Forbes Names Forever 21 Co-Founder Among 100 Most Influential Women

The co-founder of fast fashion retailer Forever 21 was named one of the world’s 100 most influential women by Forbes magazine.

Forbes, which released the list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women for 2010 on Thursday, slotted Jin-sook Chang at number 39. The 48-year-old Korean immigrant and naturalized American citizen was the only Korean person on the list, which was topped by Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel.

One of just six self-made billionaire women in the U.S., Jin Sook cofounded “fast fashion” retail chain Forever 21 with her husband Do Won Chang. The pair emigrated from South Korea in 1981 and opened their first store in 1984. That year sales grew from $35,000 to $700,000. It has continued to experience explosive growth.

Today it operates more than 480 stores worldwide with more than 34,000 employees and projected sales of $3.5 billion in 2011. In an aggressive expansion plan, it is now adding massive retail stores across Europe. Forever 21 is a family operation with Do Won at the helm, Jin Sook in charge of merchandising, eldest daughter Linda running marketing and daughter Esther managing visuals. Valuing their Christian faith, Forever 21 shopping bags read “John 3:16,” and Jin Sook and her husband attend Presbyterian church every morning at 5 am.

Last May, Forbes also named Chang as the fourth-richest self-made woman in the world with a net worth of $2.2 billion. Oprah Winfrey topped that list at $2.7 billion.