The Daniel Kulle era at Forever 21 has come to an end.
Kulle spent 25 years with H&M before being lured by the fast-fashion retailer’s new owners to become chief executive officer at Forever 21 in February 2020. But according to an email he sent Tuesday night to his contacts, Kulle said he had resigned his post two weeks ago and will be “taking some time off to find out my next move.”
Simon Property Group together with Authentic Brands Group and Brookfield Property Partners bought Forever 21 out of bankruptcy in February of 2020 for $81.1 million not including another $73 million for the goods already bought and other costs. It is part of SPARC, which owns Brooks Brothers and other brands. David Simon, CEO of the mall developer, approached Kulle about taking the top job at the Los Angeles-based fast-fashion retailer right before the pandemic.
At H&M, Kulle had been serving as strategic adviser to former H&M Group CEO Karl-Johan Persson and was part of a steering group for three new digital start-ups within the H&M Group when he joined Forever 21. It was his digital experience that was most appealing to Forever 21’s new owners.
Although Kulle was credited with growing H&M’s sales in North America to $4 billion from $1 billion by opening 600 stores and developing integrated e-commerce platforms during his tenure, but the fit with Forever 21 wasn’t right, according to sources, and the decision was made for the two to part ways.
Marc Miller, CEO of SPARC, told WWD Wednesday: “We appreciate all that Daniel has contributed throughout his time with the brand and wish him the best in his future endeavors.” The company declined to provide details on the reasons for his departure and who is running the business on an interim basis until a replacement is named.
Kulle did not respond to emails or calls requesting further comment. Since he joined the retailer, Kulle worked toward modernizing the assortment and the messaging and homing in on sustainability. He also helped Forever 21 reenter the Chinese market for the third time through a licensed model.
Forever 21 was founded by Do Won Chang and his wife Jin Sook in 1994 and grew quickly by offering trendy fashions at low prices, but ultimately, the company was unable to navigate its aggressive international expansion.
In addition to Forever 21 and Brooks Brothers, SPARC, which is now a joint venture between Simon and ABG (Brookfield is no longer involved), also owns and operates Aéropostale, Nautica, Eddie Bauer and Lucky Brand.