Editor’s Note: Simply the Best

Winning big means a lot of different things to different people. For some, generating positive results without fanfare is the preferred mode — head down, no fuss. For others, the road to success includes a healthy dose of recognition. In the diverse but tightly knit footwear community, both styles are common. This year, FN’s Annual Achievement Awards doesn’t discriminate, calling upon the shy and the bold to serve as a barometer for 2013’s greatest success stories.

It took a fair degree of coaxing to get certain honorees to the stage this year. While some eschew the hoopla, others know that a big win for a person, a brand or a marketing campaign is often a triumph for the whole team that supported that success.

The diverse class of 2013, a smart group of designers, retail giants, brand leaders and true legends, says a lot about the style and substance needed to thrive in a challenging economy.

Chosen by FN’s talented editors, the award winners cut a wide and imposing swath, from rising talents to industry-defining icons. They reflect our constant mission to embrace and expose the most promising players. For the first time, we have named two winners of the prestigious Vivian Infantino Emerging Talent award. It is only fitting, and indicative of the close bonds that define the people in this business, that the two recipients are close friends.

In fact, we are always struck by the unity among winners, from the top of the business to the absolute beginners. And it makes the back story of how each reached the stage all the more fascinating.

Retailer of the Year
In 2013, Neil Clifford and his team finally achieved their big dream: establishing a U.S. business with a New York store and a powerful distribution deal with Nordstrom. While that is worthy of notice on its own, it serves as another reminder that the Kurt Geiger business is adaptive to a changing world order. The most powerful player in the European footwear arena, Geiger is a company that continues to define what works and what doesn’t on the global stage.

Brands of the Year

We love comebacks, and this year’s dual Brand of the Year winners revel in the excitement generated by a turnaround. For Skechers, the moment is particularly sweet. After many twists and turns, the brand has aligned itself in a more performance-driven direction, and the results speak for themselves. Birkenstock’s story is a bit different, fueled by a fashion renaissance and a new management team determined to mine it properly.

Marketer of the Year
Thematically, the comeback idea is also part of Ferragamo’s win. As the luxury boom took off, the brand that once defined the market found itself eclipsed by newer, flashier rivals. Today, Ferragamo is back, thanks to stylish product and clever messaging, reframing the impressive history with a light and classy touch that feels incredibly fresh.

Hall of Fame
Our two Hall of Fame inductees represent the kind of leadership that gives the footwear industry a good name. With a work ethic that puts his competitors to shame, Bob Goldman has turned his company into a force within the industry, reflecting his passion for staying ahead of the curve. Debbie Ferrée’s incredible talent for both understanding her customer and effectively connecting with them has led DSW to become the retailing success story that others covet. Close friends, they once again show that like minds achieve similar results.

Launch of the Year
Paul Andrew’s wise-beyond-his-years approach to his own business is working. After paying his dues behind the scenes for some of the top names in the business, the smart, strategic Andrew is now in the driver’s seat with just the right mix of design savvy and relationships to turn his label into something big.

Designer of the Year
In a year when elegant refinement was the winning formula, Gianvito Rossi took center stage. All one had to do was visit his previews in Milan to know things were coming together in spectacular fashion. Rossi is in exactly the right place at the right time as he moves to superstar status.

Company of the Year
Most highly acquisitive entities suffer from the too-much, too-soon syndrome at some point or another. Not VF Corp. Integrating huge brands into an even bigger portfolio has led the powerhouse company to new heights. A disciplined management approach combined with a keen eye for solid stablemates has shown the rest of the industry how to create a profitable empire.

Vivian Infantino Emerging Talents
At a time when the male customer is finally getting his due, it is only fitting that we honor an emerging talent from both the men’s and women’s sides of the business. The fact that designers Erica Pelosini and Louis Leeman are friends with Aquazurra’s Edgardo Osorio only makes the dual wins that much sweeter. Both businesses are established critical darlings and real players on the world stage.

Newsmaker of the Year
No other retail nameplate had the kind of hypnotic pull that Hudson’s Bay Co. exercised this year. With the acquisition of Saks Inc., the multibranded retailer turned itself into the story of the year and set the department store world abuzz with the possibilities to come.

Person of the Year
She is having a moment that is as much about collective learning and timing as position and power. Diane Sullivan knows that she is in a unique place and is determined to make the most of it. With great style and diplomacy, she affects big change, both within her company and the industry at large.

Lifetime Achievement Award
What can you say about a man who has struck legendary success twice? Vince Camuto is the gold standard for leadership in this business. For more than five decades, he has defined high achievement and served as a role model to many other executives eager to claim just a small fraction of his phenomenal track record. He is the style king, the brand master, the trend definer and the one true connection between the power of the past and the unclaimed territory of the future.

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