Who captured the fashion world’s attention this year? Here, in alphabetical order, WWD’s top 20 candidates for Newsmaker of the Year. The winner, selected by WWD editors, will be revealed in the annual Year in Fashion issue on Dec. 15.
This story first appeared in the November 24, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
TITLE: Chairman and chief executive officer
COMPANY: LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton
NEWS THIS YEAR: The chairman and ceo of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton — and France’s richest man — was in a mood to reconcile in 2014. The business titan ended an acrimonious, four-year standoff over his luxury group’s creeping 23.2 percent stake in Hermès International, agreeing to a conciliation brokered by the Commercial Court of Paris that will see LVMH distribute its Hermès stake to its shareholders next month.
LVMH also ended a long-running legal dispute with Google over the advertising and sale of counterfeit goods online, and it settled an eight-year battle over fake and gray-market luxury goods with auction site eBay.
But Arnault’s sweetest victory came in October, when he christened the Louis Vuitton Foundation, with French President François Hollande at his side. The event followed a decade-long quest, despite many roadblocks, to construct an art museum in Paris that resulted in a Frank Gehry-designed building that already has won praise from the world’s architecture critics. “This company has delivered an innovative building to Paris, something not seen in a generation,” Arnault said. “An entrepreneurial approach was needed to surpass all the obstacles and to achieve the technical feats needed to realize what Frank Gehry had imagined.”
In perhaps its newsiest designer investment of the year, LVMH in February formed a joint venture with Italian designer Marco de Vincenzo to develop his ready-to-wear label.
The French giant threw its considerable weight — and checkbook — behind the inaugural LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize, an initiative of Arnault’s daughter Delphine that he passionately supported. Thomas Tait won the 300,000 euros ($412,500).
LVMH stepped up its focus on the U.S., as well. It began to explore a new strategy for Donna Karan International, naming Caroline Brown as DKI’s ceo, and the company was said to be eyeing a stake in Proenza Schouler, too. LVMH’s L Capital Asia 2 arm invested in Australian performance brand 2XU, with the intention of accelerating growth in the U.S. L Capital also said in March that it was looking to invest at least $500 million in China and an additional $250 million to $300 million each in India and Southeast Asia.
Hong Kong-based DFS, majority-owned by LVMH, is also conquering another market — Europe — with plans to open its first upscale T Galleria store on the Continent, in Venice in mid-2016.
— Miles Socha
TITLE: Chief executive officer
COMPANY: Tory Burch
NEWS THIS YEAR: Tory Burch continues to fascinate the fashion establishment. Not only is she one of the most digitally savvy designers in the business, she’s also making a major commitment to the brick-and-mortar world — while thinking globally. She began the year with the opening of her 4,700-square-foot flagship on Rodeo Drive and, in October, trumped that with the unveiling of her biggest store yet: a 9,645-square-foot flagship in Shanghai. “I think it’s been a long-term plan of doing it carefully and slowly and waiting for the right spots,” Burch said. “This [Shanghai] store is a big step for us. It’s our largest store ever, and it’s going to be a very important store for us — it’s our first flagship in Asia.”
Burch also signed a lease on a 2,556-square-foot boutique, opening next March at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan.
On the product front, she launched a watch business with Fossil, published a book, “Tory Burch: In Color,” and developed a wireless activity and sleep tracker for Fitbit.
Burch’s company hit a milestone this summer, surpassing $1 billion in retail sales, and the designer surprised the industry by naming Roger Farah, former vice chairman of Ralph Lauren Corp., as co-chief executive officer. She continues to stress that an initial public offering is not in her immediate future.
Burch plans to open a Milan flagship in December and flagships in SoHo and Paris next year. And Tory Sport is being developed for a fall 2015 launch.
— Lisa Lockwood
TITLE: Chairman and chief executive officer
COMPANY: Target Corp.
NEWS THIS YEAR: Brian Cornell joined Target Corp. in the top job in August, taking control of a company that had been badly battered following a massive data breach and disappointing launch in Canada. Cornell, previously ceo of PepsiCo Americas Foods and chairman and ceo of Sam’s Club, set an agenda that includes focusing resources and efforts on key categories like apparel, home, baby, toys and health and wellness. It’s a directional change from predecessor Gregg Steinhafel’s strategy of adding an expanded grocery format, called PFresh. Cornell stressed that he wasn’t de-emphasizing food; rather, Target was stepping back to understand what consumers want. Natural and organic products will play a bigger role.
Cornell has been immersing himself in the fashion world, attending CFDA luncheons, going to shows during fashion week and visiting independent retailers. One such visit led to a partnership for the holiday season with Story, a Manhattan-based store that changes its theme and decor every four to six weeks. “Our whole focus is on design and style,” Cornell told WWD. “We love to hear new ideas. We’re very pleased that what we’ve done [in terms of collaborations] still works.”
Target’s recent third-quarter financial results beat its own and Wall Street’s expectations. Same-store sales rose 1.2 percent, revenue rose 2.8 percent, and digital sales surged 30 percent and are expected to grow by 40 percent in the fourth quarter.
— Sharon Edelson
COMPANY: American Apparel
NEWS THIS YEAR: Like him or not, everyone seems to have a strong opinion about Dov Charney. This year, his story was the true stuff of tabloids.
The founder of American Apparel is best known as the notorious libertine who took the company public, logged years of losses, batted away sexual harassment lawsuits and, in June, was ousted as chairman and suspended as chief executive officer. With the financial help of Standard General, Charney was serving as a “consultant” for the company and took American Apparel to arbitration for what he claimed was a wrongful dismissal. Meanwhile, the American Apparel board was still investigating allegations of misconduct.
Fast-forward nearly six months, and the scrappy Charney is still involved with the company. Uncharacteristically, Charney’s not saying much. While American Apparel has spent $5.3 million so far on the ongoing investigation, Charney is said to be seeking $23 million to $25 million in damages on his wrongful dismissal claims.
Shares of American Apparel closed down 2.3 percent to 63 cents in Big Board trading on Friday, representing a 47.9 percent drop from $1.21 at the beginning of this year.
— Vicki M. Young
STEFANO GABBANA AND DOMENICO DOLCE
TITLE: Creative directors
COMPANY: Dolce & Gabbana
NEWS THIS YEAR: Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana will surely remember 2014. After seven years, their tax trial ended in October with a verdict reversal in Italy’s highest court: not guilty. Six months earlier, a Milan appeals court found the designers guilty of tax evasion, confirming that verdict in a lower court in June 2013. It was one of the most carefully watched trials and one of many in a series of charges by tax authorities against various Italian designers and executives. Dolce and Gabbana have always denied all charges and felt vindicated by the five judges at the Corte di Cassazione, Italy’s equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court. “We were sure of it!!! We are honest people!!!” Gabbana tweeted after the decision.
The designers were charged with tax evasion totaling 416 million euros, or $533.2 million, related to the 2004 sale of the Dolce & Gabbana and D&G brands to their Luxembourg-based holding company, Gado Srl, an acronym of their initials and an entity that the Italian tax police considered fabricated to avoid higher corporate taxes in Italy. The Cassazione, meant to determine if there were any breaches or procedural flaws in the lower courts, “believes the criteria used to determine that Gado was a fictitious entity were wrong,” a legal source explained.
— Luisa Zargani
JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
TITLE: Artistic director and shareholder
COMPANY: Jean Paul Gaultier SAS
NEWS THIS YEAR: Throwing out the cake and keeping the icing: That’s how designer Rick Owens characterized Jean Paul Gaultier’s decision to stop ready-to-wear after 38 years and devote himself to couture and fragrances.
The 62-year-old Frenchman was sanguine about the retrenchment, while lamenting the relentless speed of fashion and the associated business pressures. “Commercial constraints, as well as the frenetic pace of collections, don’t leave any freedom, nor the necessary time to find fresh ideas and to innovate,” he said. “This is a new beginning, I will be able to express again my creativity fully and without constraints.” The bold move no doubt has some of his product-pumping designer colleagues envious.
To no one’s surprise, Gaultier’s swan song rtw show was an over-the-top spectacle — in the guise of beauty pageant. Meanwhile, Gaultier’s roving retrospective exhibition, which has already welcomed more than a million visitors, moved from London to Melbourne and is headed for a four-month residency at the Grand Palais in Paris next year.
TITLE: Chairman and chief executive officer
COMPANY: Ralph Lauren Corp.
NEWS THIS YEAR: A Bicentennial Medal, a gala dinner at Windsor Castle and a hydro-holographic spectacular for his launch of Polo women’s in Central Park marked Ralph Lauren’s eventful 2014.
Lauren was the guest of honor at a dinner hosted by Prince William, president of the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, for his multimillion-pound donation for a new Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research.
Back Stateside in Washington, he was presented with the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal by Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I woke up this morning, and was looking out of my window and saw the White House,” said Lauren, before the awards ceremony, citing a perfect frame replete with a Stars-and-Stripes flag. “We don’t get a chance to do this very often — to sit back and say, ‘Oh my God, now this is interesting.’ We take it for granted but it reawakens your sense of country.”
Lauren unveiled his first Polo flagship featuring the women’s collection, at 711 Fifth Avenue in September, and revealed plans to roll out its Polo concept stores in China. He also jumped into the wearable technology game with Polo Tech.
TITLE: President and chief executive officer
COMPANY: Neiman Marcus Group
NEWS THIS YEAR: Since becoming president and chief executive officer of the Neiman Marcus Group three years ago, Karen Katz has faced a challenge that’s grown increasingly clear — how to drive change and keep up with rapidly shifting shopping habits and technologies, while maintaining Neiman’s heritage in luxury and standards for service and dominant designer presentations. The Neiman Marcus veteran demonstrated a willingness to adapt the business and take bold risks in the quest for growth, among them deciding to open a store on Manhattan’s West Side, in the Hudson Yards complex that’s under development, and acquiring mytheresa.com, a luxury Web site based in Germany, which will give Neiman’s its first major international presence.
“You have to set audacious goals for your team and push them hard to stay focused on those goals,” Katz said at the WWD CEO Summit in October. “At the same time, you have to adjust and readjust and adjust again, crafting the strategy as you are moving toward those goals.”
Some other past efforts, including teaming with Target on a holiday collection and a venture in China, didn’t work out. But Katz has also led a ramp-up of omnichannel initiatives, including a merger of the store and online merchandising and planning teams into a single organization, getting the business mobile friendly, and installing new inventory and point-of-sale systems.
She’s part of a small and elite club — women running major retail companies.
— David Moin
TITLE: Artistic director
COMPANY: Louis Vuitton
NEWS THIS YEAR: A year into his tenure as artistic director of women’s collections at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière has already had a broad impact on the French leather goods powerhouse, having staged three runway shows for the brand, including its first cruise outing at the foot of the royal palace in Monaco. He also pioneered a new advertising concept, enlisting three major photographers — Juergen Teller, Bruce Weber and Annie Leibovitz — for his fashion campaigns and unfurling them as a gallery of images.
Acclaimed for his experimental, often futuristic fashions during his 15-year tenure at Balenciaga, Ghesquière is now more focused on creating new classics. “Every item doesn’t become that, but the challenge for the designer is to look for those things that are so consistent that they can stand [the test of] time even if they are surprising and new at the beginning. That was the concept,” he told WWD’s CEO summit gathering last October. “You never do things thinking you will make a big statement. It just happens sometimes and you are lucky.”
EDWARD S. LAMPERT
TITLE: Chairman and chief executive officer
COMPANY: Sears Holdings Corp.
NEWS THIS YEAR: Hedge fund manager Edward S. Lampert may have bailed Kmart out of bankruptcy years ago, but does he have a “Hail Mary” play up his sleeve for Sears?
Lampert merged Sears, Roebuck & Co. with Kmart in 2005 in an $11 billion deal, and then renamed the combined entity Sears Holdings Corp.
Now, skeptics believe they were right all along: Lampert’s interest in the retailers was all about the real estate.
Lampert’s latest idea under consideration is taking 200 to 300 company-owned stores and selling them to a new real estate investment trust, a move that seems to be just the beginning, given the number of asset sales over the years involving company-owned stores. “We probably have more space than we need,” Lampert told investors in May. “In some cases we lease part of the space; in some cases we sell. We have great real estate.…Will we be operating more or less stores five years from now? It’s hard to say. If it’s more stores, it will be different types of stores with hybrids of our brands and others.” Shares of Sears Holdings Corp. closed down 0.4 percent to $36.31 in Nasdaq trading on Friday, a 26 percent decline from $49.05 at the start of this year.
How Lampert has dealt with Sears’ liquidity issues, which prompted a flurry of maneuvers in 2014 to keep operations afloat, could also confirm his status as a financial createur, where real estate is just the means to the end.
TERRY J. LUNDGREN
TITLE: Chairman, president and chief executive officer
COMPANY: Macy’s Inc.
NEWS THIS YEAR: Terry Lundgren has lofty goals. The Macy’s Inc. ceo has been immersed in a massive four-year, $400 million renovation of its Herald Square flagship that has succeeded in modernizing the aesthetic and the brand assortment of the world’s largest department store. So far, he has added multilevel luxury shops for Louis Vuitton, Gucci and others, and created what it is calling the world’s biggest women’s shoe floor, with more than 63,000 square feet and over a quarter-million pairs of shoes. Other ares overhauled this year include cosmetics, men’s, women’s casual and bridge and activewear.
“Our goal is for Macy’s Herald Square to be not just the largest store but the most exciting, most innovative and most technologically advanced fashion destination in the world,” said Lundgren.
Having a laser focus on attracting Millennials is another of the ceo’s major initiatives. He is spearheading the addition of new brands and technologies specifically aimed at the younger shopper, including a mobile app that launched for holiday where customers can snap photos of outfits they like, upload them and have the same or similar items identified from Macy’s inventory and available for purchase immediately.
— Jean E. Palmieri
TITLE: Executive chairman and founder
COMPANY: Alibaba Group
NEWS THIS YEAR: Jack Ma has sweeping plans for the world’s largest e-commerce conglomerate, which owns companies such as TaoBao, Tmall.com, Alipay and more.
Alibaba’s reach is still largely in its native China, but the behemoth is making strides globally, as it listed its blockbuster initial public offering in September on the New York Stock Exchange. Not only was Alibaba’s the largest IPO in U.S. history, it also made Ma the richest man in China. Alibaba also launched its first American e-tail site, 11main, in June and rolled out Alipay’s ePass, which gives American retailers access to hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers who can now purchase their goods.
Ma has said he wants Alibaba to be bigger than Wal-Mart stores, and it very well might be on its way. On Single’s Day, the Nov. 11 online shopping event created by Alibaba, sales clocked in a record-breaking $9.3 billion — more than four times larger than Cyber Monday last year.
Recalling his start-up days, Ma told a group of Japanese bankers earlier this year: “When I visited Silicon Valley, I met with about 30 venture capitalists. All of them rejected me. They thought I was crazy. Many of them also thought I was a liar.” Shares of Alibaba closed on Friday at $110.73, up 0.9 percent for the day and 19.4 percent above its opening price of $92.70 on Sept. 19. Since then, the company ranged from $82.81 to $120. The company’s current market capitalization is $275.24 billion — 78.7 percent above Amazon.com Inc.’s mark of $154 billion.
— Rachel Strugatz
COMPANY: Saks Fifth Avenue
NEWS THIS YEAR: Marigay McKee, the lively and determined president of Saks Fifth Avenue, is a big believer in retail as theater, and she herself has been a big part of the show, shaking up the scene since arriving from the U.K. at the beginning of the year to run the upscale department store. She’s triggered management changes and an overhaul of the vendor mix, stayed front and center on the style and business pages and has vowed to transform Saks into the most luxurious store in the world.
McKee’s philosophy in a nutshell: “Retailing lives and dies by the spreadsheet. Fashion lives and dies by the product. It’s about getting people to fall in love with the product and in love with the shopping experience. Then, you have a successful formula for retail,” she said.
On tap: a $250 million renovation of the Fifth Avenue flagship, new stores in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Sarasota, Fla., and lower Manhattan, and an expansion into Canada, where there could be as many as seven stores.
More recently, she’s tempered the profile a notch and clarified the seemingly rapid rate of change, stressing Saks will undergo an “evolution, not a revolution.”
— DAVID MOIN
TITLE: President and chief executive officer
COMPANY: Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
NEWS THIS YEAR: Doug McMillon, who took the reins of the world’s biggest retailer in February, rose through the ranks like his predecessors, starting in 1984 as a summer associate at a distribution center. But the president and ceo of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has something they didn’t have: youth. The youngest ceo in Wal-Mart’s history at age 48, McMillon seems to understand the changing needs of shoppers in a digitized world. He has invested heavily in @Walmart Labs, the Silicon Valley technology hotbed, and is streamlining the supply chain.
Chairman Rob Walton called him “a merchant at heart” who has an “understanding of the economic, social and technological trends shaping our world.”
McMillon must restore U.S. sales growth as Wal-Mart battles Amazon.com and dollar stores. He’s also dealing with disgruntled U.S. workers who contend the $476 billion behemoth’s wages are too low, a long-running issue that’s not likely to change much, but McMillon has allowed some small victories, like better scheduling. “We need to continue to improve the customer experience, both in our stores and online, to deliver stronger sales growth and strengthen our bottom-line performance,” McMillon said.
McMillon is moving away from Supercenters to smaller, urban formats. The company’s Neighborhood Stores logged comp-store growth of 5.5 percent in the third quarter. Wal-Mart’s $250 billion commitment to Made in the U.S.A., identifying American-made products, is flourishing under McMillon, but he has a lot to do on the international front, with India and China looming.
— SHARON EDELSON
TITLE: Creative director
COMPANY: Moschino, Jeremy Scott
NEWS THIS YEAR: In two seasons, Jeremy Scott has single-handedly infused Milan — fashion capital of important but sometimes predictable luxury — with the giddy energy of a kid cracking open a Happy Meal.
For his fall debut as Moschino’s creative director, Scott made muses of Ronald McDonald, Coco Chanel and SpongeBob, whipping up junk-food couture gowns that looked like candy wrappers and nutritional value statistics. The collection, an ode to Franco Moschino’s satirical take on fashion and Scott’s own obsession with youth culture, polarized, putting fans — and social media — on a sugar high and leaving haters griping about a lack of substance. Scott couldn’t care less; sales are reportedly way up.
“She was the perfect muse because she goes day to evening, and she’s had every job there is imaginable,” said Scott. “She obviously is famous for being on the beach, but she’s also known to don red-carpet evening attire from time to time.”
For now, Moschino is Scott’s Dreamhouse.
— Jessica Iredale
TITLE: Creative director
COMPANY: Saint Laurent
NEWS THIS YEAR: Still a divisive figure in fashion, and a reclusive one, Hedi Slimane nevertheless continues to exert a broad influence on fashion and image-making — and his rock-inspired makeover of Yves Saint Laurent gathered yet more steam in 2014. While fostering critical debate over a runway aesthetic that skews more contemporary than designer, sales of Saint Laurent seem to have the final word. Revenues vaulted 27.6 percent in the third quarter, with all product categories fueling growth and women’s ready-to-wear soaring 49 percent, men’s rtw 17 percent and leather goods 35 percent in the retail channel.
Meanwhile, recent Slimane collections, rooted in the psychedelic Sixties, spawned a new Age of Aquarius on many European runways for spring.
The French designer, based in Los Angeles, also flexed his muscles as a photographer, winning acclaim for his “Sonic” exhibition, now showing until Jan. 11 at the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. On display are black-and-white portraits of music legends like Lou Reed, Brian Wilson and Keith Richards, along with newer talents, drawn from a body of work spanning 15 years and reflecting Slimane’s obsession with music and youth culture.
— MILES SOCHA
TITLE: Chief executive officer
COMPANY: Shiseido Co. LTD.
NEWS THIS YEAR: Japan isn’t known for its go-go ceo’s, but Shiseido’s Masahiko Uotani appears set to break the mold.
Uotani, the first outsider to be named chief executive of the Japanese cosmetics giant, assumed his position on April 1 and wasted no time in making clear his intentions to radically transform the company. His goal is to change Shiseido from a Japanese-oriented organization into a truly global operation. To achieve it, Uotani is shaking up the bureaucratic corporate culture, internationalizing marketing operations and bringing a clear vision and direction for growth.
As he declared this year, “Fundamentally, the transformation of this company is needed, and everybody sees it.” Such bluntness is also unusual for a Japanese executive but typical of Uotani, who received his master’s degree in business administration at Columbia University and spent 17 years at Coca-Cola Japan, rising to the position of chairman.
Shiseido is part of a wave of traditional Japanese companies hiring outsiders to better position themselves for the harsh realities facing the country, and Uotani clearly relishes being a catalyst for change.
“Working for Shiseido means working for Japan,” he said. “And working for Japan should mean, in the future, working for the global society.”
— Jenny B. Fine
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
TITLE: Owner, designer
COMPANY: Diane von Furstenberg Studio L.P.
NEWS THIS YEAR: Forty years in the making, 2014 might have been the year Diane von Furstenberg became the woman she wanted to be. In January, she celebrated four decades of her iconic wrap dress with the third leg of her “Journey of a Dress” retrospective at the Wilshire May Co. building in Los Angeles. A month later, she named the exhibition’s curator, Michael Herz, as the new artistic director of her company.
Midyear, the designer was elected to her fifth consecutive term as president of the CFDA, where she’s dramatically grown the association’s membership.
In September, she published her sixth book, the memoir “The Woman I Wanted to Be,” detailing her road from Belgian princess arriviste to garmento queen to bankruptcy and back.
“House of DVF,” her reality TV show in which young women compete to be brand ambassador, premiered on E! And news also broke in November about the $130 million grant she and husband Barry Diller gave to build a state-of-the-art park off New York’s Hudson River piers.
It was a reflective year for DVF as she positions her business for the future, maybe an IPO. “Right now, my role in the company is to carve as deep into the DNA as I possibly can,” she said, “so that the company will be able to live after me.”
— Jessica iredale
TITLE: Creative director
COMPANY: Alexander Wang and Balenciaga
NEWS THIS YEAR: Location, location, location. It’s likely that when Alexander Wang, long one of the hottest names in New York fashion, rang in 2014, he didn’t realize just to what extent his geography would generate a buzz heard around the globe. In February, there was Brooklyn, more specifically the borough’s Navy Yard. The designer dared to show his fall collection across the East River, which, at least by fashion standards, broke new ground: No major designer previously had veered from the norm and showed beyond the isle of Manhattan. Still, everyone showed up.
Then, in October, there was Washington Heights by way of Stockholm, when Wang unveiled his much-anticipated collection for H&M with a high-performance show at the Armory on the Hudson. The collection launched at 250 stores worldwide, and hundreds of eager shoppers, armed with sleeping bags and printouts of coveted styles they had seen online, started queuing up the night before in a line that snaked around the block. Products sold out — often in under an hour, before replenishments could be brought in. “It’s a different era and a different world today, and I think everything is changing — the whole system of fashion and design — and I think there’s an opportunity for everyone to create and do something that is different and individual,” Wang said of the H&M collaboration.
All that, plus his growing recognition as creative director of Balenciaga in Paris, have kept the designer very busy this year.
— MARC KARIMZADEH
TITLE: Founder, chairman and chief executive officer
COMPANY: Facebook Inc.
NEWS THIS YEAR: Facebook is on a tear. The social network that was founded a decade ago by Mark Zuckerberg as a way to connect students on college campuses has ballooned into a multibillion-dollar advertising empire, predominantly driven by mobile. Last month, the platform said 66 percent of its third-quarter advertising revenue came from mobile, a 17 percent jump from a year earlier. In just more than two years, Facebook went from zero dollars in ad revenue to nearly $3 billion — the only company to make a dent in Google’s longtime lead in the space.
Zuckerberg also made some high-profile investments this year. After Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel turned down Zuckerberg’s $3 billion offer to purchase the ephemeral message platform in late 2013, Zuckerberg forked over $19 billion for messaging tool WhatsApp in February. A month later, Facebook acquired virtual-reality technology Oculus VR for $2 billion.
The latest tally is that 864 million people use Facebook every day, and the network maintains a total user base of 1.35 billion.
— Rachel Strugatz