Who is Chris Xu?

Chris Xu (Xu Yangtian) is the founder and CEO of Shein, a fast-fashion eCommerce platform based in China but now with a presence in more than 150 countries.

With a net worth of approximately $10.5 billion, Xu is one of the richest men in the world. But little is known about the businessman himself who has achieved immense personal and professional success at a relatively young age. 

While Xu tends to shun interviews and rarely comments outside of official press releases, some details of his career are well-known and widely accepted.

Education and early career

Xu is Chinese born and graduated from the Qingdao University of Science and Technology in 2007. He then moved to the eastern city of Nanjing and reportedly worked at a marketing consultancy firm as an SEO specialist. 

At some point, Xu recognized the commercial value of selling Chinese goods to international consumers with a markup. He subsequently left the marketing firm and started a cross-border eCommerce business called Nanjing Dianwei Information Technology in 2008.

Joining Xu were two other co-founders: Wang Xiaohu and Li Peng. In an interview with Wired, Li said the trio rented a small office and initially sold everything from phones to teapots. But they eventually settled on clothing and a direct-to-consumer business model where small orders were placed with suppliers in response to demand (and not forecasted sales). 

Supplementing this model was Xu’s SEO expertise which helped the fledgling company identify and then capitalize on trends.


Xu created SheInside in 2011, an online wedding dress retailer and the predecessor of Shein itself. Controversy surrounds the move, with both Li and Wang later claiming Xu kicked the pair out of the original company after he disappeared from the office, took control of its PayPal accounts, and refused to take any calls. 

Nevertheless, Xu identified that wedding dresses were a highly trending item with an attractive markup. In an ultra-rare social media post, he posted in 2013 that “The company has grown rapidly and has more than 50 employees!”

At this time, the company sourced its clothing items (which included womenswear) from a wholesale clothing market in Guangzhou. In other words, SheInside did not design or produce its own garments and was, in many respects, a drop shipping company. 


SheInside officially became Shein in June 2015, with a new logo and the sloganShe In, Shine Out” also part of the rebranding effort. 

In a press release announcing the change of brand name, Xu explained that “we aim to at utmost provide our customer with better user experience. And we have strong confidence to transfer the large proportion of equity in the original brand name as well as marketplace and consolidate consumer loyalty and brand awareness.

Under Xu’s leadership

Xu was instrumental in Shein developing its supply chain – a somewhat undesirable aspect of operations that many less successful competitors avoided. He saw the importance of technology in supply chains and how actual market demand could be utilized to pass on cost savings to consumers and reduce overproduction.

He also hired college graduates with fashion sense to search for popular designs online and enable the company to better profit from the latest trends. Xu also established an internal team of renowned designers and harnessed the power of influencer and celebrity marketing to spread the company’s products and ads across the internet.

Key takeaways:

  • Chris Xu (Xu Yangtian) is the founder and CEO of Shein, a fast-fashion eCommerce platform based in China but now with a worldwide presence in more than 150 countries.
  • Xu recognized the value of selling Chinese goods to international consumers with an attractive markup. He started a cross-border eCommerce business called Nanjing Dianwei Information Technology which served as the precursor to SheInside. The latter focused on womenswear and featured a D2C business model based on actual demand.
  • SheInside officially became Shein in 2015 with a new slogan and logo also accompanying the rebranding. Xu’s ability to incorporate technology into the company’s supply chain and harness the power of influencer marketing has been integral to its success. 

Related Video Lectures

Real-Time Retail

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Fast Fashion Explained

Ultra-Fast Fashion Explained

Fashion Business Models Explained

Related Case Studies To Shein Business Model

Wish Business Model

Wish is a mobile-first e-commerce platform in which users’ experience is based on discovery and customized product feed. Wish makes money from merchants’ fees and merchants’ advertising on the platform and logistic services. The mobile platform also leverages an asset-light business model based on a positive cash conversion cycle where users pay in advance as they order goods, and merchants are paid in weeks.

Poshmark Business Model

Poshmark is a social commerce mobile platform that combines social media capabilities to its e-commerce platform to enable transactions. It makes money with a simple model, where for each sale, Poshmark takes a 20% fee on the final price, for sales of $15 and over, and a flat rate of $2.95 for sales below that. As a mobile-first platform, its gamification elements and the tools offered to sellers are critical to the company’s growth.

Etsy Business Model

Etsy is a two-sided marketplace for unique and creative goods. As a marketplace, it makes money via transaction fees on the items sold on the platform. Etsy’s key partner is comprised of sellers providing unique listings, and a wide organic reach across several marketing channels.

Fast Fashion

Fash fashion has been a phenomenon that became popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as players like Zara and H&M took over the fashion industry by leveraging on shorter and shorter design-manufacturing-distribution cycles. Reducing these cycles from months to a few weeks. With just-in-time logistics and flagship stores in iconic places in the largest cities in the world, these brands offered cheap, fashionable clothes and a wide variety of designs.

Ultra Fast Fashion

The Ultra Fashion business model is an evolution of fast fashion with a strong online twist. Indeed, where the fast-fashion retailer invests massively in logistics and warehousing, its costs are still skewed toward operating physical retail stores. While the ultra-fast fashion retailer mainly moves its operations online, thus focusing its cost centers on logistics, warehousing, and a mobile-based digital presence.

Real-Time Retail

Real-time retail involves the instantaneous collection, analysis, and distribution of data to give consumers an integrated and personalized shopping experience. This represents a strong new trend, as a further evolution of fast fashion first (who turned the design into manufacturing in a few weeks), ultra-fast fashion later (which further shortened the cycle of design-manufacturing). Real-time retail turns fashion trends into clothes collections in a few days or a maximum of one week.

Slow Fashion

Slow fashion is a movement in contraposition with fast fashion. Where in fast fashion it’s all about speed from design to manufacturing and distribution, in slow fashion instead quality and sustainability of the supply chain are the key elements.

Patagonia Business Model

Patagonia is an American clothing retailer founded by climbing enthusiast Yvon Chouinard in 1973 who saw initial success by selling reusable climbing pitons and Scottish rugby shirts. Over time Patagonia also became a fashionable brand also for its focus on slow fashion. Indeed, the company sells high-priced clothing items built to last which it will repair for free.

Patagonia Organizational Structure

Patagonia has a particular organizational structure, where its founder, Chouinard, disposed of the company’s ownership in the hands of two non-profits. The Patagonia Purpose Trust, holding 100% of the voting stocks, is in charge of defining the company’s strategic direction. And the Holdfast Collective, a non-profit, holds 100% of non-voting stocks, aiming to re-invest the brand’s dividends into environmental causes.

Read Next: Zara Business Model, Inditex, Fast Fashion Business Model, Ultra Fast Fashion Business Model, SHEIN Business Model.

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