Daniel Kulle is now Forever 21’s former CEO.
Kulle joined the fast-fashion chain in February last year, shortly after a consortium led by Authentic Brands Group acquired the Gen Z retailer out of bankruptcy for $81 million.
A former H&M North America president, Kulle was most recently strategic advisor to former H&M Group CEO Karl-Johan Persson prior to joining Forever 21. Boasting two decades of experience at H&M, Kulle expanded the Swedish retailer’s brick-and-mortar and e-commerce presence in existing and new markets across North America. Under his leadership, H&M’s North American sales quadrupled from $1 billion to $4 billion annually. He also served as a steering group member for three new digital startups at H&M Group.
Kulle’s experience seemed to be what the beleaguered and bankrupt Forever 21 needed, not to mention bringing in fresh, creative insight and management know-how to move the struggling chain out of the doldrums. Kulle even relocated from New York to Forever 21’s home base in Los Angeles.
In the role, Kulle was tasked with strengthening the chain’s loyalty program, elevating the in-store journey through experiential events such as popups and buzzy collaborations and ensuring seamless omnichannel experience. Forever 21 just recently expanded in a new category, launching a home decor category catering to young shoppers setting up dorm rooms, outfitting offices or decorating their bedroom at home.
Kulle joined the company on Feb. 25, 2020, barely three weeks before all fashion retailers and shopping malls temporarily closed their doors in an effort to curb the coronavirus’ spread. By late May, some stores started reopening with restrictions in place, such as capacity limits and six-foot-distancing requirements.
Forever 21’s mall-heavy presence meant virus-wary consumers eschewed shopping at those locations through the summer. The arrival of vaccines this year provided a modicum of relief as shoppers returned to stores. While Forever 21 operates e-commerce, stores drive the bulk of its sales.
Despite the impact from Covid, Kulle was able to modernize some of the fast-fashion chain’s assortment, and spearheaded the retailer’s re-entry into China through a licensed business model.
So what happened? Women’s Wear Daily, which first reported on Kulle’s departure on Wednesday, cited sources who said Kulle and Forever 21 mutually decided to part ways because he wasn’t the right fit for the retailer.
“We appreciate all that Daniel has contributed throughout his time with the brand and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” SPARC CEO Marc Miller said in a statement, without elaborating further. Miller didn’t provide any details on who is running Forever 21 in the meantime or the CEO search. SPARC is the joint venture between ABG and Simon Property Group. Brookfield Property was also part of the consortium that acquired Forever 21, but has since sold its stake to the joint venture. ABG declined comment.
For all the talk about fast-fashion possibly on the way out—UBS analysts believe that the distribution channel has a future if it can find more ways to be sustainable and not clutter up the landfills—younger consumers still seem to gravitate toward the sector for cheap, trendy fashion items that last only one or two seasons. One example is the online fast-fashion brand Lulus Fashion Lounge—the fave of #BamaRush Southern sorority hopefuls—that has filed for on an initial public offering. And the more established global chains Zara and H&M are still going strong, both doing well coming out of the pandemic as pent-up demand helped both grow their apparel sales.