April 2011 Editor’s Letter: The right stuff

Being a Power Player in our industry has never been more challenging. Or more rewarding.

Karen Alberg GrossmanWith M&A fever permeating the fashion industry, the editors of MR have put together our first-ever Power Players section, featuring those companies with a major share of the menswear business in big stores. Looking into the numbers, we were surprised to see how few luxury conglomerates generate enough menswear volume to rank on top. Less surprising was how few companies control so much of the business. Clearly, it takes scale, scope (international), great brands, value product, creative marketing, strong management and a fair dose of chutzpah to make it in a world of wildly fluctuating costs, government revolutions, natural disasters, instant consumer access to everything and intense competition from your own clients!

Fortunately, our industry has some incredible leaders up to the task. In this issue, we profile a few of them (with more to come in future issues) who share insights on current challenges and what lies ahead. According to master brander Neil Cole of Iconix, the first trick is to figure out what you love, what you’re best at, and hire other talented people to do the rest. He talks about how to create an emotional connection between consumer and brand and tells why men are actually more brand-loyal than women.

According to Manny Chirico, CEO of PVH, it’s not just the huge status brands that have potential these days. Although he couldn’t be happier with recent business in Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger (the Tommy acquisition boosted PVH international business to 40 percent), Chirico believes that moderate brands delivering real value can in fact take share from private label.

Oscar Feldenkreis of Perry Ellis talks about the strong start to fiscal 2012, and the unprecedented number of opportunities now out there. Acknowledging price pressures from inflation and raw material costs, Feldenkreis tells why PEI is doing less mass market business while becoming an ever more formidable factor in women’s. At VF Corporation, CEO Eric Wiseman is especially proud of their new “culture of innovation.” In 2010, VF established a special fund “to identify bold new ideas from VF associates. To date, 44 projects have been funded.”

Analysts say that as consumers pay more for fuel and food, apparel (especially men’s apparel) remains in a relatively weak environment in terms of consumer demand. We say that the creative vision of our industry is truly remarkable, fueled largely by some very talented leaders. We salute them.

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