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Calculated risks added up to a success in 2009

The recession shaped this year’s list of the fashion industry’s most powerful people, taking a toll on some of last year’s entries but providing a chance for others to shine.

With the UK having officially entered the recession at the start of 2009, this year’s Drapers Top 100 list could come as a surprise.

Gone are the days of rampant consumer spending and huge sales growth – in fact, most brands and retailers would happily settle for flat like-for-likes in this climate. But what some see as a hurdle and strain, others consider as an opportunity, and it is precisely these individuals that the Drapers Top 100 has chosen to celebrate.

For those brave enough to do something difference or take a risk, 2009 has been a year of success.

From a product perspective, this year has seen the emergence of one of the most powerful, blanket trends of the year – let alone the decade –  with sharp shoulders, short hemlines, leather biker jackets and ripped jeans filtering from the top-end designer catwalks, down through to the high street and across value players, giving consumers a compelling reason to spend on a new wardrobe.

A raft of retailers cleverly identified the less-recession prone customer groups and launched appropriate sub-brands while others have simply upped the quality of their product design to surprise and hold onto their customers.

Some individuals have been brave enough to spot the potential of certain businesses and ensure their survival with rescue deals and invesments, while others have identified gaps in the market and unveiled completely new ventures.

Product aside, some industry leaders took it upon themselves to fight for vital, industry-led causes and others recognised the importance of long-term relationships, supporting their partners with innovative cost-saving initiatives.

Testament to the difficulty of this year’s trading climate is the list of high profile retailers and designers that have exited 2009’s Top 100. Not only have they exited the list, many have also left the companies they used to run, either as “sudden” departures or because the companies themselves ran into trading difficulty.

Yet it seems that for some brands and retailers, there was no recession at all. Proving that if you have the right formula, namely the right product at the right price, there was still the potential to rack up record sales and profits.

And it is this combination of innovation, risk-taking and a strong trading performance that has singled out two individuals for this year’s top spot. Together, they represent a business that traded through the first half of the year with an insolvent Icelandic bank and without credit insurance, but went on to deliver double-digit like-for-like growth. So admired is their product and retail concept that is has spawned a thousand imitators.

2009 has undoubtedly been a tough year, but what the Drapers Top 100 proves is that this remains industry awash with talent.

Click here to view the full list of Drapers Top 100 2009

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