What does it take to land on the top 10 list of most-recognized accessories brands these days?

Judging by this year’s WWD100 results, it doesn’t hurt to be American, offer moderate prices and have a heavy presence on the department store main floor.

Over the past few years, the market dynamics have been shifting in accessories. Where once it was dominated by a few established players, newcomers now enter the category all the time, from hot fashion labels to amateurs stringing beads in their kitchens.

From designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Dennis Basso to well-known public figures like Monica Lewinsky, Susan Lucci, and even model Alek Wek, everyone wants a slice of the $30 billion accessories business these days.

It’s not surprising that Nine West claimed the top spot this year. A division of Jones Apparel Group, it commands a sizeable amount of real estate at several main floor outposts: In-house, it manufactures shoes, handbags and costume jewelry, while its licensing deals encompass belts, watches, sunglasses, cold weather accessories, optical frames, hats and outerwear. Nine West also has a substantial nationwide retail network — 217 Nine West retail posts and 131 outlet stores in the U.S. — to support its vast assortment.

Weighing in at number two is Ray-Ban, which continues to benefit strongly from its all-American heritage, as well as product placements in films including “Men In Black II” and “Daredevil.” But the sunglass brand has also been reaping the rewards of its owner Luxottica Group, which acquired the brand in 1999.

Luxottica, which also produces sunglasses for Chanel and Versace and oversees U.S. distribution of Prada eyewear, has been busily improving on Ray-Ban’s quality and distribution — and it’s beginning to pay off. Last year, unit sales rose 9 percent to almost six million.

Samsung occupying the third slot may come as a surprise. Although the company produces luggage, it is mostly known in the U.S. for personal electronics. Based in Seoul, South Korea, Samsung is a diversified textile, chemical and fashion manufacturing company that owns apparel brands including Rouzili, Elle and Thee. In these high tech times, perhaps the American consumer has started to think of handheld cameras and cell phones as accessories.Sunglass giant Foster Grant claimed the fourth position on the top 10, fueled by its distribution in mass chains and drugstores like Kmart, Pathmark, Rite Aid and Wal-Mart. Its moderate price points also likely make the brand a memorable one for many U.S. consumers. According to a survey by trend forecasting service Look-Look Inc., close to 50 percent of consumers spend $20 or less on sunglasses.

At number five, Totes-Isotoner continues to be the number one brand for umbrellas and galoshes. In time for the lucrative holiday business, Totes last year expanded its assortment to include the Totes ’brella, which is the smallest of its kind and weighs a mere six ounces. Another popular style is the Professional Auto Open Close umbrella, which opens and closes at the push of a button.

Coach, at number six, has seen a successful turnaround in recent years. Under the creative guidance of Reed Krakoff, the New York-based leather goods firm has become red-hot thanks to a cohesive, fashion-forward accessories assortment supported by a targeted advertising effort and a slew of stores with a cool, industrial feel. All boost Coach’s image as the preeminent American leather goods house offering accessible luxury.

Dancewear label Capezio, which weighed in at number six, is benefiting from the current yoga and Pilates craze. The company, which was founded in 1887 as a dance footwear manufacturer and has since expanded into clothing and accessories, offers drawstring pants and camisoles suitable for fitness-obsessed folk. In recent months, Capezio has added new categories by purchasing Harmonie Knitwear and hip-hop dance label Frontline. The company also has updated its traditional looks with additional colors and added new classifications such as legwarmers.

Kenneth Cole’s thought-provoking print ad campaign and its 4,000-plus department and specialty store retail roster has undoubtedly raised the brand’s profile among consumers, landing it a spot in the top 10.

It comes as somewhat of a surprise that, barring number nine Louis Vuitton, European luxury firms — which have been so successful at generating accessories buzz and driving consumers into accessories departments over the past decade — are absent from the top 10. The list’s brands, most of which are U.S.-based, tend to be mid-tier to low in price point and therefore much more accessible to Americans, who on average don’t spend as much on accessories as their European counterparts.But Louis Vuitton’s ranking at number nine is likely a combination of its unabashed tradition of luxury, its star designer Marc Jacobs and the buzz surrounding the accessories collaborations with Stephen Sprouse and, more recently, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami. The multicolored Murakami bags have already been pictured on the arms of celebrities, and there are waiting lists for them around the world. Analysts estimate the Vuitton business to be around $2.9 billion, with most of it coming from leather goods.

At number 10, Etienne Aigner is a main-floor mainstay. It has in recent months tried to become even more consumer-friendly by reducing the number of price points in its assortment. Over a year ago, Aigner leather goods were available in a range of 18 price points, now there are only eight. The average price point on the main floor was also slashed. Last fall, 45 percent of the line was more than $100, while this year, the corresponding figure is 5 percent.



1. Nine West

2. Ray-Ban

3. Samsung

4. Foster Grant

5. Totes-Isotoner

6. Coach

7. Capezio

8. Kenneth Cole

9. Louis Vuitton

10. Etienne Aigner

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