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Public School, fashion brand competing for funding by CFDA

The World's Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Style

From big data to sustainability, these companies are moving the fashion industry forward.

1. Council of Fashion Designers of America

For giving the fashion industry a conscience. Taking Diane von Furstenberg's lead, the CFDA is striving to help young designers get a leg up in the fiercely competitive industry by issuing scholarships, launching a Fashion Incubator in New York, and providing social platforms for making connections (such as a recent fashion-and-tech event with Andreessen Horowitz). Von Furstenberg and CEO Steven Kolb are enlisting help with reaching their goals: They recently sat down with Boston Consulting Group to refine their strategy for making New York a democratic and sustainable place for the fashion industry.

2. Refinery29

For publishing fashion coverage that everyone wants to read. R29 has seen rapid growth: The site, which launched in 2005 for $5,000, has raised more than $30 million in funding and serves 10 million-plus visitors each month. The company has prowess when it comes to converting users; its content carefully mixes aspirational products, a tongue-in-cheek tone, and snippets of news for savvy young professional women.

3. Editd

For using big data to analyze the whims of fashion trends. The London-based company's software synthesizes information from social media to give clients--Editd's list includes giants like Gap, Asos, and Target--an idea of how long trends will last, what competitors have, and the mood of consumers. Their formula works: Editd helped Asos bump up sales 37% in the last quarter of 2013.

4. Farfetch

For creating a one-stop shop for browsing high-end boutiques around the globe. Farfetch's site is almost like a retail portal to the rest of the world: Its 150,000 customers can shop the streets of cities like Milan or New York, all from the comfort of their own home. The London-based site, which offers products from about 300 boutiques in 24 countries, nabbed a $20 million boost in funding last year--led by fashion-bible publisher Condé Nast--to further expand its reach in 2014.

5. H&M

For branching out of the crowded chic-for-cheap space. Not content to pander to fast-fashion addicts, H&M is rolling out a line of sportswear that's designed to compete with Uniqlo's Heattech but embodies the type of streamlined looks that make Nike's apparel appealing to female athletes. That's not H&M's only recent initiative: Last year, the company collected 7.7 million pounds of unwanted clothing, then upcycled it into a denim collection that's hitting select stores in February.

6. Nike

For putting sustainability at the top of its design agenda. The sportswear company is aggressively pursuing new materials that can replace the EVA foam and nylon used in shoes. To do this, they're partnering with NASA, the U.S. State Department, and USAID to research the textiles of the future. Internally, Nike has synthesized and compiled nearly eight years' worth of their findings on sustainable materials into a beautiful and graphic app called Making, which enables any designer, anywhere, to create apparel that has less of a footprint. Read more >>

7. The Sydell Group

For defining a new era of hospitality design. The company behind the Ace Hotel and the NoMad Hotel in New York--upscale hot spots that have helped reenergize their Manhattan neighborhoods--is now rethinking the hostel experience with the Freehand Miami: minimalist, beautifully crafted $30-per-night lodging that could attract the same clientele as the Ace. Frugal travelers liked it so much, Sydell is opening 10 more locations across the country.

8. Gap

For (finally) getting back in the fashion game. The ubiquitous American brand has had flat revenue for the past decade. Creative directors have come and gone, leaving the company’s designers and merchants with schizophrenic editorial direction. But in October, Gap hired Rebekka Bay, the former creative director at COS--an H&M-owned company--and she’s already being heralded as the next Jenna Lyons. The first lookbook released under her supervision, for spring 2014, showcases a neatly curated, forward-facing aesthetic for the ideal Gap shopper and has already earned much applause from fashion critics.

9. Joor

For bringing wholesale fashion into the 21st century. Joor works with a slice of the industry that has been slow to get online. Before, buyers had to make multiple Monday morning phone calls to try to replace sold out inventory. The company has fixed that glitch by putting the communications online and now caters to 40,000 retailers and brand clients, including Diane von Furstenberg, Rag & Bone, and Zappos. Last summer, it secured $15 million in a second round of funding led by Canaan Partners and (surprise!) Condé Nast parent company Advance Publications.

10. Hatch Collection

For taking the "maternal" out of maternity clothing. Hatch designs clothes women can (and will want to) wear before, during, and after pregnancy. The aesthetic channels J.Crew and Madewell, and disrupts the dowdy maternity fashion space by offering moms and women an antidote to the other unsatisfying options.

[Image courtesy of Public School/CFDA]

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