BNET's 10 Best Fashion Industry Moves of 2010

Last Updated Dec 15, 2010 10:01 AM EST

Classic, elegant, and timely would best describe the efforts of the following fashion business management teams who make the style grade for BNET's best for 2010.

French connection's social media savvy -- Betting on views of hairy bums might've been a bit risky (risqué, too) but in trying to revive its role as provocateur, French Connection (FCNN) wisely opted for appealing to the dude who engages in Chat Roulette with a contest to win an armload of cool threads.

French Connection continued to explore the edgier side of social media via its blog and most recently a "Youtique." The series of cheeky/chic You-Tube videos with a click-to-buy function couldn't be more charming -- or timely.

Uniqlo slow sales prompt nimble shifts â€"- It might be dragging temporarily, but Uniqlo's management (no doubt heeding the call from parent company Fast Retailing) is acting swiftly to stop the flow of lost sales due to bad weather and a stumble on style. What Uniqlo is getting right are continued strategic partnerships with designers such as Jil Sander and Velvet.

Urban Outfitters expansion -â€" Smart and sustainable growth is tricky business for any business, even the likes of Urban Outfitters (URBN) which racked up record sales and profits for the past two years. It's wisely reinvesting on several fronts from a bridal concept to an Anthropologie accessories store, from international e-commerce to global brick-and-mortar expansion. UO's got it's finger on several pulses, the only caution is not make the efforts too scattered.

Ralph Lauren's strategic brand development -â€" Is there anything the guy can't do? This year alone, Ralph Lauren (RL) fearlessly leaped into opening a themed restaurant within his brand-new Parisian store -- peddling €24 ($32.50) American hamburgers!-- and created a 4-D multi-media "merch-tainment" extravaganza to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Polo.com. The moral of the story is: when the profits are rolling in, don't be afraid to invest in new concepts that solidify your brand's image.

Richemont's smart snag of Net-a-Porter â€"- The Swiss luxury goods group Richemont has deep roots in running successful and time-honored maisons of fine jewelry and luxe accessories â€" emphasis on tradition. So while it knew e-commerce was quickly becoming de rigeur in fashion retail, Richemont sagely chose not to re-invent the wheel.

First, buying 33 percent of Net-a-Porter.com, the undisputed leader in high-end apparel e-tailing, then, taking a majority stake for $341 million, Richemont bought the potential to grow market share and change the way consumers buy all luxury goods. A total windfall, not unlike finding the perfect pair of Louboutin pumps, in your size, for a fraction of their retail cost.

Vera Wang moves more mass-market -â€" Once a dream only for the well-heeled bride, a Vera Wang dress (make that a full collection) will be available to regular gals on a budget thanks to a collaboration with that nuptial powerhouse David's Bridal. 308 stores strong, the chain's mostly mall shops represent an estimated 30 percent share of the U.S. bridal market -- and an easier sell than small (recession-weary) regional boutiques.

Forever 21 ditches the trends â€"- At least in the C-suite, trendy retailer Forever 21 is zigging while the rest of the fashion pack is sagging. The fast fashion mega chain opened outlets in Japan this year in the midst of the country's persistent economic woes, fearlessly flaunted a new maternity line despite harsh criticism of promoting teen pregnancy, opened an eye-popping 91,000 square foot outlet smack in the middle of Times Square, snagged empty selling space in an abandoned Saks and Sears, started collaborating with Lady Gaga's costume designer for a capsule collection, and more.

Part of successful formula is due to the founders' daughters Linda and Esther Chang (28 and 23, respectively) infusing the $2 billion brand with fresh perspectives on merchandising and styles.

Disney bets on Demi Lovato â€"- In the world of savvy partnerships, this was a hands-down coup. Lovato, Disney's television and movie triple threat (she sings, acts and dances!) loaned her image from the successful series Sonny With a Chance, to a tween collection of clothing and accessories to masterful retail collaborator Target (TGT). The result: must-have denim, blingy tops and twirly tutus for the 6-12 year old set well-merchandised and priced just right for parents to pick up while dashing in for toothpaste and TP.

Chico's charts success -â€" It's one thing to say you know your customer, it's quite another thing to show it. In a time of copycatting retailers poaching everything from styles to sales layouts, Chico's (CHS) never abandoned its target market, it simply stayed relevant and communicated the evolution in an age-appropriate way. Well played.

J. Crew cashes in on the First Family -â€" Michelle Obama et famille boosted the fortunes of several retailers who happened to carry coveted items. In fact, though naysayers may have doubted the power and impact of the "one woman retail stimulus package," my theory of her influence on retail at the beginning of February was eventually proven by research.

Professor David Yermack of the New York University Stern School of Business found that "following 189 public appearances between November 2008 and December 2009, Michelle Obama created $2.7 billion in cumulative abnormal returns -- value over and above normal market variations -- for fashion and retail companies associated with the clothes she wore." Smart retailer J. Crew (JCG) kept up by furnishing the masses with similar items selected by the First Lady after the spectacular one day sell-out of the "constellation cardigan."

Image via Flickr user Art Comments CC 2.0