HONG KONG — Longfor is not likely a name that will ring any bells, nor is Wa Yajun, the billionaire businesswoman who founded the company. But the Chinese shopping mall developer takes the top spot when it comes to the fashion industry’s self-made female entrepreneurs.
Wealth-tracker Hurun released a global list of the top 100 self-made billionaire women to coincide with International Women’s Day — and there were quite a few fashion and retail-related fortunes in the mix.
Chinese businesswoman Zhou Qunfei topped the global list overall — and she has the success of the iPhone and Samsung to thank for that. A classic rags-to-riches tale, the former factory worker built up an empire with her company, Lens Technology, which makes phone touch screens.
Coming in second place on the ranking but holding the number-one spot if going by fashion industry-related names is Longfor Properties’ Wa. The company was one of the first developers of shopping malls in China, operating for more than two decades now. The group has launched 26 shopping malls over an area of 2.6 million square meters (about 27.9 million square feet), but has focused mainly on tier-two cities in the country and an affordable mix of retailers.
In fourth place is another Chinese real estate titan: Zhang Xin, the chief executive officer of Soho China. The property developer operates in multiple sectors from residential to coworking spaces, but it also has numerous shopping malls, veering to the high-end unlike Longfor.
In seventh place, Arcadia Group’s Tina Green was ranked jointly with her husband, Philip Green. Rumors of a sale to Shandong Ruyi emerged last month but both sides have denied the reports.
Guangzhou-based Trendy International’s Li Shanhu and husband Shu Yu were in 17th place. While Trendy’s brands including Ochirly and Five Plus are not known much outside the country, they enjoy strong popularity in China and the group also owns the Miss Sixty business in Asia. At number 18 was Italian businesswoman Giuliana Benetton of the retailer Benetton Group.
Despite a failed international expansion and considerable downsizing at home, Chinese clothing chain Bosideng’s Mei Dong and husband Gao Dekang, came in 56th, two places ahead of Doris Fisher, the cofounder of Gap Inc.
Although not directly part of the fashion industry, Momo’s Zhang Sichuan ranked 62nd, and is one to watch. The Chinese company, which began its business as provider of social apps and was most known for its Tinder-like creations, has evolved its products to include live-streaming services on which many a fashion and beauty influencer has built their careers.
Tying for 67th place is Tory Burch, who built her eponymous empire, along with Ebay’s Meg Whitman, and Anne Graff of Graff Diamonds, the vertically integrated diamond producer and retailer. Burch, a vocal advocate for women entrepreneurs is hosting an inaugural Embrace Ambition summit in April, aimed at encouraging more young females to aspire to leadership positions.
Mary Perkins, who cofounded eyewear retailer Specsavers, was in 76th place. Entrepreneur Sara Blakely, who began a shapewear revolution with her brand, Spanx, ranks 90th. Winnie Liljeborg and her husband, Per Enevoldsen, who founded the jeweler Pandora, rounds out the list at number 100. The Danish firm told WWD last month they plan on scaling to a full-serviced jeweler to rely less on their signature charms.