The Americans are back on top, and Calvin Klein is king of the hill.
Klein captured bragging rights as the best-known designer brand to consumers who participated in this year’s WWD100, while Tommy Hilfiger came in a close second and Polo Ralph Lauren finished at number three.
The big news for the ever-competitive Americans is that they edged out Gucci, at number four. The likely explanation: Americans have responded to this down market with a forefront of initiatives to broaden the appeal of their brands, including lower-priced offerings, whereas Gucci, which also owns Yves Saint Laurent, has remained exclusive and focused on the high end of the luxury sector. Giorgio Armani also finished behind the American crew in ninth place, tying with the original megabrand, Pierre Cardin. The tie made room for Oscar de la Renta at number 10.
Behind Gucci, the highest-ranking foreign designer was Parisian icon Christian Dior at number five, a position that perhaps stemmed from the strength of John Galliano’s relentlessly outrageous women’s and couture collections and Hedi Slimane’s highly editorial men’s wear.
Chanel came in at a respectable number seven, which indicates that both the global recognition of the brand and the efforts by Karl Lagerfeld to make its collections more relevant have only continued to grow. But then again, a good tweed is about as likely to go out of style as a bottle of vintage Châteauneuf du Pape, no matter whom the French manage to offend.
As for the overall strength of the American collections, their dominant positions can also be attributed to the ongoing strength of their marketing initiatives. Calvin Klein, under new owner Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., has opted for a number of interesting grass-roots campaigns, such as a multitiered approach to blanketing its name around the spring-break resort destination Panama City Beach, Fla. Tommy Hilfiger changed the look of his advertising dramatically, with a more luxurious, upper-crust campaign featured in outserts in publications including Vogue and W, WWD’s sister publication. Still, it was one of the worst years in the company’s financial history, leaving the market to speculate about some big changes in store for Hilfiger. The company could be the target of an acquisition in the near future, although its executives have said that Tommy wants to buy rather than be bought and it has a significant cash position to fund any deals.Ralph Lauren also gained lots of exposure over the past year with numerous editorial credits and profiles celebrating his company’s 35th anniversary. Now in its 36th year, Lauren is looking to top last year’s performance — when global sales bearing its name surpassed $10 billion at retail — with innovative products like custom Polo shirts available at Polo.com, and he talks of the imminent launch of his own magazine. Meanwhile, the company is expected to take over production of Lauren’s better-priced line, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, following a dispute with licensee Jones Apparel Group in June that led the two companies to sue each other.
Yet the biggest news in the designer category this year was Anne Klein, at sixth place. It’s certainly been a brand in the public eye, and not incidentally one of the best-known and longest-running labels in American sportswear history. On top of its restructuring under the Kasper ASL umbrella, headed by turnaround king John Idol, Anne Klein was gaining fashion momentum, thanks to the designs of Ellen Tracy expat Charles Nolan, who quit the company in favor of joining the presidential campaign of former Vermont governor Howard Dean. Nolan was replaced by AK Anne Klein designer Michael Smaldone, now vice president and chief design officer, who will debut the eighth incarnation of Anne Klein this fall. Idol, too, may be leaving Kasper in the future under a proposed acquisition of the bankrupt company by Kellwood Co., announced in June, which set off an auction by interested suitors that should lead to a new owner for Kasper by the fall.
Bill Blass weighed in at a relatively low-key eighth place. The company dropped its designer, Lars Nilsson, after its runway show in a February coup d’état — pardon the French — and replaced him quickly with Michael Vollbracht, a designer from the Eighties who returned to the fashion industry only recently to help organize a retrospective exhibit in Indiana of Blass’ career. Vollbracht will have his work cut out for him when he debuts his first collection for the house in September, but he does has an advantage in that Blass is a label that’s quintessentially American.
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)
@heriethpaul and @gracebol have a moment on the @victoriassecret fashion show 2017. See every look from the runway on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo) #wwdfashion #victoriassecret #VSFashionShow
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia