Editor’s Note: Counting Change

Change. A word that strikes fear in some, exhilaration in others.

For many, the notion is scary and daunting. But there are those who relish it, turning what could be an unsettling proposition into pure opportunity. It goes without saying that the latter group is having it easier in these chaotic times.

Those who seize these openings in ground-breaking ways are dubbed the change agents. They don’t just embrace and benefit from it; they set the pace for the rest to follow.

We are lucky to have a number of these influential leaders operating in the industry today. This year’s FN Summit, held today at the Asia Society in New York, offers a carefully curated look at some of the biggest names shaking up the business.

In an increasingly global economy, the current crop of change agents come from all parts of the world and run the gamut from the smallest designer brands to the superpowers.

Three major retailers receive top billing this year and offer vastly different, but complementary views of the shifting consumer dynamics felt around the world.

The distinctive qualities that define Level Shoe District in Dubai, Pedder Group in Asia and Famous Footwear in the U.S. reveal a lot about the successful tactics needed to take advantage of the drastic adjustments in consumer spending and shopping habits.

Peter Harris and his team’s incredible depth of knowledge about the Asian market is unprecedented — a mix of smarts and strategy that not only pushes growth at Pedder Group but also serves as a guideline for others aiming to succeed in that complicated and challenging market.

The same could be said about Level. The world’s largest shoe store is a game changer. Many in the U.S. know little about this incredible store and the unique partnerships it has forged with both established and up-and-coming designers. The sheer volume of offering and brand assortment makes it one of a kind.

And Brown’s Famous Footwear continues to reap the positive effects of a savvy makeover. With a focused marketing effort, cheeky advertising and better assortments, Rick Ausick and crew have raised the bar.

The branded change agents also have fascinating tales to tell.

Just look at Sam Edelman, the quintessential trend-spotter. His lifelong success in the business is predicated on staying just ahead of the curve, a formula that has taken his brand to record heights. Rob DeMartini, who has led a more-diversified New Balance to the perfect intersection of performance prowess and fashion, will shed light on the inner workings of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. VF Corp.’s Patrik Frisk, the brains behind the multibranded company’s powerful Outdoor Coalition, continues to redefine the market and show the rest of the industry how successful and strategic integration is really done.

Ivanka Trump is also a game changer of the first order. She has avoided the pitfalls normally associated with celebrity-driven brands by relying on her solid business instincts. Unique among stars, Trump knows how effective it is to play a meaningful role both behind and in front of the camera.

Perhaps the most fascinating and impactful group of change agents is the emerging designer. They inject new life and new creativity in powerful ways. Every year, Footwear News prides itself on spotlighting a handful of these bright lights and this summit is no exception.

Determined, strategic and armed with a global sensibility, the class of 2014 is all about world domination in the best possible way. For Paul Andrew, Edoardo Caovilla, Louis Leeman, Erica Pelosini and Edgardo Osorio, the road to success means building brands that have instant appeal in multiple markets.

Like all great agents of change, these talented newbies know the best course is often the uncharted one.

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