A highlight of the WWD CEO Apparel and Retail Summit is WWD Honors, which recognizes innovators and businesses in the apparel and beauty industries. The awards were held virtually this year due to the ongoing pandemic, and were presented at the end of the two-day summit.
The winner of the Corporate Citizenship honor went to Levi Strauss & Co., the first Fortune 500 company to give health benefits to unmarried domestic partners in 1992. The company has a long history of social engagement and has been actively building on that legacy across its supply chain.
“I think we all know what a remarkable time this past few years has been,” said Chip Bergh, chief executive officer of Levi’s. “The challenges that all businesses have faced has been unlike anything we’ve encountered before, to say nothing of the losses so many people have suffered. But it provides an opportunity, a chance to rethink what businesses can and should be. How to deliver value to all stakeholders, and to address the biggest issues of our time.”
He said he was incredibly fortunate to lead a company where there was a tradition of profits through principles, where the prevailing ambition is not only to last another 168 years, but to be worthy of doing so. “That’s what animates our work, and what helps guide me as I make decisions about our strategy, about how we use our voice and our platform, and how we try to have an outsize impact on our industry and on society,” said Bergh.
LoveShackFancy took home the WWD Honor for Best-Performing Fashion Company, Small Cap. The vintage-inspired brand was founded by Rebecca Hessel Cohen and touches every major category such as women’s and girls apparel, intimates, bridal, tablecloths, wallpaper and bedding. Up next is ski apparel, eyewear and footwear.
Hessel Cohen said she was honored to be included in “this amazing group of brands, and founders and talent.” She said she wouldn’t be here without her “amazing team,” and her mom for giving her inspiration since she was a little girl, her two daughters and husband. “We’re so honored and so excited and this is just the beginning of more to come,” she said.
Olaplex, a patented system to repair damaged hair, won the award for Best-Performing Beauty Company, Small Cap. Under CEO JuE Wong, the company weathered the pandemic well, retaining a strong relationship with the professional hair community, while building out its wholesale business and driving significant growth. Olaplex went public Sept. 30.
Wong said this award caps off a momentous year for Olaplex. “Our growth and achievements leading up to this moment hopefully serves as an inspiration of the possibilities of doing business differently, that disruption is possible, that science and technology are enablers and community is foundational,” said Wong.
The Women’s Wear Designer of the Year Honor went to Rick Owens, who during the worst of the pandemic sheltered in place in Venice, creating collections that were “bold, defiant and absolute spellbinding,” said Miles Socha, international editor of WWD. Owens was given the honor for his “gutsy, potent and glamorous fashions,” said Socha.
Owens said he used to read the print WWD every day when he was an art student and never could he have imagined he would be a part of this aesthetic excellence it represented, a glamorous blend of craft, culture and business. “Since then I’ve made it my life’s work,” he said. “Contemporary standards of beauty can sometimes be rigid and narrow and I have tried to propose other options that might have been overlooked. I have presented alternatives not as manifestos or rigid rules of its own, but alternatives that might resonate with those who might have felt ignored. I am deeply honored that WWD has recognized and validated my arts.”
The Best-Performing Retailer, Small Cap award went to Kith, which is owned by Ronnie Fieg. Kith has built a high-low contemporary lifestyle store that has become a powerhouse with a cool factor, innovative retail concepts and a cult following from Gen X to Gen Z. His collaborations range from BMW to Calvin Klein to Team USA for the Summer Olympics. The company has 10 stores, including five stand-alone units in the U.S., and it recently opened units in Paris and Hawaii.
Fieg thanked WWD and his whole team for making this possible. “I’m looking forward to seeing you guys in person soon and giving you all hugs,” said Fieg.
E.l.f. Beauty received the Best-Performing Beauty Company, Large Cap honor. E.l.f. has successfully tapped into Gen Z and has been one of the few beauty players to gain ground in a tough mass market environment. Under CEO Tarang P. Amin, the company has branched out beyond its core color business, teaming up with Alicia Keys for a lifestyle brand and acquiring Well People.
“On behalf of our amazing team of superheroes we are so proud to receive this recognition,” said Amin. “2021 was indeed a great year for E.l.f. Beauty. We just posted our 10th consecutive quarter of net sales growth, and we’re the only top-five color cosmetics brand to post strong growth even compared to pre-pandemic levels. We delivered this growth while at the same expanding our brand portfolio.”
“We continue to live our purpose with positivity, inclusivity and diversity,” said Amin. “Our team is over 70 percent women, over 40 percent diverse, and over 60 percent Gen Z and Millennial,” he said. He said his board has more than 55 percent women and 20 percent Black representation. “We very much live and are comprised of people who serve the consumers who we need to please,” he said.
Men’s Wear Designer of the Year was awarded to Kim Jones, artistic director of Dior Men’s, and Travis Scott, rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer. For spring 2022, Jones enlisted Scott to codesign the entire collection, “which was a blockbuster of a show,” according to Alex Badia, style director of WWD.
“I’d like to thank Kim for allowing me to come in and get these ideas out and work with you on this project. This feels like a super battery pack for the day, I’m going to try and run up a mountain,” said Scott. Jones added that it was a “great experience” to work with someone he admires.
Nike received the honor for Best-Performing Fashion Company, Large Cap. The brand was recognized for powering through the pandemic with big top- and bottom-line gains and for forging deeper connections with fans around the world. As CEO John Donahoe has said, this is a time for strong brands to get stronger. Accepting the award for Nike was Sarah Mensah, vice president and general manager of North America for Nike Inc.
“I know how dedicated our team is in creating the future of sport — something we’ve been committed to doing since 1972. Despite challenges brought on by COVID-19, we’re continuing to serve customers, athletes and communities all around the world and we’re doing so with care for one another, with resilience and with a focus of innovation,” she said. She noted the company is centered on building deeper relationships with its consumers and committed to creating a more inclusive society. The company’s mission is to use the power of sport to create an equal playing field within Nike and in the communities where they live and play.
Target took home the honor for Best-Performing Retailer, Large Cap as it grows its e-commerce rapidly and builds for the post-pandemic landscape. The company is investing in its stores, fulfillment services and team members with an eye toward driving steady market share expansion, and is seeing its profits and market share price increase substantially. In accepting the award, Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO of Target Corp., said: “Moments like this, I always reflect on our team, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate their efforts over the last 20 months.”
Cornell said he’s been asked what’s the one thing driving Target’s performance. “For Target, it’s that unique combination of style and essentials. Our unique portfolio of brands, our digital and our physical assets, and that little bit of joy we bring to our guests with those great designer collaborations and the joy our guests experiences when a Shipt Shopper brings their order right to your home. That’s what makes Target so unique. It’s the power of the ‘and.'” He said he’s excited about the future and its continued ability to benefit people and the planet, and bring their guests a little bit of joy.
Receiving the Edward Nardoza CEO Creative Leadership Honor was Steve Rendle, chairman, president and CEO of VF Corp. Rendle has reshaped VF and used its strong financial position and nearly $30 billion market capitalization to keep building. The company launched into high-class streetwear with its Supreme acquisition and is pushing far-reaching sustainability efforts and a purpose-driven evolution.
Rendle said: “It gives me great pride to accept this award on behalf of the 30,000 associates across VF and our brands. It’s those people who came together and did the remarkable work to navigate the past 18 months. As business leaders, we’ve all been impacted by the global pandemic and the many challenges it has brought forward. No one has been immune.” He said at VF they determined early they would go to great lengths to take care of their people and support them throughout the crisis. They continued full pay and benefits for all its associates, including their retail employees, even while the stores were closed for months on end.” We also committed to not just survive, but to use this as an opportunity to emerge even stronger in a more competitive position,” said Rendle. He pointed to the Supreme acquisition in late 2020 and other actions they took to reshape their portfolio “demonstrate our sharp focus on executing our growth strategies and seizing opportunities even in the face of extreme adversity.”
“This chapter in our shared history is far from over, ” said Rendle. “Much of our world remains in a tight grip of the pandemic. Its effects will linger for years, but for sure, there are brighter days ahead, and it’s incumbent upon each one of us to lead our businesses with compassion, with conviction and creativity as we collectively guide our industry into the future,” said Rendle.
Miuccia Prada, co-CEO and co-creative director of Prada Group, was awarded the John B. Fairchild Honor for lifetime achievement for her creativity, impact and courage. Prada has shifted the fashion landscape season after season and above all, is unpredictable in her approach. Last year, she recruited Raf Simons as co-creative director of her brand.
“I’m so happy to receive this award from such an incredible institution. I’m also happy to have this award for the people who worked with me for all these years. It took so much patience and so much work to get here. Thank you so much again,” said Prada. Other recipients of the John B. Fairchild Honor have been Ralph Lauren, Karl Lagerfeld, Leonard Lauder and Giorgio Armani.
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