This week, Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, founders of Gilt Groupe -- that wildly successful flash sale site â€" made their picks of the most powerful people in the fashion industry for Forbes. The list of seven was dominated by the usual glitterati: Anna Wintour of Vogue, designer Karl Lagerfeld and CEO of LMVH Bernard Arnault, among others. However, Forbes writer Raquel Laneri argued that both Maybank and Wilkis Wilson should be on that list as well. I agree.
The fashion retail industry is changing faster than a model can strip and re-dress backstage at a major runway show. While certain luminaries such as Ms. Wintour may continue to instruct the rest of the world what color is the new black, I'd say the innovators of retail are not only setting trends, they're enabling them to get to an ever-growing number of style-hungry consumers. With that in mind, here is my short list of the most influential, in no particular order:
Susan Gregg, founder, ModCloth - The women's apparel and accessories retailer encourages engagement with a "Be the Buyer" program that allows customers to vet new products. Items with the most thumbs up get offered for sale.
Ralph Lauren â€" Always pursuing the most cutting edge in technology (while keeping his clothing firmly rooted in tradition) Lauren took a huge digital leap to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Polo Ralph Lauren (RL) e-commerce and the launch of its U.K. sales site. The 4-D event projected images onto two flagship stores and was enhanced by sound and scent -- a mist of Lauren's newest fragrance Polo #2 was dispensed over the assembled crowds in NYC and London.
Angela Ahrendts, CEO, Burberry â€" Ahrendts commandeered Burberry Group, the U.K.'s largest luxury company, through a series of internal changes as well as continued global store and e-commerce expansion. The results have been stellar. The purveyor of iconic plaid turned trenchcoat trad to innovative high style while turning handsome profits all through the recession.
Steven Marks, Founder and CEO, French Connection (FCCN) â€" In a continued effort to regain the relevance and edginess it enjoyed in the 90s, French Connection's been experimenting with all manner of hybrid social media/e-commerce initiatives. From ChatRoulette contests to the just-launched "Youtique on YouTube," French Connection definitely scores big points for click-to-buy brilliance.
Jenna Lyons, President and Executive Creative Director, J. Crew (JCG) - Her personal style and overall vision is responsible for the lion's share (pun intended) of the company's success in recent years. From her introduction of wedding apparel in 2004 to "Jenna's Picks" in 2009, as well collaborating on numerous partnerships with legacy brands such as Ray-Ban and Levi's, Lyons has consistently stayed one step ahead of the trends. Brands such as Talbots (TLB) and Ann Taylor (ANN) have Lyons to thank for influencing both their assortments and merchandising efforts.
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