By  on October 29, 2007

21. Pete Nordstrom and David Witman
For Nordstrom, 2007 marked the end of the affair with Façonnable. In a reported effort to focus on its own store rollouts and strengthen its private label business, Nordstrom offloaded the French luxury label to a Lebanese private equity firm for $210 million. (The company bought the brand and its direct retail operations in 2000 for $169 million.) Given the Seattle-based retailer’s inability to groom Façonnable into an international it-brand, the fling wasn’t meant to last, analysts and insiders said.

But forget failed relationships. Last year Nordstrom saw its fifth consecutive year of same-store sales increases. Revenue jumped to $8.56 billion, a 9.7 percent rise over the previous year and a 30 percent gain since 2003. With plans to add 26 stores over the next five years, Nordstrom’s current number of doors (101) is quickly catching up with its years of operation (106), with Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver and Twelve Oaks in suburban Detroit the latest additions.

Thanks in part to the merchant prowess of men’s and kids’ GMM David Witman and president of merchandising Pete Nordstrom, the company has bucked an industry downturn on premium denim sales of brands such as Stitch’s and Rag & Bone. Tailored and embroidered wovens from Robert Graham and English Laundry, which have become must-haves in many men’s wardrobes, are also strong drivers. Witman’s insistence on getting product off shelves and onto tables for improved presentation and easy access has been a hit with discriminating and dedicated customers. Last year’s rank: 20. Power prediction: Despite a reduced forecast for third-quarter profits, largely blamed on overstocked inventory and increased markdowns, expect strong holiday sales and a resurgence in private label offerings.

22. John Anderson and Robert Hanson
There’s been good news and bad news at Levi Strauss & Co. since John Anderson assumed the CEO role last November at the iconic denim and casual-pants maker, which sells its products in a whopping 55,000 retail locations around the world, including 183 company-owned stores. On the positive side, sales have been growing slowly but steadily, after years of declines. But on the downside, the Levi’s Signature business, which is sold in Wal-Mart, Target, ShopKo and Kmart, continues to fare poorly and the company expects that trend to continue into next year.

For the nine months ended Aug. 27, total company revenues increased 5 percent to $3.1 billion, helped by a strong euro that bumped European sales up 12.1 percent. Net income grew an impressive 34.9 percent to $193.2 million in those three quarters. Despite particular strength in the core Levi’s men’s business—jazzed up by attention-getting premium offerings like Capital E and a collaboration with British artist Damien Hirst—in the most recent third quarter overall company sales were down 4.3 percent in the North American business, which Robert Hanson oversees as president, due to the declining Signature business and slips in the Dockers brand. North America represents 58 percent of total company sales. Levi Strauss & Co. continues to carry a significant debt load, with $1.9 billion in fixed-rate debt and $300 million of variable rate debt as of Aug. 26. Last year’s rank: 34. Power prediction: With the flagship Levi’s brand performing strongly, Anderson and Hanson will focus attention on fixing the business fundamentals at Levi’s Signature and continue fine-tuning the Dockers business, which has been repositioned away from just pants and toward a full lifestyle offering.

23. Bob McKnight
One of the original architects of the boardsports business, Quiksilver CEO Bob McKnight still has a knack for understanding teenage surfers. As young men become increasingly enamored with the surf scene—even if the nearest ocean is hundreds of miles away—Quiksilver is winning big, thanks not only to its wide network of distribution, but also because of its growing stable of retail shops—360 at last count. For the third quarter, the company’s apparel brands upticked 20 percent in the Americas, driven by its flagship Quiksilver division and its skate-oriented DC label, which has tripled in volume since being acquired in 2004. Quiksilver also launched its long-awaited Rossignol apparel collection, highly lauded in a retail environment where few mountain-lifestyle apparel labels succeed. Come next year, a contemporary women’s line will hit retail under the Quiksilver name, with a projected upside that could rival its young men’s counterpart—not surprising from a company whose apparel execution has earned it a $2.6 billion volume.

The thorn in McKnight’s side, though, continues to be the beleaguered hard-goods business, particularly Rossignol, which face-planted after a winter season filled with weather more fitting for summer sports. Still, according to the company, ski bookings have increased by 18 percent for the coming season, versus an expected decline of 20 to 25 percent. There may be a Santa Claus after all. Last year’s rank: 17. Power prediction: If at first you don’t succeed, stop trying. McKnight would have done better to buy into the low-margin hard-goods surf business than the hard-goods businesses of Rossignol and Cleveland Golf. Expect them to be divested from the Quiksilver portfolio sometime in 2008, especially if warm winter weather prevails once again.

24. George and Oscar Feldenkreis
This summer the father-and-son team atop Perry Ellis International celebrated the company’s 40th year, complete with a bell-ringing Nasdaq ceremony. They have a lot to be happy about, including a growing Perry Ellis retail operation, a host of new licenses in Asian markets and some truly market-making successes in the Latino-themed apparel realm.

But while the Feldenkreises’ multibrand, licensing-heavy strategy has boosted margins and pulled the company’s stock up from the single digits over the last five years, investors have soured a bit on the shares since PEI reported tiny quarterly profits in August. But the Miami-based company, with $830 million in revenues, is focusing on growing its sturdy Perry Ellis label in Macy’s, pioneering what the executives call “neotraditional sportswear.” Its youth-focused Original Penguin label is also in expansion mode. Last year’s rank: 25. Power prediction: As father and CEO George nears what many assume to be an imminent retirement, PEI watchers wonder how the company will handle the ascension of Oscar to the top post. Feldenkreis fils is said to be a savvy dealmaker and highly attuned to his retail customers, and with the right diversification of brands he could take PEI to the next level.

25. Bill McComb
In the year since Bill McComb took the reins as CEO from Paul Charron, there has been a lot of movement in the executive offices of Liz Claiborne Inc. But with $5 billion in revenues, change at Claiborne does not come swiftly. Rather, McComb has gradually switched up executives—men’s wear group president Karen Murray left, as did company president Trudy Sullivan—and is in the midst of a review of the company’s extensive brand portfolio, having already unloaded some labels. It’s a company of labels like Lucky Brand and Juicy Couture, which blend mass appeal with a certain prestige, and less sexy ne’er-do-wells—typically lower-profile brands doing battle with department stores’ private labels.

The jury is still out on McComb, who came to Claiborne from Johnson & Johnson amid skepticism relating to his lack of fashion cred. One thing is certain: Even as he capitalizes on Claiborne’s retail successes and tries to pare down on non-performers, investors have punished the stock, which is currently trading at 12-month lows. The nature of future changes to the brand portfolio will determine whether Claiborne becomes more or less of a force in men’s wear, which has always played second fiddle to women’s at the company. Last year’s rank: None. Power prediction: Upcoming sales of labels—potentially including hip-hop staple Enyce—could reverse the slide and give McComb a trimmer ship to steer.

26. John Varvatos

In under two years, John Varvatos has gone from one label to three, and to hear him tell it, “All cylinders are pumping. We’re really on a roll.” The industry estimates the total business at $80 million or more, up from $50 million a year ago. International sales more than doubled and retail sales are up 45 percent, according to Varvatos. “We are coming off a record year in our retail stores. September was a record month, and you won’t hear that from many retailers,” the designer said.

A freestanding store was opened in East Hampton and four more are planned for 2008, including in San Francisco. John Varvatos’ Star USA line was fully developed as of fall ’06, and is now in broad distribution, in 250 doors. Varvatos recently affirmed that it was on track to meet expectations of generating one-third of the total sales of John Varvatos Enterprises. “It’s all about focus right now and growing the present categories. We’ve added so much in just the last two years.”

Last fall the New York–based designer also partnered with Converse to create a youth-based apparel line, Converse by John Varvatos. “That business has been growing by leaps and bounds,” with the women’s component now the same scale as men’s, Varvatos said.

John Varvatos Vintage cologne launched last year and is now equal in sales to his original fragrance. A women’s fragrance will debut in February. Last year’s rank: 30. Power prediction: Varvatos keeps testing and increasing his brand’s relevance to women.

27. Rolf Eriksen, Stefan Persson and Margareta van den Bosch

Although Hennes & Mauritz has been around since 1947, it has recently catapulted into being one of the leaders of the international fast-fashion phenomenon that has ruled retail in recent years. The triumvirate of CEO Rolf Eriksen, chairman Stefan Persson (son of founder Erling Persson) and head of design Margareta van den Bosch at the Sweden-based company, known worldwide by its initials, H&M, hold true to the credo, “Fashion and quality at the best price.” And it’s obviously working.

Since stores started appearing outside H&M’s core, Northern European market in the 1970s, there has been steady growth. Substantial international expansion in recent years has led the company to over 1,400 stores in 28 countries. H&M has opened 147 locations as part of its U.S. expansion since the company’s New York debut seven years ago—30 in 2006 alone—and has sales here of around $688 million. In reporting third-quarter results last month, the company said store openings and strong sales in new markets helped offset weak sales in August to propel profits ahead 25 percent. Net income in the three months through August improved to 3.17 billion kronor, or $464.6 million, from 2.54 billion kronor, or $350.8 million, a year earlier, slightly better than most analysts’ consensus expectations. Sales in the period grew 12 percent to 22.03 billion kronor, or $3.23 billion, compared with 19.61 billion kronor, or $2.71 billion, in the same period last year. On a comparable basis, sales improved 2 percent. Currency conversions were made at average exchange rates for the respective periods.

H&M has garnered attention from its annual collaborations with designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney and Viktor & Rolf, whose limited editions cause hysteria among frenzied consumers who storm the stores to buy the affordably priced garments. Next is Roberto Cavalli men’s and women’s wear, which hits stores in November. The 100-person-strong design team is in touch with the latest global trends while 700 independent suppliers in Europe, Asia and Africa deliver new goods to the stores daily.

Close attention is paid to varying turnaround times. Online shopping is also available in Scandinavia and parts of Europe. Last year’s rank: 10. Power prediction: With an overall new store growth target of 10 to 15 percent, expect H&M to pepper the West Coast and new American markets like the South and Northwest.

28. Sean Combs
As it approaches its 10th anniversary next year, Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Sean John label is a well-oiled machine. In 2007 the brand hit the market with a spate of new licenses, including eyewear, underwear and a Sean John juniors’ line. Footwear is set to launch this holiday and socks next spring, with hopes of Sean John watches to debut at stores next fall. As Diddy’s product line expands—with retail sales expectations of $500 million to $525 million for this year—so does Sean John’s real estate: The company installed 50 shop-in-shop concepts this year, including a 2,500-square-foot space in Macy’s Herald Square.

But as the brand climbs further into bed with department stores—Diddy’s role in Macy’s fall advertising campaign was almost as uncomfortable to watch as his cameos hawking Proactive—the brand has forfeited some of the edgy vibe that initially won over the underserved young urban man. Also gone are many of Sean John’s specialty retail accounts, which, Diddy acknowledged, “used to be the heart and soul” of his business—and remain the tastemakers in a rapidly evolving urban marketplace. Further complicating Diddy’s plans to take over the world is the impending departure of CEO Bob Wichser, who this September was named a principal at The Yucaipa Cos. LLC, a minority owner of Sean John. Last year’s rank: 24. Power prediction: As young streetwear fans flock to burgeoning brands, Diddy would do well to stick with his loyal followers, now well into their thirties. He has long tried to position his brand out of the leagues of its teen-oriented competitors, but now it’s time to truly grow up.

29. Paul Smith
As designer and chairman of a private company, Sir Paul Smith gets to set the pace of his business expansion. Last fall saw a boomlet of flagship openings, in downtown Manhattan, Paris and Moscow. This year a new men’s shop opened in Japan, a key market that accounts for at least half of the business. The company has more than 200 stores there. Beirut, New Delhi and San Francisco are also said to be ripe targets for flagships. Like every savvy global marketer, Smith is seriously contemplating China (where he already has six stores), India and Russia.

A former professional cyclist turned major British designer, Smith has already built a solid global business with estimated sales of $615 million at current exchange rates. The brand is wholesaled to 35 countries.

Smith’s name is on everything from high-end tailored clothing and furnishings to denim, eyewear and furniture. In apparel, the brand is known for its appeal to tall, lanky men such as Smith himself, and for its signature multistriped and other quirky patterns. Last year’s rank: 28. Power prediction: Smith continues to extend his global reach with new stores in key markets.

30. Tom Murry
As president and COO of Calvin Klein International, Murry holds sway over a $4.5 billion powerhouse for parent company Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. Over the next five years, PVH estimates the Calvin Klein brand—an umbrella for a handful of tiered sub-brands—can grow into a $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion global business at retail.

It is burnishing the image of the better-priced business with the planned opening of five Calvin Klein “white label” retail stores in November. In department stores, the better label now rings up $125 million wholesale in about 545 doors, but its potential is seen to be between $200 million and $400 million, in up to 700 doors.

The Calvin Klein licensing business continues to flourish, with over 30 domestic and international licenses generating about $4.5 billion at retail. The single largest licensed category is Coty’s fragrance business, which rings up $1.2 billion in sales. The launch of men’s and women’s versions of ckIN2U has been on track to do retail sales of $135 million in 2007. Then Calvin Klein Man launched this fall, and industry sources expect the spicy wood scent to become one of the five top-selling men’s fragrances in the U.S. in its first year.

Warnaco Group owns the $600 million underwear business, which launched Calvin Klein Steel this year. No one matches the scale and frequency of Calvin Klein’s parties, and true to form, it celebrated the 25th anniversary of the underwear business with a bang. In addition, World of Calvin Klein events rolled to Shanghai, Tokyo and London as the brand sought greater international reach.

Also among the highlights from Murry’s year: the creation of Calvin Klein Sport for spring ’08 and the launch of Calvin Klein Golf. Last year’s rank: 41. Power prediction: The better-label stores hit a home run, and become a 100-store chain over the next five to six years.

31. Kenneth Cole
Kenneth Cole Productions has been keeping a relatively low profile lately, but that’s about to change. The company is readying a major marketing push for next year, including extensive advertising, new store environments and the debut of an underwear line.

Kenneth Cole New York sportswear has just been relaunched under direct control for spring 2008. Last November the company brought the flagship sportswear label, previously a licensed business, back in-house, and quickly gathered a design team and a sourcing network. This was a big leap for the footwear company as it continues to strengthen its focus on apparel.

Retailers are said to appreciate the founding chairman and CEO’s increased involvement with the line. Under the new design direction, the collection is more sophisticated and right for the brand. The label will incorporate a wider range of price points than before, since the secondary sportswear line, Kenneth Cole Reaction, is being phased out with the expiration of a license.

The changes, which should bear fruit next year, coincide with the company’s 25th anniversary. In addition to a closely guarded ad campaign, the company will renovate all of the U.S. retail stores and department store shops. As an example of how the company is aiming to make the freestanding stores more compelling, they will exclusively carry the new line of underwear, a product category that has been a very effective marketing tool for other brands.

Cole is increasingly involved in philanthropy, but apparently still has a sense of humor about it. This month, he appeared as himself on an episode of Ugly Betty in which he was on stage at a benefit and had to ask, “What’s this for again?” Last year’s rank: 21. Power prediction: Renewed commitment to men’s wear helps the footwear company make major inroads in sportswear.

32. Howard Socol and Tom Kalenderian
When a business brings a bidding war after it’s put on the block, it says reams about the prospects for that business. And that’s just what happened when Jones Apparel Group put its Barneys New York division up for sale earlier this year. The winning bidder was Istithmar, a Dubai-based investment fund that paid $942.3 million in August in an all-cash deal after it outbid rival Fast Retailing Co. Ltd. of Japan. H.E. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Istithmar, said after his successful purchase of the chain that he viewed Barneys as “a unique global asset with incredible growth prospects within the luxury market.” Istithmar is poised to make its investment back by opening stores in the U.S. and perhaps overseas in the future.

One of the retailer’s most attractive assets is its management team, led by CEO Howard Socol, and men’s wear chief Tom Kalenderian, both of whom signed new employment agreements with Istithmar before it completed the deal. In September the company opened its sixth Barneys New York flagship in San Francisco, which brings men’s wear shoppers the company’s distinct mix of contemporary, advanced and traditional vendors in 60,000 square feet in the heart of Union Square. Next up: a flagship store slated to open in January in Las Vegas, followed by another in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2009. In addition to flagships, there are two regional stores in Seattle and Chestnut Hills, Mass.

Barneys also operates a smaller, more-cutting-edge business called Co-op, where Kalenderian and the other buyers really flex their fashion muscle. There are currently 15 Co-op stores and it’s a concept that can easily be rolled out to 40 or 50 in the U.S. in the not-too-distant future, according to observers. With that double-edged strategy, it’s not inconceivable that Barneys, which now has total volume of over $650 million, will soon hit that magic $1 billion sales mark. Last year’s rank: 43. Power prediction: The new owners will bring Barneys to key European cities by 2010.

33. Joe Loggia
DLJ Merchant Banking Partners’ $1.14 billion sale of Advanstar Communications Inc. to an investment group led by Veronis Suhler Stevenson in March hasn’t rattled Joe Loggia’s perch at the top of the business-to-business communications giant, which owns MAGIC International, the Las Vegas–based trade show powerhouse.

A MAGIC veteran who became CEO of Advanstar in 2004, Loggia oversaw the 2005 acquisition of rival shows Pool and Project Global Tradeshow, which itself ballooned into a 1,000-plus vendor labyrinth this August in Las Vegas’s Sands Expo Center. Advanstar’s revenue topped $323.7 million last year, an 11 percent increase over 2005. However, the company posted a $41.7 million net income loss, largely attributed to the $37 million purchase of Project. Net income for the first quarter of 2007—the last quarter in which the company reported earnings—jumped 39 percent to $24.8 million, compared with $15.1 million in the year-ago period. Last year’s rank: 37. Power prediction: Loggia was the instrumental force behind the completed sale of Project. With a windfall of new capital at his fingertips, Loggia further expands Advanstar’s trade show and publication holdings while enticing some new, relatively upscale brands to show at MAGIC.

34. Marc Jacobs
Marc Jacobs didn’t make all the strides in men’s wear that were hoped for this year. In the spring, the hugely influential designer had his sights on Milan, where his men’s ready-to-wear collection was to get its first runway in years and its first-ever without the shadow of women’s wear. Jacobs’ longtime business partner Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs International, spoke of a renewed commitment to men’s wear. Duffy also was envisioning more dedicated Marc Jacobs men’s stores. But almost as soon as that news was printed, Jacobs entered rehab. MJI put the Milan plan on hold, citing problems with location. Jacobs re-emerged and basked in the media attention to his sudden attractiveness and seemingly happier outlook.

Milan is still considered a near possibility, and MJI is presumably still interested in the growth potential of men’s wear. The men’s collections have been shown by appointment only, but recently they’ve been more fully developed and merchandised with shoes, underwear and accessories. Meanwhile, the secondary Marc by Marc Jacobs line is expanding on all fronts.

Men’s has admittedly never been the designer’s primary focus, but his huge role in fashion is undeniable. His singular creativity helps business thrive at his namesake brands and Louis Vuitton, both owned by LVMH. Last year’s rank: 32. Power prediction: The men’s collection takes Milan by storm, at last becoming a formidable men’s wear presence.

35. Tommy Hilfiger and Fred Gehring
When Tommy Hilfiger’s namesake company was bought by private equity firm Apax Partners for $1.6 billion, the new owners gave the CEO crown to Fred Gehring, formerly of Hilfiger’s European division, and moved the headquarters to Amsterdam. That helps explain why the brand is making powerful strides in Europe, although it has seriously slipped in the U.S.

Hilfiger’s last two runway collections dispensed with the “all-American” mantra and embraced some European influence. In September the company launched a premium capsule collection inspired by soccer icon Thierry Henry.

That latest endeavor is aimed squarely at European audiences. While Hilfiger, whose current title is principal designer, has outfitted many rock stars and athletes, the Thierry Henry collection is the first fully articulated collaboration with an international personality. (The French striker for Barcelona is revered throughout the soccer world.) In Europe the Tommy Hilfiger brand has been capitalizing on its premium position, posting robust sales growth over the past two years. It opened more than 50 freestanding stores on the continent in 2006. Last year’s rank: 36. Power prediction: While the brand makes more inroads in Europe, Hilfiger keeps a high profile stateside as a philanthropist.

36. Donna Karan and Mark Weber
Donna Karan’s namesake company is getting serious about men’s wear. When CEO and chairman Mark Weber joined Donna Karan International a year ago, his background at PVH suggested that men’s wear would be a key growth area, and that’s just what insiders say is taking shape at the company, where Karan remains creative director.

At first, some wondered if the two leaders would get along, but Karan recently commented on the general question of designers versus CEOs. “Unless they’re in sync with one another, neither one could do their job,” she said. “Neither one could be successful.”

She and Weber appear to be making significant progress with DKNY in general, which is in expansion mode. The bridge brand contributes $2.2 billion to the estimated $2.6 billion retail volume of all Donna Karan brands. The company is said to be in major discussions about many product categories to intensify DKNY’s play in men’s wear by fall 2008.

The deals, which could be announced later this year, would likely be a combination of licenses and partnerships pertaining to shirts, neckwear, clothing, outerwear, accessories and sportswear. The company is also making a renewed global push for DKNY Jeans. In February it inked a licensing deal with Singapore’s Club 21 Retail for DKNY Jeans men’s and women’s apparel in Europe and Asia.

As for the Donna Karan Collection, hope springs eternal for a relaunch of a men’s Collection line, which was suspended for spring 2003 and never resumed. Last year’s rank: 38 (Karan). Extra credit: Weber’s role at parent company LVMH also includes heading the Thomas Pink division. Power prediction: Men’s wear is the vehicle for DKNY’s continued expansion.

37. Angela Ahrendts and Christopher Bailey
Rose Marie Bravo may have grown Burberry into the billion-dollar-plus global fashion house it is today, but it is new CEO Angela Ahrendts who must now maintain the momentum. And she’s not one to be trifled with: In March, Ahrendts famously withstood the persuasive powers of Tony Blair, the Prince of Wales and British labor when she shut down a cost-inefficient shirt factory in Wales.

With Bravo gone after a transition period, Ahrendts is finally in full command of the British apparel and accessories maker, and is charting the company’s next quantum leap with the aid of creative director Christopher Bailey. The latest financial results from Burberry showed a 15 percent jump in revenues, which for the first half of 2007 totaled $899 million. The accessories business accounted for a lot of that growth, and itself swelled by 35 percent over the prior year.

Bailey is keeping the company’s apparel machine at work, however. His spring 2008 Prorsum collection was the right mix of innovative and classic and serves as the perfect complement to those iconic trenches and scarves. Last year’s rank: 42 (Bailey). Power prediction: As benefits from Ahrendts’ costly supply chain overhaul (which bears the weighty name of Project Atlas) accrue, the company’s margins will improve, paving the way for its continued elevation in the ranks of luxury fashion labels.

38. Homi Patel
Homi Patel has the unenviable task of reinventing a company. Hartmarx, a longtime bigwig in the tailored clothing business, has been buffeted by retail consolidation and soft sales in the department store channel. Last year Patel began acquiring better sportswear brands and developing its women’s business while trimming core operations. This year has seen more of the same as the Chicago-based concern acquired hip denim label Monarchy—a pairing few in the industry could have predicted—in addition to dismantling two of its licensing programs, Jhane Barnes and Kenneth Cole. Hartmarx also streamlined, closing a cutting shop and a sewing facility, and with them 140 jobs. “We’ve been focusing on acquiring upscale luxury brands and reducing our dependency on tailored clothing in the moderate segment,” Patel said.

The leaner Hartmarx is poised for greater profitability with a more diversified portfolio, strong luxury brands like Hickey Freeman, and a women’s business that by the end of the year will account for nearly 25 percent of sales. Last year’s rank: 27. Power prediction: Expect Hartmarx to shed more licensing agreements as it continues to reduce its exposure in the department store arena. Its licensed suit business could represent as little as 10 percent of total sales by the end of next year. That figure was 27 percent in 2005.

39. Jay-Z
It’s not enough that Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter has an über-successful recording career and a yacht seemingly staffed with his shapely starlet girlfriend, Beyoncé; this year, Hova proved his apparel-industry savvy with the sale of his hip-hop apparel line Rocawear for $204 million. Its new owner, Iconix Brand Group, sees a $1 billion opportunity for the eight-year-old brand, including global expansion into markets like Mexico and China, as well as a larger market share for women’s wear and category additions including fragrances.

Although he’s remained an active participant in Rocawear, along with co-owners Alex Bize and Norton Cher, this fall’s marketing campaign took Jay-Z out of the spotlight, instead featuring younger hip-hop stars like Chris Brown and Ciara. Perhaps that’s because the Rocawear front man is preparing to launch his own more age-appropriate luxury line, Shawn Carter Collection, rumored to be making its debut by the end of 2008. But don’t expect the torch to be passed just yet. With his 10th album, “American Gangster,” set to drop in early November, and a short tour scheduled immediately thereafter, Jay-Z will get plenty of opportunities to remind young hip-hop fans that he is, in fact, the face of Rocawear. Last year’s rank: 46. Power prediction: Rocawear has thus far managed to maintain its clout in the specialty channel, thanks to its limited department-store distribution. But Jay-Z should be cautioned: Expectations of its publicly traded owner might require significant growth in a short amount of time, with more department store—or even mass market—volume in the game plan.

40. George Zimmer
The CEO of The Men’s Wearhouse is feeling the effects of the lingering downturn in the tailored clothing market. In March the Houston-based specialty store chain, which has annual sales of just under $2 billion and is one of the largest specialty retailers of men’s wear in North America, said it expected sluggish sales in that category to continue for at least 18 months. Although the clothing business picked up a bit in the second quarter, the company stressed that the upturn was “moderate—it’s not extreme.” And with clothing representing two-thirds of the business at its flagship Men’s Wearhouse chain, even minuscule shifts in that business are readily apparent.

One bright spot for the company, which also operates the Moores chain in Canada and the K&G superstores in the U.S., has been tuxedo rentals. In April the company purchased the 500-unit After Hours tuxedo-rental chain, the largest in the country, expanding its total storefronts to 1,267 in the U.S. and Canada. This year, Men’s Wearhouse expects to rent 360 million tuxedos, for a 23 percent market share. Although the long-term outlook for tuxedo rentals is strong, the near-term business has been impacted by a rough integration, which has necessitated a number of operating and systems changes. These in turn have resulted in lower tuxedo-rental unit volume.

However, the company continues to remain “excited about the potential return on this investment and its impact on our continued long-term earnings growth.” That said, earlier this month the company downgraded its fiscal third-quarter earnings forecast due to sluggish sales at its K&G stores and difficulties with the integration of the After Hours formalwear chain. Instead of 70 cents to 73 cents, the company is now projecting Q3 2007 GAAP diluted EPS to be 66 cents to 70 cents per share. Last year’s rank: 35. Power prediction: The tailored clothing business rebounds and all the young men shopping After Hours rush out to buy suits at Men’s Wearhouse.

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