61. Graziano de Boni
After increasing Valentino’s U.S. men’s and women’s business fourfold since he took over the top spot here five years ago, Graziano de Boni is now redefining both the luxe designer business and the “men’s evening wear” classification as he calls it.
He claims the global Italian company is no longer selling luxury, but has moved a step up with opulent clothes at even higher prices with a combination of elegance, richness and glamor. He calls it CEO power dressing, with sartorial suits, elegant evening brocade jackets, fur-collared coats and silk shirts that recall the glamour of the 1930s and the attitude of Fred Astaire’s top hats and tails. He declares that opulent is much more than an experiment, because U.S. sales grew last year to $300 million or 25 percent of the company’s total volume.
In addition to his current post here, he was named worldwide president of sales, marketing and retail. As a traveler racking up a million air miles a year, de Boni has his eye on Asia as the company’s next big growth area. Business there is up 80 percent and the first Chinese Valentino store is opening this December. He also claims that opulent luxury is driving sales in the network of Valentino stores around the world. Last year’s rank: None. Power prediction: This year De Boni called men’s “a huge growth opportunity”—a clear signal of his plans for 2008.
62. The Dillards
This has been tough year for Dillard’s. The Little Rock, Ark.–based department store company—which had 329 stores in 29 states as of Aug. 4—wasn’t able to muster a single increase in monthly comparable-store sales from January through September, and it reported a loss of $25.2 million in the second quarter, which ended Aug. 4.
Dillard’s blamed the quarter’s loss on lackluster sales (which were $1.65 billion, down from $1.685 billion in fiscal 2006), which led to higher markdowns. Its stock has dropped precipitously from about $40 per share in May to about $21 in October. Analysts partly blame the company’s problem on its positioning in the middle market, where it seems to be stuck. The company says it is working to elevate its merchandise mix. The men’s business is driven by its exclusive Daniel Cremieux label and by other private brands, including Roundtree & Yorke. Last year’s rank: 52. Power projection: Dillard’s is losing the battle for the middle to J. C. Penney and Kohl’s. It will remain stuck in the doldrums unless it can entice customers with more merchandise that’s upscale and contemporary.
63. Raf Simons
Just a few years ago, Raf Simons was considered a fashion maverick, too conceptual for the mainstream. On the European runways this season his ideas—from his lightweight techno-fabrics to his refined notion of modern dressing—seemed to be everywhere.
While continuing to design for his own label, the Belgian designer has freed Jil Sander from the chains of nostalgia and turned it into a relevant brand once again. Sales last year stayed constant at 129 million euros, or $174.6 million, due to closing certain sales accounts and relocating key retail units. But Jil Sander AG is projecting growth for the year, and management says the brand is also close to breaking even. Simons’ eponymous line—in which he pushes new proportions, breaks old conceptions and introduces new ones—underscores the power of his influence. Last year’s rank: 66. Power prediction: Jil Sander collections have benefited from Simons’ makeover. The Belgian now needs to turn his eye to Sander’s network of stores.
64. Tim & Gert Boyle
Columbia Sportswear ended fiscal 2006 with an 11.4 percent increase in sales, reaching nearly $1.3 billion, but the Portland, Ore.–based outdoors lifestyle company, run by Tim Boyle, president, and his mom Gert, chairman, is projecting smaller growth this year—just 5.5 percent.
A challenging retail environment has affected the company, which took things slower this year following the acquisition of Montrail and Pacific Trail in 2006. But Columbia Sportswear hasn’t taken the difficult period sitting down—earlier this year the company introduced a line of sports optical products, including binoculars and spotting scopes. The company has also brought more street fashion into its collection with the introduction of technical jackets in fabrics resembling men’s suitings, as well as camouflage-inspired prints in its Convert jackets line.
Next spring, Columbia Sportswear will have more eco-friendly apparel through recycled polyester in stores. Last year’s rank: 67. Power prediction: Tim and Gert will get in a buying mood again perhaps focusing on a company with an environmental edge.
65. Thom Browne
Designer Thom Browne’s star burned hotter and hotter this year. Undeniably influential, he succeeded in his singular crusade to shorten men’s pants, as countless designers, editors and consumers have adopted ankle-baring pants and short suits. His disturbing runway shows featured skirts for fall and micro-shorts for spring, among other things, and sent shock waves through the New York fashion flock. Browne moved his Meatpacking District store to a much larger location in Tribeca, signed a deal to collaborate with Harry Winston, and hired a CEO and CFO to help manage his business growth.
Black Fleece, Browne’s collaboration with Brooks Brothers, debuted in September after 12 months of anticipation. Brooks spent a reported $7 million—the largest print-ad campaign in its history—in conjunction with the launch. Initial projections called for Black Fleece to add $10 million to Brooks’ $800 million in annual sales. The collection of men’s and women’s wear is carried in 30 U.S. stores, as well as six units overseas, and is the retailer’s most expensive offering.
Around the same time, Bergdorf Goodman Men stepped up its commitment to the designer, already one of its key vendors. In addition to the Thom Browne couture boutique on the third floor, it began offering shirts and ties on its main floor and more-traditional tailored clothing on the second floor. Last year’s rank: None. Power prediction: Browne has been weighing a move to show in Paris. Whether in Paris or New York, he’ll keep altering our eyes with his unsettling ideas.
66. Denise Seegal
Once the flagship in VF Corp.’s fleet, Nautica has been somewhat eclipsed by other, hotter brands at the company. VF Sportswear president Denise Seegal has watched as investors, retailers and consumers have applauded gangbuster sibling labels like Vans and The North Face, while her department store staple has been sailing in choppier seas—its estimated $500 million in annual sales notwithstanding. In its most recent quarterly earnings disclosure, VF said Nautica’s revenue had dropped 10 percent, attributable to both weak department store business as well as a shift in the shipping calendar.
Still, signs of a Nautica recovery are visible: At September’s New York Fashion Week, the brand staged an attention-getting fashion show overseen by creative director Mirian Lamberth, and Seegal has just brought on Claiborne men’s wear veteran Karen Murray to energize the critical sportswear and denim categories. Last year’s rank: 65. Power prediction: Seegal will ride out the year by enduring heavier-than-usual promotional activity and will kick-start spring 2008 with improved product, a new e-commerce site and a fresh beginning in the department stores. Also, don’t be surprised if the brand heralds a newly upscale Nautica lifestyle through more company-owned retail doors.
67. Jim O’Donnell
Although its stock price has lagged—shares of American Eagle Outfitters lost 25.4 percent from Jan. 3 to July 31 and are still trading near their 52-week low—the company’s performance has been solid. Under the leadership of CEO James O’Donnell, in August the teen retailing chain announced its 14th consecutive quarter of record sales and earnings, and the firm often beats its competitors in same-store sales gains.
In the second quarter, earnings rose 19 percent for the 13 weeks ended Aug. 4, to $81 million from $72 million the prior year. Comps rose 2 percent in the period on a total sales gain of 17 percent to $703.2 million, compared to $602.3 million in the same quarter last year. In 2005, the company broke the $2 billion mark in sales for the first time, and will easily exceed $3 billion this year.
“While keeping a sharp focus on strengthening our operations, we are also advancing future growth initiatives,” O’Donnell said earlier this year. A spokesperson emphasized the “ongoing strength at the core AE brand,” while business expands in other concepts. Last year, the company launched aerie, a stand-alone brand of women’s intimate apparel and dormwear. Following the success of the three-store rollout, O’Donnell plans 36 more aerie stores nationwide by the end of 2007. This holiday season, the company will launch aerie f.i.t., a women’s-only, fitness-inspired line.
Martin + Osa, the new outdoor-oriented sportswear brand launched in September 2006 targeting a slightly older customer, continues to find its way as the chain learns about its demographic. “We feel very good about the assortment,” the spokesperson said. “We have 10 or so stores open now, and a handful planned for next year.” Currently, 30 percent of Martin + Osa’s apparel selling space is devoted to men’s wear. Last year’s rank: 71. Power prediction: O’Donnell tests a men’s-only chain for college-age guys.
68. Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver
Alber Elbaz’s arrival as artistic director at Lanvin in 2002 set the once-fading French couture house on a quick trajectory into the rarefied world of “it” fashion. In less than two seasons Elbaz orchestrated a turnaround for the brand and, in doing so, issued a dictate on modern French dressing. Just one problem: It only reached as far as women’s wear.
Lanvin’s men’s component—classic suitings—remained a staid, contradictory counterpoint until management tapped Lucas Ossendrijver in 2005. The Dutch-born designer, who cut his teeth at Dior Homme, overhauled the men’s collection. He softened suits, tossed in a hint of playfulness, kept the sophistication high and the look contemporary. Elbaz, who sets the tone, and Ossendrijver, who executes, quickly stylized a modern French dress code for men. It’s a feat that has eluded other French brands. For trendsetters from Hong Kong to New York, Lanvin is today what Dior Homme was five years ago. Last year’s rank: None. Power prediction: Lanvin men’s has a small retail representation. The duo will refashion the brand’s historic men’s shop in Paris to reflect the clothes and the customers buying them.
69. The Belks
Under the leadership of Tim Belk, chairman and CEO; John R. (Johnny) Belk, co-president and COO; and H.W. McKay Belk, co-president and CMO, Belk Inc. is making its mark on the retail world—especially in the Southeast. The Charlotte, N.C.–based department store retailer’s big move this year was to change the nameplate in September on its 25 Parisian stores to Belk and show to doubters that it could merchandise designer and high-end brands. Belk acquired 38 Parisian stores, along with its corporate headquarters and a distribution center, from Saks Inc. for $314.7 million in 2006.
As of Oct. 17, Belk had 303 stores in 16 states, and sales in the fiscal year, ended Feb. 3, 2007, totaled $3.68 billion, a 24 percent increase over the previous year’s sales of $2.97 billion. Much of the healthy sales increases posted this year can be attributed to the addition of Parisian revenues. Six-month sales for fiscal 2007 increased 20.2 percent to $1.78 billion from $1.48 billion. Belk also suffered a significant loss when CEO John M. Belk died in August. Last year’s rank: 56. Power prediction: Belk expands into new markets next year.
70. Paul Rosengard
As group president of premium brands at Perry Ellis International, Paul Rosengard oversees the flagship Perry Ellis business, as well as Mondo di Marco, Axis and Tricots St. Raphael. The Perry Ellis brand (along with flankers like Perry Ellis Portfolio and Perry Ellis America) generate $1 billion in retail sales, according to company estimates and that is where Rosengard has been focusing most of his energies. He has helped drive Perry Ellis to two consecutive years of double-digit increases in the men’s collection area in department stores, according to the company.
With the core collection business performing well, Rosengard is aiming to strengthen the owned and licensed classification segments, including a new home initiative. A new women’s collection, which has been a sore spot for the company in recent years, is also on the drawing board at some point. In the past year, Perry Ellis has signed several new licenses, including outerwear with the Levy Group, footwear with ACI International, men’s swimwear for the Korean market with Posong Co. Ltd., and men’s footwear in the Japan market with Royal Corp.
Perry Ellis believes the brand is still under-penetrated in international markets so look for additional licensing deals overseas. A strong performance from the Perry Ellis brand also helped PEI post record revenue of $195.3 million in the second quarter ended July 31, up 14.2 percent from the year ago quarter. The company is expected to post record results this year of over $900 million in revenue. Last year’s rank: 70. Power prediction: Rosengard is working with PEI bosses George and Oscar Feldenkreis to evaluate potential acquisitions to add to the portfolio of premium brands in the company’s stable—and a deal could push PEI over the $1 billion sales mark, which management is eager to reach.
71. Sam Ben-Avraham
This past December, Advanstar Communications completed its acquisition of the Project trade show from Sam Ben-Avraham, and in a 10-Q filing this past May revealed that the purchase price totaled $37.9 million. Advanstar decided to pay Ben-Avraham an early lump sum this year in lieu of contingent payments required this year and next.
At the same time, Ben-Avraham’s role as president of Project—the denim and contemporary show he founded in 2003 and grew explosively over the past four years—was ended. Ben-Avraham is now officially a paid adviser to Project, according to an Advanstar Communications official. He does remain involved in the show’s evolution, and to help keep it fresh and retain an aura of exclusivity—a tall order considering the mammoth proportions Project has grown to, especially in Las Vegas—this past season Ben-Avraham helped create a special, white-carpeted section of the show called Area to highlight extra-stylish labels like Filippa K, Nudie Jeans, Earnest Sewn and J. Lindeberg.
Aside from his consulting role at Project, Ben-Avraham also owns a group of Atrium stores. The original New York flagship was named one of the 10 most influential specialty retailers in the country in a DNR survey last year, and he’s leveraged that reputation to open Atrium units in New Jersey in 2006 and Miami Beach this past March. However, Ben-Avraham recently shuttered a more upscale boutique, called Esthete, that he opened in the Meatpacking District in 2006. Last year’s rank: 50. Power prediction: Now that he’s no longer calling the shots at Project, will Ben-Avraham continue to devote time and effort to the show or turn his considerable energies elsewhere?
72. Robert Skinner
Robert Skinner is in the first year of Kellwood Company’s “long-term strategic” turnaround plan, meaning the CEO has four years left of an uphill battle to fight. His line of attack is plucking small brands out from higher-margin markets, and adding them to Kellwood’s mostly moderate—and mostly struggling—portfolio.
Men’s wear has hardly been at the forefront of his agenda; this year’s acquisitions have included the luxury women’s label Hollywould, the children’s line Hanna Anderson, and activewear firm Royal Robbins. That’s not to say that men’s lines don’t have a comfortable home at Kellwood—the company’s 2006 acquisition Vince was this year enhanced by a masculine counterpart to its signature contemporary women’s sportswear line.
Russell Simmons has found the company less inviting and departed from Kellwood this fall, taking two of his four Phat Fashions men’s labels with him. But after a disappointing $66.3 million second quarter loss, Skinner has more immediate holes to mend in his $1.96 billion ship. Last year’s rank: 74. Power prediction: Usually a buyer itself, Kellwood this month rejected a buyout bid from Sun Capital Securities Group LLC for $543 million. Universally acknolwedged as a low-ball bid, its likely that covert negotiations will yield a private equity deal—with Sun or someone else—for Kellwood to fix its problems out of the public eye.
73. Andrea Perrone
Only a year ago, most people in the men’s wear industry had never heard of Andrea Perrone. Sure, they knew Brioni, but few had ever interacted one-on-one with the man who would come to take over the company. Perrone, grandson of Brioni cofounder Gaetano Savini, became one of three co-administrators earlier this year following the abrupt departure of former CEO Umberto Angeloni. On paper Perrone may share the title, but in action he’s taken on the de-facto role of leader.
Handsome and earnest, Perrone has sought to keep Brioni’s momentum thriving. He’s opened stores, the majority in franchising, increased deliveries, augmented sportswear and set a mandate to make Brioni appeal to a slightly younger clientele. In 2006 consolidated revenue climbed 17.6 percent 192.8 million euros, or $242.2 million. Earnings before interest and taxes more than doubled to 24.9 million euros, or $31.3 million.
Retailers like Perrone, but it’s going to take more than affection to keep Brioni at the top. It recently lost the high-profile, coveted role of outfitting James Bond. Furthermore, the controlling family members had to take out what is understood to be a substantial loan to buy back Angeloni and his wife’s shares in the company. Perrone has repeatedly told DNR that the family has no intention to sell, but family differences and the possible need for future financing may convince family members otherwise. Last year’s rank: None. Power prediction: Now that the honeymoon period is over for the Italian executive, Perrone’s first-year initiatives will be judged. Meanwhile, expect Brioni to find another film franchise to outfit.
74. Tim Lyons and Stephen Croncota
When the ax fell at Haggar in 2005, it fell hard. New owners canned the top three executives and vowed to revive the once-dominant men’s wear brand. That seems to be happening thanks in part to Tim Lyons, the brand’s president of sales, who oversaw the liquidation of the entire product line at the end of last year and launched the new Haggar with a cohesive look and a focus on quality. Under its Quality for Life initiative, each product, reengineered with “unbreakable buttons, unbustable seams and unrippable pockets,” now comes with a lifetime guarantee.
The new apparel has been bolstered by the success of its marketing strategy, spearheaded by Stephen Croncota, which takes aim at boomer guys. At its center is the “Making Things Right” TV and Web campaign, which follows the heroics of two suburbanites, Pete and Red, as they return dog poop to a neighbor and throw a girl’s lazy teenage boyfriend through the window. Peter and Red became a YouTube phenomenon and lent the brand something it had been missing: an aura of cool. Together, the initiatives have reversed price deflation and helped raise sales at its top three customers 12 percent in the last year. Last year’s rank: None. Power prediction: With its main house in order, Haggar is turning its attention to women’s wear. But the “real life” marketing approach that won the brand props this year doesn’t have a strong track record in women’s apparel. To get consumers’ attention, Croncota will have to do something else.
75. Mark Larsen
It’s been another year of change for Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, including in leadership and direction of men’s apparel. Mark Larsen was named GMM of men’s, children’s and infants’ apparel for the $312.4 billion company, succeeding Andy Barron, who moved on to senior-vice president and GMM of hard lines. Wal-Mart, which had tried to improve its fashion offerings with mixed results, now is focusing on its strength—price.
In June, Wal-Mart reiterated that its core strategy is still focused on price leadership, and it said this month that it will be ruthless this holiday season with reducing price. While price is important, Wal-Mart executives also said this year that apparel is a linchpin of the company’s merchandising strategy to customize stores in communities. Following up on its introduction of streetwear/hip-hop label Exsto last year, it launched Exsto footwear in March. Men’s wear brands added to stores in 2007 include Wrangler Outdoor and Panama Jack, and it plans to add Ocean Pacific, through an exclusive deal with Iconix, next spring.
Allen Questrom was nominated in April to the company’s board of directors, where the former top executive of Federated Department Stores and J.C. Penney Co. will contribute to strategy and merchandising. Wal-Mart is also committed to leadership in energy conservation and is investing approximately $500 million annually in sustainable technologies and innovations. For example, the company said it plans to eliminate 30 percent of the energy used by its stores; it has begun selling apparel made of 100 percent organic cotton, and it is pressuring suppliers to start their own conservation measures. Last year’s rank: 61. Power prediction: Wal-Mart will get on track by going back to bargain prices and focusing more on fashion basics than fashion-forward merchandise.
76. Paulette Garafalo
Since coming to Hickey Freeman in 1999, Paulette Garafalo has taken the venerable brand from a one-note classification to a lifestyle brand, adding sportswear, a boys’ line, a Web presence, a direct-to-consumer program and stand-alone doors. The group president also oversaw the launch in 2005 of hickey, its high-end line of modern and preppie apparel, and opened five doors for its better golf sportswear brand, Bobby Jones.
Even as Hartmarx’s moderate tailored business has suffered, Garafalo’s luxury brands—which include Burberry clothing—have grown by double digits in each of the last three years. This year she was tapped to work her magic on the company’s other heritage label, Hart Schaffner Marx. Her task: to transform it into a lifestyle brand à la Hickey Freeman with additional products, revamped marketing and a retail presence.
Garafalo, one of the few female executives in the old boys’ club of tailored clothing, has reinvigorated one of the oldest (and, until recently, dustiest) clothing brands. Hickey Freeman plans to open three more doors in the next year. Last year’s rank: None. Power prediction: Garafalo’s track record could eventually place her in charge of all of Hartmarx’s men’s wear brands.
77. The Canali Family
The Italian tailored clothing company is set to open its first New York store in downtown Manhattan next year. The flagship, nestled in the Wall Street area near Hermès and Tiffany, is a milestone of sorts for the religiously prudent company. At Canali, evolution is glacial, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; its consistent quality and value have helped make Canali a go-to brand for customers from Beverly Hills to Beijing.
Over the past few seasons the Northern Italian–based company has aimed higher—its new Esperidi Cloth is the ultimate expression of luxury—and has focused on building Hollywood connections. (Its successful store in Beverly Hills has surely helped raise Canali’s profile there.) Most recently Canali dressed George Clooney’s character in Michael Clayton.
Outside the U.S., Canali’s retail strategy has been more aggressive and it counts 25 stores throughout the world. The majority of revenue is generated through export sales, but the product remains entirely made in Italy. As the company continues to transform itself from manufacturer to lifestyle brand, Canali will be better poised to capitalize on its heritage and quality. Last year’s rank: 75. Power prediction: Now that Zegna has left Pitti Uomo, Canali could emerge as the newly christened centerpiece of the men’s wear trade event.
78. Ari Hoffman
Ari Hoffman beamed like a proud papa as he showed the first visitors around his newly remodeled Gant flagship on Fifth Avenue last month. The renovated 6,680-square-foot store, with its three selling floors and groovy circular staircase, is the latest accomplishment for Hoffman, who has assiduously upgraded the storied brand’s business here since becoming CEO of Gant USA in 2000. Hoffman, who has a 12.5 percent stake in the company, has created limited-edition Gant product for fashion-forward retailer Jeffrey, and even Barneys has picked up the brand—which was originally founded in New Haven in 1949 but is now owned by Sweden’s Gant AB.
Gant’s youthful Rugger line of denim-friendly sportswear has been a hit with retailers, and this spring the company will get another boost in prestige and fashion cred when its upscale Limited Edition label debuts in stores. Retailing about 25 percent higher than the brand’s current top price points, Gant Limited Edition features luxe fabrics and clean, sophisticated designs meant to attract customers who might not consider Gant’s core preppie, logo-heavy merchandise. Internationally, Gant is sold in over 300 freestanding stores in 70-plus countries. Last year’s rank: 79. Power prediction: Gant closed a Soho store in order to focus its resources on renovating the Fifth Avenue flagship, but Hoffman is on the prowl for another location for its next retail unit. Wouldn’t Boston be an ideal area to showcase the brand’s New England aesthetic?
79. Michael Egeck
When VF Corp. completed its acquisition of 7 For All Mankind in August, Michael Egeck took on the new title of president of VF’s contemporary brands coalition, on top of his existing role as CEO of the Vernon, Calif.–based, premium denim brand. That means he is spearheading VF’s ambitious foray into the trendy, denim-friendly fashions that are driving sales at so many retailers today. So far, Egeck is overseeing 7 For All Mankind and Lucy, a women’s active brand that was also acquired by VF this year. But he will likely add to those responsibilities as VF acquires more contemporary brands, as is its stated goal.
Egeck has plenty of experience growing businesses for VF, as he ran its The North Face business from 2000 to 2004 and was then promoted to president of its outdoor coalition before leaving to run 7 For All Mankind in 2006. The denim brand remains his biggest focus and has solidified its position as the leading name in premium denim, ringing up annual sales of $300 million. Next month, the company will open its first freestanding store in Los Angeles. Last year’s rank: 78. Power prediction: Retail expansion looks like a key focus for 7 For All Mankind—something that VF Corp. has plenty of experience and resources to make happen. The denim brand has already signed a lease for a second store, in Dallas’s Northpark Shopping Center, so bet on upcoming stores in key metro areas like New York, Miami, San Francisco and Chicago.
80. Jane Elfers
It’s amazing what a little change in ownership can do to a business. Since being purchased by NRDC Equity Partners LLC for $1.1 billion last year, the venerable 181-year-old Lord & Taylor has jumped onto the fast track. Jane Elfers, its president and CEO, can finally spread her wings and see what she can accomplish with the help of a supportive new parent.
This has been the third owner for L&T in the past four years—May Department Stores and Federated Department Stores preceded NRDC. But since NRDC’s chief Richard Baker came onto the scene, the picture has gotten much rosier. The real-estate company is investing $250 million to renovate L&T’s 47 stores over the next few years and is spending more than $10 million to launch an ambitious campaign for the fall and holiday seasons, which is designed to modernize its image. The idea is to shed L&T’s lingering reputation as a store for grandparents and entice new, young shoppers.
Today, 85 percent of the labels in the store are new and Lord & Taylor is selling 70 lines it didn’t carry a year ago. SKUs have been sliced by 45 percent, indicating more editing and reduced clutter. And the retailer is also going for some buzz. In men’s, it snagged Joseph Abboud to serve as creative director of the men’s store and create a proprietary line of tailored clothing, sportswear and accessories that will make its debut in the fall of 2008.
Other men’s wear changes include the addition of Hugo Boss, G-Star, Triple Five Soul, Diesel, Ted Baker, Tommy Bahama, Energie, Lacoste and Lincs by David Chu to the mix. Although it’s nearly 100 percent certain that NRDC will downsize the Fifth Avenue flagship and convert its top floors to condominiums or commercial space, customers who venture inside are sure to notice the change. Last year’s rank: None. Power prediction: Lord & Taylor’s men’s assortment, led by Joseph Abboud, gains hordes of new fans.