NEW YORK — Golf is off the program, and the mood is more serious.
The WWD/DNR Apparel CEO Summit is being reengineered with a streamlined format, a power lineup of industry leaders and a fresh platform to provide real solutions to managing business in a fast-changing world filled with uncertainty.
In addition, the venue has shifted to reflect the tenor of the times. Moving from the idyllic desert or ocean-front settings of the past five summits, this year’s industry conclave will be held Nov. 6 to 8 in the heart of financial America at The Ritz-Carlton in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park.
Compared with other industry gatherings, the WWD/DNR summit is always intimate. This year, it will again be limited to a crowd totalling about 225, and stacked with 150 industry captains among Wall Street analysts, journalists and fashion insiders. Only chairmen, chief executive officers, presidents and general managers have been invited, portending provocative discussions and unusual access to world-class business leaders.
In a noticeable departure from past summits, there will be many different faces and presentations by executives and entrepreneurs from outside the world of fashion and retail to help identify best practices, core values and the universal rules that can apply to all business operations, large or small, fashion oriented or not. By its very nature, the conference will underscore globalization, and the interconnectivity between media, fashion, retailing and entertainment.
This year’s summit theme is “Fashion’s New Rules: Who’s Making Them, Who’s Breaking Them,” and among the hot topics on the agenda: underserved and overserved markets; finding talent; department stores; selling luxury in a down market, and whether fashion companies are sound investments. Ralph Lauren, chairman and ceo of Polo Ralph Lauren, the always-outspoken designer and marketer, will kick off a high-profile lineup of keynoters.
Domenico De Sole, president and ceo of Gucci Group, who has revitalized the brand for sustained growth and status, will address the challenges of the luxury market.
New perspectives will be provided by industry outsiders:
l Meg Whitman, president and ceo of eBay Inc., who has kept eBay riding high amid the dot-bomb scenario and predicts a big future for apparel online.
l Tom Freston, chairman and chief executive of MTV Networks, who has demonstrated an uncanny knack for keeping current with the youth market and catering to all its fickleness, with a portfolio of cable channels including MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, Nick at Night and TV Land.
l Kip Tindell, president and ceo of The Container Store, whose midsized but rapidly growing chain has a corporate culture of fierce employee loyalty and exemplary customer service.
Among those coming from overseas and prepared to illuminate their breakthrough strategies will be:
l William Fung, managing director of Li & Fung Ltd., which has created a global sourcing network supplying top retailers and brands.
l Vittorio Radice, ceo of Selfridges, which has a brand-driven presentation that’s theatrical, not predictable — and devoid of private label.
l Andy Bond, managing director of George Clothing at ASDA Group Ltd., the U.K.-based Wal-Mart subsidiary. George, at $1.5 billion in revenues currently, could ultimately become the world’s largest apparel line, considering Wal-Mart’s massive global distribution network.
From U.S. companies, keynoters will be:
l R. Brad Martin, chairman and ceo of Saks Inc., the politician-turned-retail empire builder and defender of the department store format.
l Peter Boneparth, president and ceo of Jones Apparel Group, who made impressive career switches from corporate lawyer to investment banker to clothing executive.
l Lew Frankfort, chairman and ceo of Coach Inc., who has catapulted the line into one of the hottest high-end accessories brand without the status handle of a designer name.
To stimulate conversation, the audience will be encouraged to ask questions after each presentation, and there will be three sessions: one with top Wall Street analysts and researchers; another on must-have retail and manufacturing technologies, and a third on retailers that seized a niche to engage the fashion consumer. Special presentations will be made by futurist Edith Weiner and Marshal Cohen, co-president of NPDFashionworld, who will unveil the latest proprietary research on consumer trends.
While this year’s summit is all about getting down to serious business and finding new solutions, it won’t be without its lighter moments and networking opportunities. Between the meals and speeches, there will be a wine tasting with Kevin Zraly, founder of the Windows on the World Wine School (which was in the World Trade Center), a cocktail reception on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and plenty of breaks. There’s also a spouse program, providing tickets for “Hairspray,” the hot Broadway musical; a yoga class; manicures; pedicures; a shopping tour in NoLIta; a visit to Fred Leighton, the jewelry store that sells to the stars, and a private tour with a curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The conference is being sponsored by Kurt Salmon Associates, QRS, Kirk Palmer & Associates and JPMorgan.
For more information, call 212-630-4779.