2010 FN Power 100

Creativity, entrepreneurship and a bit of risk taking are defining this year's group of leaders. Find out who's got the power.

Out of the darkness came the light — and the lightning rods.

After the tough times of 2009, when most footwear executives cut costs, slashed inventories and braced for the worst of the recession, this year was a different story. Corporate leaders began to regroup, restrategize and return to finding innovative ways to conquer the retail market. It’s no wonder footwear has been a leading category, rebounding much faster than apparel and, oftentimes, saving the bottom lines of department stores.

Christian Louboutin continued to set the pace, with styles women couldn’t stop from buying and new boutique openings. He kept consumers excited, and in doing so inadvertently became the face of post-recession luxury, a big reason he rose to the No. 2 spot on this year’s Power 100 list. Neil Cole, too, jumped in the ranking, after partnering with Madonna’s Material Girl label, as well as securing the rights to the Peanuts comic-strip characters.

Meanwhile, others fell. Consider Kevin Plank and his Under Armour brand, which is retooling its running product after weak footwear sales.

As in every year, new players earned their places on the list, such as Scott Savitz, who has grown into an e-tail force, attracting 6.5 million monthly visitors and chalking up $180 million in sales. J.Crew’s Mickey Drexler also joined the industry’s elite this year, after making footwear a larger focus for the company and teaming with Alden, Minnetonka and New Balance for interesting collaborations. And Tony Post, too, made the cut after turning Vibram’s FiveFingers style into a footwear movement.

To measure the market heft and influence of each executive on the list, Footwear News studied all sides of the industry — from discounters to luxury houses — to determine who is having the biggest impact on the shoe industry. Sales figures and earnings, of course, factored into the decision process, but so did new store openings, line extensions, collaborations, fashion clout, innovative product, revamped business strategies and, of course, the all-important buzz factor.

What follows is a ranking of the industry’s most powerful influencers — those who not only survived the recession but are shaping the footwear landscape in its wake.

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