Browse all

The 15 richest people in the fashion industry

Giorgio Armani is only in 11th place

The 15 richest people in the fashion industry Giorgio Armani is only in 11th place

Zoology uses the term "alpha predator" to describe animals at the top of the food chain. The fashion industry, when regarded as an ecosystem of its own (a 2.5 trillion dollar ecosystem), also owns its own food chain, and the 15 people at the top of the chain own a combined wealth of more than 410 billion dollars.

The ranking of the 15 richest individuals in the fashion industry that you can read by scrolling through the gallery below has been compiled from Forbes' Real Time Billionaires index. The list includes entrepreneurs, CEOs, heiresses and designers who, either by creating empires in the world of luxury fashion, or setting up titanic fast fashion chains, have amassed assets that go beyond imagination.

15. Chip Wilson (5,54 USD billions)

Founder of Lululemon Athletica, Chip Wilson began his ascent by selling yoga pants. A seemingly humble business that led him, in 2013, to own one of Fortune's fastest-growing companies as well as being the main figure behind the athleisure trend that peaked in 2016, after Wilson retired from his position as chairman of the company.

14. Ding Shijia (5,9 USD billions)

The vice president of one of China's largest sportswear and sneaker manufacturers, Anta Sports, does not own a photo of him online. Although it is perhaps little known in Europe, Anta Sports is the third largest sportswear company in the world, going so far as to become the official sponsor of the NBA – then coming to boycott it when NBA players showed support to Hong Kong citizens in October 2019.

13. Ding Shizhong (6 USD billions)

The younger brother of Ding Shija, Ding Shizong is the CEO of sportswear titan Anta Sports. In China he is considered a self-made billionaire who built his empire on his love of sneakers. He once told CNBC that he wears three different pairs a day. The history of Anta Sports has been a tiring journey, which has led him to face victories and defeats – all overcome thanks to a multi-brand strategy that has led him to become one of the giants of his field.

12. Sandra Ortega Mera (6,4 USD billions)

The daughter of Amancio Ortega and heiress to Inditex's fortune, her personal wealth comes from the legacy left to her by her mother, Rosalia Mera, who died suddenly in 2013. Although he is currently the second richest person in Spain, he owns only 4.5% of Inditex's shares and devotes his efforts to The Fundacion Paideia, a charity founded by his mother that helps individuals with disabilities.

11. Giorgio Armani (8,5 USD billions)

When he founded his own brand in 1975, Giorgio Armani perhaps did not imagine that one day he would expand his business to haute couture, interior design, catering and hotels. By maintaining a complete independence rare to be found in the fashion industry, Armani is rightly considered to be one of the most successful designers in the history of Italy.

10. Heinrich Deichmann (9,5 USD billions)

Founded in 1913 as a shoemaker shop in Borbeck, Deichmann has now become the largest footwear retailer in Europe. In addition to making the family empire thrive, Deichmann also engages in charitable works with programs that bring medical aid to Third World countries and others in support of the homeless.

9. Anders Holch Povlsen (10,8 USD billions)

Chairman and sole owner of Danish retailer Bestseller – originally founded in 1975 as a family store in the small town of Ringkobing, the business has expanded beyond retail to fast fashion (Bestseller owns, among others, Jack & Jones) but also a shareholder of ASOS and various other digital companies. 

8. Stefan Persson (17,2 USD billions)

L’ex-presidente del Gruppo H&M non è ricco come lo era nel 2013, quando il suo patrimonio si aggirava intorno ai 28 miliardi di dollari, ma anche nella sua attuale funzione di stakeholder del gruppo fondato da suo padre nel lontano 1947. Oggi il gruppo, che possiede anche H&M, COS, Monki, Weekday, & Other Stories, H&M Home, ARKET e Afound, è guidato dal figlio Johan-Karl.

7. Leonardo del Vecchio (20,7 USD billions)

Del Vecchio is a visionary tycoon. She founded Luxottica when she was just 25 years old, in 1961, and made it evolve greatly over time, bringing her to incorporate companies such as Ray-Ban and Oakley and creating glasses for virtually any luxury brand. In 2018 Luxottica merged with the French Essilor, creating the largest concalomerate of eyewear manufacturers in the world. 

6. Gerard & Alain Wertheimer (24, 6 USD billions each)

The Wertheimer brothers are the co-owners of the Chanel empire, founded by their grandfather, Pierre Wertheimer, along with Coco Chanel herself in 1913. Today Gerard runs the watch division of the brand and two, in addition to Chanel, also own a number of vineyards in France and Napa Valley. The two brothers are famous for the discretion surrounding their private lives, going so far as to be called "the quietest billionaires in fashion", by The New York Times.

5. Tadashi Yanai (31,5 USD billions)

Yanai has created and operates the Fast Retailing apparel empire, whose flagship brands are sure to be Uniqlo and Helmut Lang. His company's revenue in the last fiscal year alone amounted to 21.3 billion dollars. The story of his commercial epic began in his father's workshop, which, as early as 1984, became the first Uniqlo store that in the following years would have more than 2000 locations worldwide.

4. François Pinault (43,3 USD billions)

Pinault is currently the honorary president of the Kering Group – the parent company of Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen and Gucci. He founded the group in 1963, originally dealing with timber and building materials. The turning point came in 1999, when the group bought a majority stake in the Gucci Group. Among the various companies owned by Kering, there is also the Christie's auction house and the Pinault family owns an art collection of more than 3000 pieces.

3. Phil Knight (44,7 USD billions)

A founder of Nike, Knight retired as president of the brand in June 2016 after a 52-year career. As a young man, he was an athlete at the University of Oregon and founded Nike with his coach Bill Bowerman with an initial investment of 500 dollars apiece. Today Nike's revenue exceeds 35 billion.

2. Amancio Ortega (65,4 USD billions)

Ortega is the 13th richest man on the planet, as well as the richest clothing retailer. His fortune is tied to that of the titanic Inditex, founded in 1975 with his wife. The annual dividends that Ortega receives from his 60% stake in Inditex are around 400 million dollars – which are then often invested in real estate properties around the world.

1. Bernard Arnault (118,1 USD billions)

Arnault's empire is based on more than 70 brands (including Louis Vuitton, Dior, Moet-Hennesy and Sephora) that are part of the LVMH conglomerate. The starting point for building what has now become LVMH was his father's construction company, from which Arnault made the 15 million dollars he used to buy Dior in 1985. Even today LVMH is a family business (at least in its upper echelons) with four of Arnault's five children working in various departments of the company.