1. Gilt Groupe
The two-year-old company took the sample sale global by creating an invitation-only Web destination that has lured 1.5 million members and raked in more than $100 million in revenue last year. Since taking over Gilt in 2008, CEO Susan Lyne, former head of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, has expanded Gilt's universe to menswear, travel, youth, and shelter. Top 50: No. 21
2. Fast Retailing
The Gap of Japan continues to grow its clothing empire, thanks largely to its star chain, Uniqlo, which now accounts for 78% of its parent's sales. Innovations such as Uniqlo's Heat Tech underwear and collaborations with A-list designers, including Jil Sander, are helping CEO Tadashi Yanai get one step closer to his goal of trumping Spain's Inditex as the world's largest apparel retailer. Top 50: No. 41
The London startup's online magazine-meets-retail model has sped up the fashion food chain at the expense of department stores and in favor of the customer—and its own bottom line.
The outdoor-apparel-and-footwear company is still pushing the limits of sustainability from cradle to grave. With its Earthkeepers 2.0 boot, consumers can disassemble and recycle the shoe—which is itself made partly of recycled tires. Since its launch in 2007, the boot has delivered the company $65 million in global sales. Innovation All-stars
Celeb duo Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are building their own fashion house with entries at virtually every price point. Last year, the recently inducted members of the Council of Fashion Designers of America partnered with JCPenney to add Olsenboye, a junior line, to their established hit labels: the high-end the Row and the more moderately priced Elizabeth and James.
6. Norma Kamali
It may be Kamali's fourth decade in fashion, but she has adopted a new motto—"The democratization of fashion"—and developed a new business model. Her innovative new line for eBay, "Try Before You Buy," allows customers to consult with Kamali's personal shoppers, via Skype, and to try clothes for 48 hours before committing to a purchase.
The inventive Canadian shoe entrepreneur has embraced the wisdom of crowds with his open-source footwear ethos. Designs are user-created, and produced or discontinued based on customer votes. Even ad campaigns are held hostage to consumer opinion.
8. Stella McCartney
The rock-star progeny has no fear when it comes to tackling new markets. In 2009, the devout vegan added a tennis collection, children's wear for Gap, and a line for H&M.
While most designers are trying to go down-market, Coach is making a counterintuitive bet to go up-market. The company is funding a brand new fashion house for the company's creative head and branding mastermind, Reed Krakoff. The first line from the Reed Krakoff Collection will be for fall 2010. Coach fans needn't worry: Krakoff may be having his Tom Ford moment, but he's also holding on to his old job.
The behind-the-scenes private-label engine for some 100 retailers, from Urban Outfitters to Nordstrom, has done the near impossible: The family-owned American manufacturer is succeeding on the global stage. Its secret? The 100-year-old knitwear manufacturer has emphasized agility with a vertical "one-stop" model that promises both speed and sustainability.