Mysterious rich man arouses wonder: Now he is one of China’s richest

If you’re a woman, you’ve probably seen the commercials for his clothing company. They constantly appear as ads on Facebook and other social media.

But who is the man behind the mysterious clothing company? And how has he become one of China’s richest in record time?

He is called China’s fashion king, and his clothing empire Shein, which he founded, has just been estimated to be worth a whopping 100 billion dollars (714 billion kroner), which is more than the two fashion giants H&M and Zara combined.

Still, the outside world knows very little about the mysterious Chinese rich man Yangtian XU, who goes by the name Chris Xu, and who in 14 years has created a billion-dollar empire.

Shein in Tokyo.
Photo: RICHARD A. BROOKS

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An empire so valuable that according to him Forbes has now jumped straight into the place as China’s 25th-richest man with a fortune estimated at 71 billion kroner.

There is not much information about Yangtian Xu. While Forbes writes that he was born in the United States, most other information indicates that he was born in Shangdong in 1984, came from poor backgrounds and worked his way up to success, according to an article in The Guardian.

He is said to have studied at Qingdao University of Science and Technology, and it is also his computer skills that should have paved the way for success.

Xu has dealt a lot with SEO (search engine optimization), which he also later exploited in his fashion empire, which – like many other cheap chains – speculates on copying well-known designs and making them in poorer quality at a cheaper price.


Shein is known for copying other people's designs.

Shein is known for copying other people’s designs.
Photo: Kike Rincón

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However, the road to success has not been entirely without bumps for Xu, and there are several stories about how ruthless he has been.

According to The Guardian, there is an anecdote that he cheated two business partners, although the media cannot get the story confirmed by anyone other than the two.

Xu founded his fashion empire with online wedding dress store SheInside in 2011, but in 2015 he turned it into a broader business and shortened the name to Shein.

It was before that shift that he allegedly cheated his business partners Li and Wang. They have previously told in an interview that one day Xu kicked them out of the partnership and disappeared from their office with the company’s PayPal accounts, writes The Guardian.

Shein has previously denied the allegations.

However, it is known that Xu and Shein have been criticized for the working conditions under which the employees who supply clothes to them work.

“Basically, suppliers make no money, or even lose money on the first orders,” said tech analyst and founder of Tech Buzz China, Rui Ma Ma, to The Guardian.

Shein is also criticized because the employees at Shein’s Chinese factories have 75-hour work weeks, says a report made by the Swiss NGO Public Eye revealed.

Furthermore, it appears that the employees are paid per piece of clothing they make, which makes them work as much as possible.

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