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 slogan “She 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.
- 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.
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