Bonobos makes custom-fit, colorful pants for men, among other clothes. But it's Dunn's online strategy that has won happy customers and industry respect. Initially the apparel maker sold only through the web, offering free shipping and easy returns. Now, thanks to a deal that got the pants man $16.4 million, you can find Bonobos in many Nordstrom stores -- and other fashion startups are emulating Dunn's user-friendly online platform. And at new pop-up locations, customers can get fitted in-person by customer service reps, then head to the web to buy the right size.
Neil Blumenthal and David Gilboa
Co-founders and co-CEOs, Warby Parker
Neil Blumenthal and David Galboa are reinventing how we buy cheap, stylish specs. Their eyeglass maker, Warby Parker -- named after two Jack Kerouac characters -- sells retro-chic designs for just $95 through a sleek website with a home try-on program and pain-free returns. Sales are up 200% so far this year, and the company, which donates one pair of glasses to nonprofit partners in developing countries for every pair sold, has donated a total of 300,000 pairs since the company's launch in 2010. Coming up next: shipping outside North America and a flagship retail store in New York's SoHo district. "It's been a whirlwind," Blumenthal says.
Creative director, Alexander McQueen
After interning at the provocative fashion house as a student, Burton came aboard McQueen after graduation and never looked back. She's created dresses for Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga, as well as the much-talked-about wedding dress Kate Middleton wore for her royal wedding. McQueen's suicide two years ago saw label owner PPR elevate Burton to creative director -- a savvy call, it turns out. Last year Burton won the coveted British Fashion Awards' Designer of the Year.
Founder and CEO, Story, Cube Ventures
What do you get when you mix a pop up store, a gallery exhibit and an event space? Story, Shechtman's buzzed-about new retail concept taking hold on 10th Avenue in Manhattan. A single boutique, Story strips down and reinvents itself every four to eight weeks with a new theme, new products, and new sponsors (current Story: "Making Things," brought to you by GE). Retail is about experiences, says Shechtman, who has advised Gilt, TOMS, Kraft Foods, AOL, Gap, and Lincoln are now seeking her advice on bringing storytelling to their businesses. Next up: a second location, an ecommerce platform, and a speaking role at the National Retail Federation conference early next year.
Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna
Co-founders and co-CEOs, Birchbox
Call it the deal of the month club 2.0. For $10 a month, these two Harvard Business School graduates deliver an assortment of cosmetic, grooming and lifestyle product samples to your home--heaven for beauty junkies. If you like what you try, you can buy a full-size version from the Birchbox website, delighting cosmetics manufacturers. Launched in September 2010, Barna and Beauchamp extended their business into men's products in April and now have 130 employees and more than 100,000 members--and, exhibiting the ultimate proof of a pioneering idea, a clutch of copycats.
Founder & CEO, Nasty Gal
Amoruso dropped out of college to sell one-of-a-kind vintage clothing in 2006 on eBay and in a couple short years had a wildly successful e-commerce site on her hands. Today she sells new as well as vintage clothes, and has customers in over 50 countries. Sales grew a whopping 10,000% over three years to hit $22.9 million in 2011 and Nasty Gal just opened a 500,000 square foot warehouse in Louisville, Kentucky and raised $40 million in Series B funding from Index Ventures. Hot off the presses in September: Super Nasty, the magazine.
Founder and CEO, chloe + isabel
The latest player on the direct-sales jewelry scene, chloe + isabel helps sellers set up virtual store fronts and offers them a range of jewelry to hawk using their social networking savvy. Sellers make 30% of every sale. Waterbury, who has over 14 years of experience developing jewelry for retailers like Macys, Old Navy and LVMH's DFS Galleria, has an impressive lineup of investors (including Ashton Kutcher) who've ponied up $12 million in funding.
Designer & Co-founder, Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Footwear
Music lovers know Williams as the face of hip-hop group N.E.R.D., but he's also winning over fans of fashion and design. He just got Bloomingdale's to sell his brand new men's wear label, Bee Line. He's partnered with Jay-Z to ramp up Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream Footwear, a streetwear label and a sports shoe line, respectively, that he created in 2005 with the designer of the renowned urban label BAPE. And like any self-respecting brand builder, Williams has a book out at the end of October, Pharrell: Places and Spaces I've Been. Yes, Esquire's 2005 "Best Dressed Man" is still fly.