Karen Alberg Grossman
by Karen Alberg Grossman

Portrait of Karen for MR Magazine

Always my favorite magazine of the year, our July MR Awards issue profiles a select group of industry warriors (nominated by you, our readers) who are instinctively and methodically figuring out how to manage today’s fast-changing retail scene. This year’s honorees are a diverse group: from Emerging Brand honoree Faherty— the brainstorm of young movie-star handsome twins Alex and Mike Faherty who are building a hot fashion business with creativity, imagination and integrity — to JCPenney exec James Starke, our Merchant’s Merchant honoree. Throughout his 12-year tenure at JCP, Starke has artfully managed his menswear business through five CEOs while creating new excitement via celebrity partnerships, interactive team shops and enhanced presentations of powerhouse brands. What’s more, he’s known to be an amazing coach and morale builder to his JCP team (and to his kids’ sports teams) and a true friend to vendors, staying connected well beyond business involvement.

Then there’s our Retail Visionary Kent Gushner, whose $10 million investment in his already fabulous fashion emporium in downtown Philadelphia has the industry abuzz. (Who invests that kind of money in a single specialty store? Only a courageous merchant with confidence in the future of brick-and-mortar!)

Congrats too to our Lifetime Achievement winner David Levin, whose DXL stores offer easy one-stop shopping to big and tall men. As CEO, Levin not only created a stress-free experience for these underserved shoppers but also put numerous menswear vendors into the B&T business.

Ulah, our Rising Retailer honoree, is the brainchild of Joey Mendez and Buck Wimberly (Joey is an instinctive merchant who honed his skills at Halls in Kansas City; Buck has a strong background in marketing). The two have created a textbook example of today’s cool contemporary store by featuring a broad product mix that transcends apparel, a non-invasive email strategy and strong social media outreach.

Bruce Pask, much admired fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, is our Fashion Game Changer honoree, for reasons that become immediately apparent as soon as one enters any of his spectacular stores. Known for introducing upscale street/athleisure brands to his clientele and blending them with luxury mainstays, Pask is managing to attract that elusive young consumer.

Finally, our Sprezzatura award goes to the one and only Gianluca Isaia, a beloved designer and impresario who teaches us to throw away the rule book and have fun with fashion (even $4,000 suits!) and who takes every opportunity to remind us that the meaning of life is to enjoy it.

From our newly merged teams at MR and Wainscot Media, we look forward to celebrating life (and improved business) with you at the upcoming menswear shows.

Please stop by the MR lounges at Project NYC, Project Vegas and the Chicago Collective to brainstorm, complain, or just say hi.