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Who will be the Newsmaker of 2012? WWD editors have chosen a host of nominees, from designers to industrialists, retailers to Internet denizens, all of whom have made dramatic headlines this year. The winner, chosen by WWD editors, will be published in our annual Year in Fashion issue on Dec. 10. We’ll also compare our choice with the popular vote tallied on WWD.com.
This story first appeared in the November 28, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
TITLE: Chief executive officer
COMPANY: Pershing Square Capital Management
NOMINATED FOR: Ackman has become the highest-profile activist investor in fashion — cajoling, nudging and investing in the worlds of retail, beauty and real estate. He was key to installing Ron Johnson as ceo at J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and has continued to support the former Apple Inc. bigwig even as his overhaul of the chain grew more difficult than expected this year.
Ackman, who controls 25.2 percent of Penney’s stock, acknowledged Penney’s overall results look “terrible.” But he has noted the chain’s new in-store shops are outperforming the legacy business and described the transformation as “winding down the old JCP and using the cash flow from the old JCP to fund the growth of this [new] business.”
If that weren’t enough to keep him busy, Ackman also turned his eye to beauty giant Procter & Gamble Co., snatching up control of more than 34.4 million shares of the company, a 1.3 percent stake. “There’s not a culture of efficiency,” Ackman has said of P&G. “This is a very fat and bloated company.” P&G has been cutting costs and focusing on innovation. Ackman has also played matchmaker among the landlords, trying to orchestrate a Simon Property Group Inc. takeover of General Growth Properties Inc.
TITLE: Chairman and chief executive officer.
COMPANY: LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton
NOMINATED FOR: France’s richest man, Arnault had a topsy-turvy year. He unwittingly, and some charged unfairly, became the poster boy for antirich sentiment in France, culminating with a page one headline in French daily Libération that roughly translated to “Get Lost Rich Idiot.” France’s new Socialist government had unveiled plans to tax incomes of more than 1 million euros ($1.3 million at current exchange) at a 75 percent rate, and Arnault had confirmed an application for Belgian citizenship, while vowing to remain a fiscal resident of France. If that was a low, the high came about a month later, when Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth office notified him that Queen Elizabeth II had approved an honorary award that will make him a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Arnault continued to prove himself a formidable player in the luxury sector, telling LVMH shareholders in April that it’s important to take a long-term perspective in business — and innovate constantly — especially amid foggy economic circumstances. “It is we who create the future of our business,” he said. “It’s not what we will do today, but what we will do in 10 to 15 years.”
Arnault placed long-term bets on two diverse, although small, businesses. He became an investor in elite French hi-fi maker Devialet, and is said to have taken a small stake in young French designer Maxime Simoens.
TITLE: Governor and chief executive officer.
COMPANY: Hudson’s Bay Co.
NOMINATED FOR: Baker began his career in his father’s large real estate business and has taken it to new heights through retail acquisitions including Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay Co., North America’s two oldest department store chains. Now he considers himself a retail operator that happens to own a lot of real estate.
Baker has been injecting new life into The Bay in Canada and Lord & Taylor in the U.S. by rebuilding the leadership of both stores, and funding major renovations and remerchandisings. The Bay has been upgrading its image to a more modern and relevant player from a sleepy, overspaced moderate department store, while L&T has been contemporizing and working to shed its reputation as “your grandma’s store.” More dollars are being earmarked for further renovations at L&T’s Fifth Avenue flagship. Most recently, Baker took to the road to garner investor support for an HBC initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange, which took place on Monday. Shares of HBC ended the first day of trading only slightly up on the opening price. The stock closed at 16.89 Canadian dollars, or $16.98, after fluctuating throughout the day. HBC sold nearly 21.5 million shares of the company’s common stock at 17 Canadian dollars, or $17.01 each. The Toronto-based firm said the net proceeds from the completed 365 million Canadian dollar IPO, or $367.5 million at current exchange, will be used to repay indebtedness of the company.
TITLE: Chairman, president and chief executive officer.
COMPANY: Amazon.com Inc.
NOMINATED FOR: Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994 in his Seattle-based garage and 17 years later it reigns as the e-commerce leader for market share and innovation. Last month, the e-tail giant revealed it has leased a 40,000-square-foot space in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood that will serve as a photography studio catering to Amazon Fashion, which also owns MyHabit and Shopbop, and is the fastest-growing business at the company. Amazon.com commands more than a third of domestic mobile commerce, and many credit the introduction in 2005 of Amazon Prime — a membership program with a $79 flat rate that offers free two-day shipping on eligible purchases and unlimited live-streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows — as one of the most significant innovations in the space in the past 15 years. During the site’s first 30 days in business, Amazon.com was able to fulfill orders for customers in 50 states and 45 countries, when it was primarily a bookseller. Amazon shook up the media world with the introduction of the first Kindle e-reader in 2007.
In 2000, the e-tailer began to offer its e-commerce platform to other retailers and sellers, now boasting more than two million small businesses, brands and sellers in more than 190 countries. In the third quarter ended Sept. 30, Amazon posted a net loss of $274 million versus a year-ago profit of $63 million, as the company continued to invest heavily in infrastructure like warehouses. Net sales for the quarter totaled $13.81 billion versus $10.88 billion a year ago.
TITLE: Chief executive officer
COMPANY: Tory Burch
NOMINATED FOR: The best word to sum up Burch’s year is most likely “dramatic.” For one, there has been the dramatic growth of her business, which, according to market sources, is expected to end the year with estimated retail sales exceeding $800 million. Burch’s increasing global reach — she now has more than 70 stores worldwide, and is rapidly expanding in key opportunity markets like China, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates — is a far cry from when she started her business with one store on Elizabeth Street in New York in 2004. The momentum, particularly against a challenged global economy, has earned her the status of an American “It” company.
But the year has also been dramatic for less ebullient reasons. Amid the flurry of business activity, Burch has been embroiled in an ugly, back-and-forth legal battle with her ex-husband Christopher Burch, with whom she founded the company. Tory alleges that he purposely gleaned information about her namesake brand in order to create the “knock-off” retail concept C. Wonder, while Chris accuses her of keeping him from pursuing other business ventures as he tried to sell his 28.5 stake in the company. All the various factors have made Tory Burch one of the most talked-about and closely watched designers in American fashion.
TITLE: Chairman and chief executive officer.
COMPANY: PVH Corp.
NOMINATED FOR: At the height of Hurricane Sandy’s wrath in October, Chirico finalized a blockbuster agreement to acquire Warnaco Group Inc. for $2.9 billion. The deal is the latest game-changing move by PVH in its steady ascent into the top ranks of the world’s biggest apparel companies, pushing its combined total revenues to more than $8 billion. The purchase brings Warnaco’s Calvin Klein underwear and jeans businesses — representing 36 percent of all Calvin Klein sales and 40 percent of its licensing revenue — into the PVH fold and consolidates the megabrand, owned by PVH, under a single company. Buying Warnaco also adds crucial operating infrastructure in Asia and Latin America, regions where PVH was less developed, and creates a global platform for PVH to build upon, including a strong base in Europe stemming from its 2010 acquisition of Tommy Hilfiger, also spearheaded by Chirico. Warnaco’s Calvin Klein business is being folded into PVH’s Calvin Klein division, overseen by president Tom Murry, while its Speedo, Warner’s and Olga brands are being tacked onto PVH’s heritage division, which encompasses Izod, Van Heusen and Bass.
Tommy Hilfiger has flourished under PVH control and in the first half of 2012, the reinvigorated brand helped drive company earnings ahead 43.9 percent to $180.8 million, while revenue increased 2.2 percent to $2.76 billion. While PVH has a way to go to catch up to industry leader VF Corp.’s more than $12 billion in sales, few executives have been as savvy and determined in their acquisition strategy as Chirico, not even letting a megastorm get in his way.
NOMINATED FOR: Ghesquière must be near the top of fashion’s most-wanted-employee list. The acclaimed French designer parted ways with Balenciaga after a 15-year tenure and is now said to be exploring the launch of his signature brand, or waiting for the right fashion house to rev up. A small-town boy who rose to the highest summit of international fashion, Ghesquière started out filing and photocopying at Jean Paul Gaultier, eventually getting a shot at Balenciaga designing office uniforms, bridal gowns and widows’ dresses for Japan. He eventually became its creative director, reviving a dusty couture name with vibrant futurism and haute craftsmanship, attracting the attention of Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole, then the dynamic duo behind Gucci Group, which acquired Balenciaga in 2001, giving Ghesquière a 9 percent stake.
While detractors accused Ghesquière of elitism and designing clothes only for the runway, the designer introduced a range of capsule ready-to-wear collections to widen the brand’s reach and introduced a logo-free handbag with dangling zipper pulls that became a hit. His spring 2013 collection, which proved to be his swan song, was widely praised by retailers and editors for its fresh and youthful tailoring, modern frills and square-heeled shoes.
TITLE: Chief executive officer.
COMPANY: J.C. Penney Co. Inc.
NOMINATED FOR: All eyes are on Johnson, Penney’s biggest cheerleader, as he touts the retailer’s future potential. Johnson’s challenges are monumental, however: remaking Penney’s and in the process rethinking the entire department-store model. The jury is still out on the success of the remake, given a $123 million loss in the third quarter and a comparable-store sales decline of 26.1 percent.
The former Apple Inc. retail star said the conversion to “JCP specialty store” is a project that could take three years to fully complete. Missteps on how to communicate its fair-and-square pricing strategy to the consumer have been made, but Johnson has also demonstrated a strategic flexibility in righting the ship, which hasn’t been lost on analysts. That, plus 40 more new shops in March, coupled with impressive early metrics for the in-store shops now in place, are giving some analysts hope for positive comps year-over-year starting in the second half of 2013. Any measure of success will put other retailers in the role of “follow the leader,” with Johnson becoming the new king of retail.
TITLE: President and chief executive officer.
COMPANY: Neiman Marcus Inc.
NOMINATED FOR: Katz has never put all her designer eggs in one basket. She has broadened the luxury retailer’s assortment to offer greater value for aspirational customers without forsaking the core designer crowd. She has also proven to be no snob when it comes to fraternizing with the mass market, joining Target Corp. and the Council of Fashion Designers of America for a collection of more than 50 designer exclusives for holiday, which launches Saturday. The collection, called Target + Neiman Marcus, will be sold at Neiman’s 42 units. Katz made the bold decision to sell the Neiman’s name inside Target stores, concluding that the quality of the products won’t dilute the luxury retailer’s reputation.
The ceo bolstered executive ranks at Neiman Marcus Group this year by tapping Joshua Schulman in April as president of Bergdorf Goodman, a position that had been vacant since Jim Gold was promoted to president of specialty retail for the Neiman Marcus Group, which operates Bergdorf’s, in 2010. A bevy of initiatives and solid financials are what keeps investors interested in an initial public offering, which observers see as inevitable. Neiman’s narrowed its loss in the fourth quarter ended July 28, and posted a strong fiscal year with sales of $4.35 billion, an 8.6 percent increase over the previous year.
TITLE: Honorary chairman, chief creative officer and director.
COMPANY: Michael Kors Holdings Ltd.
NOMINATED FOR: He may be the envy of every designer who has ever worked on Seventh Avenue. After 30 years in business, Kors, along with his partners, took the company public last December in a rousingly successful initial public offering, which put the designer on the road to becoming a billionaire.
The strategy to go public was the brainchild of Kors’ financial backers, Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll, who bought a majority stake in Kors’ company for a reported $100 million in 2003 through their firm, Sportswear Holdings Ltd. After 23 years in business, one trip to bankruptcy court and a seven-year relationship with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, where he designed the Celine line, Kors was hungry for success. Stroll and Chou set out to turn Kors into a $1 billion brand and take it public.
Last December, the $1.7 billion company began trading at $20 a share, netting Kors $117 million. In March, Kors sold nearly 3 million shares in a secondary offering at $47 each. Then the company had a second follow-up offering at $53 a share, and Kors sold nearly 4 million shares. That brought his total proceeds from the IPO and follow-ups to over $467 million. After the last secondary offering in September, Kors held 8,356,016 shares of stock. The stock is currently trading at $50.32, which would value his investment at $420.5 million.
NOMINATED FOR: Beyond busy as Chanel’s couturier and the designer of ready-to-wear and furs at Fendi, Lagerfeld also put the pedal to the medal with his signature brand, owned by London-based Apax Partners.
He fulfilled an ambition to take his rtw into the burgeoning masstige category, and in January launched the Karl collection, initially an online exclusive with Net-a-porter, while addressing the premium segment with new Karl Lagerfeld Paris ranges under license with Italy’s Ittierre SpA. He also gave a preview of a new line of fashion watches under license to Fossil Inc., signed a new fragrance license with Inter Parfums Inc., and secured a space on Boulevard Saint-Germain, on Paris’ Left Bank, to showcase his revamped product universe. It is to open in 2013.
For Chanel, Lagerfeld traveled to Japan to reprise his summer couture show, open a pop-up shop and launch “The Little Back Jacket,” a photo book and exhibition project in collaboration with Carine Roitfeld that would tour the world. The designer popped up at jacket parties in New York, London, Paris and Berlin, too.
Side projects up his sleeve were as varied and surprising as ever. He guest-edited the free newspaper Metro International for one day in February, plus the May issue of Architectural Digest in France. On the design front, he signed on to do VIP helicopters for AgustaWestland, the exterior of the Hôtel Metropole Monte-Carlo, a limited-edition collection of color cosmetics for Shu Uemura, and Olympic-themed clothing for Selfridges.
TITLE: Shoe designer and founder.
COMPANY: Christian Louboutin
NOMINATED FOR: Louboutin scarcely left the headlines in 2012. In addition to celebrating the 20th anniversary of his shoe brand with a capsule collection, a book and a string of public appearances, the French shoe designer spent much of the year engulfed in a red-hot U.S. court battle with Yves Saint Laurent over his trademark to red-soled shoes. Louboutin lawyer Harley Lewin argued his case in January before a packed courtroom, which included industry figures such as Council of Fashion Designers of America president Diane von Furstenberg, CFDA chief executive officer Steven Kolb and an apprehensive Louboutin.
“I must say, in my 40-year career, I’ve never seen a case go more wide than this one,” Lewin remarked. “It had a celebrity, fashion and legal side to it, but once the consumer got involved, that changed the face of the case. It was tried in the courtroom and the court of public opinion.”
Louboutin fans including Blake Lively and the Olsen twins can breathe a sigh of relief: The case was closed in October with both sides claiming victory, after the court upheld Louboutin’s trademark on shoes with contrasting red soles, while also granting YSL the right to continue selling red pumps with red soles.
TERRY J. LUNDGREN
TITLE: Chairman, president and chief executive officer.
COMPANY: Macy’s Inc.
NOMINATED FOR: Lundgren is not one to just roll over and play dead. Instead, the head of Macy’s Inc. has set his sights on increasing market share, taking on all comers, including J.C. Penney and Amazon, two of the most aggressive competitors. Penney’s is undergoing a dramatic repositioning under new ceo Ron Johnson and Amazon is moving to increase its fashion profile. But that doesn’t scare Lundgren.
“We have demonstrated that we are taking market share. We are going to continue to take market share,” he said earlier this year.
Among the weapons he’s using in the battle are opening what is billed as the world’s largest shoe department at the Herald Square flagship, squaring off in court against Penney’s over the Martha Stewart collection, enhancing the company’s online presence through an omnichannel approach, and continuing to stockpile new and/or exclusive brands. One of the store’s most ambitious initiatives is a new focus on the Millennial customer, shoppers between 13 and 30 who represent a group with spending power of $65 billion for product at the Macy’s price level. It’s also begun to dabble in luxury, with Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Longchamp being highlighted in a new luxury hall at Herald Square, which itself is in the midst of a four-year, $400 million overhaul.
TITLE: Chairman, president and chief executive officer.
COMPANY: Procter & Gamble Co.
NOMINATED FOR: McDonald ploughed ahead with a turnaround plan to defend against market-share losses, accelerate product innovation and cut costs, despite a chorus of criticism from Wall Street about the company’s lackluster performance in 2012. The loudest sniping came from activist investor William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management. Ackman took aim at the company’s performance and that of McDonald, calling P&G “a very fat and bloated company.”
Despite the public call for a leadership change, P&G’s board pronounced it was standing by McDonald and his strategy to fix what ails the $83.7 billion consumer products giant. McDonald’s 40-20-10 plan is designed to focus on P&G’s 40 largest businesses, top 20 innovations and 10 most important developing markets, all while wringing out $10 billion in costs by 2016. “Balance is what leadership is all about,” McDonald told Wall Street analysts in November. “The greatest leaders are those who can balance what appear to be dilemmas to other people.”
COMPANY: Barneys New York
NOMINATED FOR: Perry is head of Perry Capital, which took over majority control of Barneys New York from Istithmar World in May, in a debt-for-equity deal that cleaned up the luxury store’s balance sheet, wiping out practically all of the $550 million in debt and providing the wherewithal for some overdue capital improvements. Perry partnered on the deal with Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos., which has a minority stake in Barneys. Perry, a longtime Barneys shopper, avid Pop Art collector and investor with a good track record of wealth creation, is married to designer Lisa Perry. As chairman of Barneys, he’s so far maintained his low-profile persona, though he has stated that he would like to see the store transformed into as much of a social setting as a luxury mecca and make the Barneys shopping experience more fun.
TITLE :Chairman and chief executive officer.
NOMINATED FOR: It’s been a year to remember for Pinault, who fully emerged from the shadow of his father, PPR founder François Pinault, by reinventing the company as an integrated firm focused on apparel and accessories, with products spanning from Puma sneakers to crocodile leather Gucci handbags.
Despite poor market conditions, Pinault forged ahead with plans to spin off the group’s retail activities. In addition to selling a 30 percent stake in African distribution company CFAO to Japanese firm Toyota Tsusho Corp. in July, it stripped out the activities of books and electronics chain Fnac and mail-order division Redcats from its accounts in preparation for their sale. Outlining the changes at a press day in October, Pinault said he expected demographics and economic development to deliver some 3 billion young and affluent consumers from such emerging nations as China, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil and Russia.
“What is at stake in the longer term, that is to say over the next 50 years or so, is absolutely huge and without precedent in human history,” he said. Even PPR’s top luxury brands have been targeted for a makeover, with the high-profile hiring of Hedi Slimane as creative director of Yves Saint Laurent and the ouster of Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga after a 15-year tenure.
TITLE: Head designer and partner.
COMPANY: Jil Sander
NOMINATED FOR: Sander returned to the company that bears her name in February, following a series of several rapid-fire developments in the midst of Milan Fashion Week. Parent company Onward Holdings Co. Ltd. and its European subsidiary Gibò Co. SpA said Sander was coming back as creative director one day after the announcement that Raf Simons, tapped in that position back in 2005, would be leaving following the fall 2012 show in Milan that weekend — a show that ended with a standing ovation and with Simons, as well as many attendees, in tears. The Belgian designer’s last collection for the brand was a triumph and left many industry watchers scratching their heads about his sudden, and unceremonious, departure. After an eight-year absence, Sander showed her first collection in June for men’s, returning to purism and plying her signature minimalist tailoring for a crisp, graphic and youthful collection. In September, she presented an utterly modern women’s collection.
Sander, who founded her namesake house in Hamburg in 1968, sold 75 percent of her company to Prada Group in 1999, and made a highly publicized exit a year later after clashing with hard-charging Prada chief Patrizio Bertelli. She was succeeded by Milan Vukmirovic, who did sporty disco flash until Sander returned in May 2003, only to split again 18 months later. Change Capital Partners acquired the brand from Prada in February 2006, and flipped it to Onward two years later.
TITLE: Artistic director of women’s haute couture, ready-to-wear and accessory collections.
COMPANY: Christian Dior
NOMINATED FOR: Simons brought a lot of emotions to the fashion stage, from a tearful farewell after seven years as creative director at Jil Sander, to being crowned Dior’s sixth couturier.
The acclaimed Belgian designer, who initially came on to the international radar as a maker of edgy men’s wear infused with youthful angst, made his debut at Dior during the July couture, dazzling the fashion pack with his setting: five rooms at a sprawling townhouse wallpapered with a million fresh flowers. The audience was impressive, too: chockablock with designers including Alber Elbaz, Marc Jacobs, Donatella Versace, Olivier Theyskens and Riccardo Tisci. And the sleek clothes, neon makeup and Aphex Twin soundtrack signaled a more modernist and energetic direction for the august house.
“I love minimalism. There will often be that kind of aesthetic; that kind of concept will be very often a part of my world. But it’s not the only thing that I’m interested in,” he said during a preview of his spring ready-to-wear collection, paraded in a giant white tent at the foot of Invalides in Paris. “I think it’s interesting to bring part [of minimalism] into the world of Dior, but I also want to make it very sensual and sexual and very free. Liberated is probably the most important message.”
TITLE: Creative director.
COMPANY: Yves Saint Laurent
NOMINATED FOR: After a seven-year absence devoted to photography, Slimane made a much-hyped return to the fashion scene as creative director of Yves Saint Laurent. It quickly became clear that his attention to detail had not waned since his previous stint at Dior Homme, as Slimane revamped everything from the label’s store design to its name.
About that: Confusion ensued after the designer decreed that the house would still be called Yves Saint Laurent, but the women’s ready-to-wear collection would henceforth be referred to as Saint Laurent.
Slimane then revealed he would be working not from the French capital, but from Los Angeles, where he has lived since 2007. But this was only a taster for the controversy that greeted his first catwalk show in October. Though retailers were largely enthusiastic, press reviews were mixed. Some griped about his restrictive invitation policy that excluded some editors, or relegated them to standing. Among those barred from the show was Cathy Horyn of The New York Times, who wrote a review based on digital images in which she said the collection “lacked a new fashion spirit.” The designer responded with a vitriolic letter on Twitter in which he called Horyn “a schoolyard bully and also a little bit of a stand-up comedian.”
TITLE: Founder and chief executive officer.
COMPANY: Facebook Inc.
NOMINATED FOR: Before Facebook’s initial public offering in May, Zuckerberg wrote in a letter to investors of his goal to “rewire” the way people spread and consume information via the social graph. Currently, more than 1 billion people use Facebook each month. The 28-year-old White Plains, N.Y.-bred billionaire, who changed his own social status this spring by marrying Priscilla Chan, is now focusing on mobile device users whom experts expect will overtake computer users by 2020. The way things stand now, some 6 billion people are mobile subscribers and 75 percent of the world’s population has access to a mobile phone, according to the World Bank. Zuckerberg has indicated that the firm is focused on “investing in our priorities of mobile, platform and social ads to help people have these experiences with their friends. Our goal is to help every person stay connected and every product they use be a great social experience.”
As of Sept. 30, mobile active users were 604 million, a 61 percent jump year-over-year, and daily active users were 584 million, a 28 percent gain compared to a year ago.
In October, Facebook reported slightly better-than-expected third-quarter earnings, and in doing so investors hope that the company may have regained its footing. “As proud as I am that a billion people use Facebook each month, I’m also really happy that over 600 million people now share and connect on Facebook every month using mobile devices,” said Zuckerberg.
Facebook Gifts and Facebook Offers are two of the newer offerings, but the company remains ad-driven. With that in mind, Zuckerberg has cooked up Facebook Exchange, a new way of purchasing ads through real-time bidding that allows advertisers to pitch users based on Web traffic history.