Forever 21 taps H&M executive Daniel Kulle to take over as CEO

Lauren Coleman-Lochner and Jordyn Holman

The new owners of Forever 21 Inc. have hired an executive from another fast-fashion chain to steer the troubled retailer out of bankruptcy.

Daniel Kulle, who worked at Hennes & Mauritz AB for more than two decades, will take over as Forever 21’s chief executive officer, Authentic Brands Group Inc. said in a statement Tuesday. Authentic Brands is part of a group that bought Forever 21. Kulle recently served as H&M’s North America president for nine years.

His arrival signals a shift for Forever 21, which was tightly controlled by its founders until last year’s bankruptcy filing. He will focus on improving e-commerce and making the company more environmentally friendly, Authentic Brands said. He will also oversee new in-store events and expand Forever 21’s loyalty program and stable of partner brands.

A Forever 21 clothing store in New York.

Kulle oversaw the opening of 600 new stores and a quadrupling of North American sales to $4 billion during his tenure at H&M, according to the statement.

Forever 21 filed for Chapter 11 in late September. The founders struggled to retain control before and during the process, which spooked some potential lenders and buyers. Much of Forever 21’s distress was due to its large and expensive stores, poor inventory management and losses in some international markets.

Additionally, Forever 21’s core shoppers – teens and college students – are migrating to other apparel options that promote sustainability, such as resale and rental subscriptions. They’re willing to dole out more money for these clothes, as well, according to a study by First Insight Inc. released in January.

With Generation Z’s importance rising, the trend has hurt Forever 21. Last year, the retailer fell out of the favorite five in rankings for American teenagers’ top brands, according to a semi-annual Piper Jaffray study.