chain is expected to shutter up to 178 locations in the U.S., and up to 350 worldwide, according to The New York Times.