GLAM GOES GLOBAL
Byline: Eric Wilson
The globalization of fashion’s designer brands is beginning to pay off.
As America’s major designers have made significant inroads into the European and Asian markets in recent years and Europe’s top players have set their sights on the States, the makeup of the designer top 10 has undergone a sizable shift this year that reflects the rising popularity of European brands among American consumers.
While the names on the top designer rankings remain the same in comparison to the last survey, published in January 2000, their placement has shifted. Three of the five European houses on the top 10 have moved up, with Gucci leapfrogging to second place this year from number five, while only one American gained on the scale: Calvin Klein, who recaptured the title of best-known from rival Ralph Lauren, who dropped to third.
There are countless factors that influence the visibility of brands in the consumer psyche, but the aggressive marketing of brands like Gucci and Giorgio Armani in the U.S. with new stores and image campaigns has logically given them a boost within the designer rankings.There’s also a number of stories going on behind the scenes at companies within the top 10 that have kept them in the news and on the minds of fashion-conscious shoppers.
Calvin Klein, for instance, found himself at the center of another controversy last year when he took his jeans licensee, the Warnaco Group, to court over alleged mismanagement of his brand — this after failing to attract the right bidder for his own company in a high-profile attempted sale. The designer also won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award this year, helping to keep his designs in the spotlight. Klein also jumped six spots on the WWD100 to number 13, the highest-ranking fashion designer on the list.
Gucci’s transformation over the past several years under the direction of Tom Ford, meanwhile, is dramatically reflected in the brand’s ascension to the second spot on the designer list, from fifth two years ago and sixth place in 1997, jumping ahead of a pair of American megabrands — Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, third and fourth, respectively. Both designers have recently taken control of their European licenses to better develop their businesses overseas. On the 100, the brand makes an even greater leap, from 53rd on the last survey to 22nd overall this year.
Christian Dior, meanwhile, dropped to fifth on the charts, although that brand has been making big moves in its daywear business as well as becoming a hot name in men’s wear, with the addition of designer Hedi Slimane. John Galliano, meanwhile, continues to stir up controversy as designer of its ready-to-wear and couture. Armani climbed two spots to number six, having opened 33 stores around the world in the past year for his stable of brands, including an Emporio Armani in New York and a collection store in Moscow this fall.
The quintessentially American brand Bill Blass remains in seventh place after a bumpy couple of years since the retirement of its namesake designer. In his place, the company first hired Stephen Slowik to helm the collection, but fired him after one season. Lars Nilsson and Herve Pierre have since ascended to design the collection and landed admirable reviews for their first full runway show for the spring season. Pierre Cardin’s licensing empire continues to keep the designer in the public eye and helped push the brand up from 10th to eighth place this year, while Chanel maintains its ranking at number nine.
Another American sportswear icon, Anne Klein, makes the biggest drop this year — four spots — landing at number 10. The brand, acquired by Kasper ASL two years ago, is attempting to regain some luster by replacing designers Ken Kaufman and Isaac Franco this year with Charles Nolan, a bridge classification veteran who worked for Ellen Tracy.
Designer Top 10
1. Calvin Klein
3. POLo Ralph Lauren
4. Tommy Hilfiger
5. Christian Dior
6. Giorgio Armani
7. Bill Blass
8. Pierre Cardin
10. Anne Klein