FN Power List 2019: The Conversation Starters

Diversity leaders. Gun control advocates. Master deal makers.

The most dynamic leaders of 2019, including rising designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, Dick’s Sporting Goods chief Ed Stack and the team at Rothy’s, led critical conversations about diversity, sustainability and burning social issues such as gun control.

Business innovators like ABG’s Jamie Salter and Nick Woodhouse broke the rules, redefining retail and fueling fashion IPOs.

These are the executives driving the industry’s dialogue and direction.

See who else made the FN Power List 2019:
The Dramatic Makeover
The Independents
The Tastemakers
The Dynasties
On the Rise
The Guiding Forces
The Conversation Starters
The Design Stars
The Retail Innovators
The Shoe Dogs
The Business Titans
The Influentials

Kerby Jean-Raymond, 33
Founder & Creative Director, Pyer Moss; Artistic Director, Reebok Studies

The rising star and FN’s Person of the Year is leading the important conversation around diversity and helping to ignite change in the fashion world and beyond. The Haitian-American designer’s singular vision starts with spreading awareness about the plight of African Americans in this country and their often-unrecognized contributions. For example, at his New York Fashion Week show — one of the most-talked-about events of the collections season — Jean-Raymond put the spotlight on Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a queer black woman who pioneered rock ’n’ roll. The designer also collaborated with Richard Phillips, a black man who was recently freed after been incarcerated for 45 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Commercially, his six-year-old label has quickly gained attention from top retailers. In addition, Jean-Raymond now leads the Reebok Studies division as artistic director, and he was named to the CFDA board of directors.

Jamie Salter, 56, Chairman & CEO
Nick Woodhouse, 50, President & CMO
Authentic Brands Group

The brand management company is unstoppable — at least for now. While other players scale back on big acquisitions, ABG has been going all in. Most recently, it emerged as the likely victor to acquire Barneys out of bankruptcy in a buzzed-about $271 million deal. ABG bought skateboard brand Volcom in April and Sports Illustrated magazine in May to add to its 50-plus brand portfolio that includes Frye, Nine West and Vince Camuto (a joint venture with Designer Brands), now with over $9 billion in annual revenues. To boot, ABG, FN’s Company of the Year in 2018, got a huge $875 million investment from management firm BlackRock.
Key Execs: Daniel Dienst, Jeff Branman, Kevin Clarke.

Robyn Rihanna Fenty, 31
Founder, Designer & CEO, Fenty

Entrepreneur. Barrier breaker. Unstoppable fashion force. Rihanna proved her mettle as the first woman — and woman of color — to launch and head an original brand — Fenty — with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The venture includes ready-to-wear, accessories and footwear, which debuted in May. During Fashion Week in September, Amazon Prime hosted the songstress’ Savage x Fenty lingerie line runway show, which was lauded for its diverse, size-inclusive model lineup.

Jide Zeitlin, 55
CEO & Chairman, Chairman Tapestry Inc.

Zeitlin’s appointment came at a critical time for the fashion industry on the diversity and inclusion front. The company chairman stepped into the CEO job in September after the board forced Victor Luis out of a job. As one of the few African-American S&P 500 CEOs, Zeitlin plans to continue the diversity and inclusion initiatives that were championed under Luis. But his immediate focus is on stronger business results. Critical to the plan is the growth of footwear across all of the brands. Coach saw impressive momentum under CEO Josh Schulman and creative director Stuart Vevers. Kate Spade is bringing shoes in-house starting for spring ’20, and Stuart Weitzman aims to refuel excitement with more commercial hits and geographic expansion.
Key Execs: Schulman, Vevers, Anna Bakst, Nicola Glass, Eraldo Poletto, Edmundo Castillo

Erik Nordstrom, 56, and Pete Nordstrom, 57
Co-Presidents, Nordstrom Inc.

The Nordstrom family officially inaugurated the long-awaited New York women’s flagship, arguably the city’s buzziest standalone store debut in decades. With footwear spread out over three floors, the category plays a starring role in the 57th Street mega space. Highlights include the aptly named Shoe Bar, a footwear and handbag repair station and innovative Nike and Christian Louboutin shops. Launching a high-profile — and costly — store is risky in today’s climate, and the firm’s earnings have been mixed. But the retailer has a distinct advantage thanks to a central location, proven customer service model, breadth of brands and price points and digital initiatives. As part of its Big Apple strategy, the company debuted two Nordstrom Local locations in the Upper East Side and West Village. While it has been a year of exciting expansion, the family mourned the death of beloved co-president Blake Nordstrom, who died in January.
Key Execs: Jamie Nordstrom, Kristin Frossmo, Teri Bariquit, Jeffrey Kalinsky

Tory Burch, 53
Founder, Executive Chairman & Chief Creative Officer, Tory Burch Inc.

As one of the most powerful entrepreneurs in American fashion, Burch continued to make a statement with her women’s empowerment initiatives. Through her foundation, Burch supports female-owned businesses, helping to give them access to capital, education and mentoring. In addition, the designer and her team brought their mission to the digital forefront through the socially driven #embraceambition campaign. Inside her own company, it was a pivotal year for Burch, who tapped her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel, as CEO last December. The brand is pursuing the already-strong footwear category with vigor, and it expanded its boot assortment for fall.
Key Exec: Yves-Roussel

Manolo Blahnik, 76, Founder & Designer
Kristina Blahnik, 45, CEO
Manolo Blahnik

As part of a five-year growth plan, the famed designer and his niece took control of the American business. They will officially part ways with longtime U.S. head George Malkemus at the end of the year, and Blahnik exec Andrew Wright will take the reins stateside with a new team. The company also bought its footwear factory in Italy and opened stores across the globe, notably at the posh Palais-Royal in Paris. It expanded in Asia, where Blahnik debuted a unit at Victoria Dockside in Hong Kong in September. A retail space at the department store Daimaru Shinsaibashi in Osaka, Japan, opened this fall.

Alysia Montaño, 33

The runner made headlines after publicly speaking out against Nike’s pregnancy policy. She called attention to a discrepancy in the way Nike and other activewear companies write contracts for female athletes, alleging that they are paid less if they’re unable to compete for various reasons, including pregnancy and the postpartum period. This prompted others, including Kara Goucher and Allyson Felix, to critique Nike’s maternity policy. In August, the Swoosh said it had revised contracts to include more protections for pregnant athletes.

Blake Mycoskie, 43
Founder & Chief Shoe Giver, Toms Shoes

The pioneer of the one-for-one model repositioned the business this year to focus on major American social issues. He first urged corporate America to help end gun violence, donating $5 million to March for Our Lives and Everytown for Gun Safety. Mycoskie then tried to get the public to talk about the realities of depression. On the business front, though, sales continue to be challenged by consumers who have turned to other hot, sustainable footwear brands.
Key Exec: Jim Alling

Edward Stack, 64
Chairman & CEO, Dick’s Sporting Goods

The normally quiet Stack has been making lots of noise. He entered the gun control debate in 2018, took more measures in 2019 to curb firearms sales and continues to argue about the need for corporations to address social issues. It’s little wonder there’s rampant speculation he could be eyeing a presidential run for the 2020 race. Still, the giant retailer turned in its strongest showing since 2016, with Q3 sales increasing 3.2%, driven by a 21% rise in its digital platform.

Jeff Gennette, 57
Chairman & CEO, Macy’s Inc.

With Gennette at the helm, Macy’s is emerging as an industry leader on the diversity and inclusion front. With its board at gender parity and 25% ethnically diverse, its first-ever CDO, Shawn Outler, is further boosting D&I goals to include 50% representation of all minorities in its advertising by 2020 and 30% ethnic diversity at the senior director level and above by 2025. Although the department store is dabbling in experiential retail via Story, opening the concept in 36 stores, things have remained uneven on the earnings front. Macy’s stock tumbled in August when it reported profits and sales that missed forecasts.
Key Execs: Hal Lawton, Tony Spring, Rachel Shechtman, Outler

Tom Ford, 58
Founder, President & CEO, Tom Ford

After assuming the CFDA chairman position in March, Ford immediately got down to business, shortening the New York Fashion Week schedule for its spring ’20 season. He also named Virgil Abloh, Kerby Jean-Raymond, Maria Cornejo and Carly Cushie — all minority designers — to the organization’s board. Ford just reopened a boutique in Atlanta; his U.S. presence will grow to eight stand-alone shops when he reopens a Houston location on Nov. 22.

Francois Henri Pinault, 57
Chairman & CEO, Kering

Kering has spearheaded fashion’s sustainability drive with initiatives such as the Fashion Pact, taking the group carbon neutral and pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2025. A $170 million art museum to showcase Pinault’s private collection will open in Paris in 2020. As Gucci’s sales growth begins to slow, Bottega Veneta has emerged as the luxury conglomerate’s rising star. Overall for Q3, Kering logged a 14.2% revenue gain.
Key Execs: Marco Bizzarri, Alessandro Michele, Anthony Vaccarello, Demna Gvasalia, Daniel Lee

Roth Martin, 46, Co-Founder, Chief Creative Officer & CEO
Stephen Hawthornthwaite, 49, Co-Founder

Rothy’s is rising quickly in the DTC world, thanks in part to a $35 million investment from Goldman Sachs in late 2018. The company is building six new stores in the U.S., including Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., with more on the way. The $140 million brand collaborated on its first kids’ line and, true to its mission, is exploring adding new sustainable materials to its lineup. Rothy’s plans to expand its European distribution in 2020 and recently debuted a winter-friendly wool collection.
Key Execs: Kerry Whorton Cooper, Lesley Clifford, Erin Dempsey Lowenberg

D’Wayne Edwards, 49
Founder, Pensole Design Academy

With a focus on education and mentoring, Edwards has been one of the most vocal champions for diversity at a critical time. Pensole received a $2 million investment from Foot Locker in January to further the 9-year-old Pensole Footwear Design Academy’s mission to educate students — tuition-free — in footwear and apparel design. Most recently, Portland, Ore.-based Pensole announced a pre-college design program called Pensole High School, now available in six states.
Key Exec: Suzette Henry

Aurora James, 35
Founder & Creative Director, Brother Vellies

While diversity and ethical sourcing might be the industry buzzwords du jour, James has been at the forefront since she launched Brother Vellies in 2013. This year, she continued to be a powerful voice for female and minority designers — and found a fan in Meghan Markle. After the royal wore James’ traditional huarache sandals, the designer noted how much the moment would benefit Mexican artisans and their craft. Brother Vellies also made its Paris Fashion Week debut, bringing global attention to James and her eclectic collection.

Tim Brown, 38, and Joey Zwillinger, 38
Co-Founders, Allbirds

Can Allbirds fly as a major retailer? In addition to launching socks and a women’s ballet flat, the digitally native, sustainability-focused brand opened more brick-and-mortar stores — and aims to double its fleet next year for a total of 35 doors. Execs also moved into the Chinese market, launching an outpost in Shanghai’s Taikoo Hui shopping mall and teaming with Alibaba to sell on its Tmall platform.

Megan Rapinoe, 34

The USWNT soccer star became the face of feminism this year after leading her team not only to a World Cup victory but also in the fight for equal pay. She has since used her growing platform to advocate for LGBTQ rights and gender equality. Rapinoe has been on a whirlwind press tour following the win and is a frequent Trump critic, most notably starting a feud with the president after an explicit video surfaced in which she said she would not visit the White House.

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