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AAFA American Image Awards Honorees Talk How to Navigate Retail’s Uncertainty

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As fashion’s high-tech future nears, the industry is recognizing a group of creative mavens for their advanced business initiatives.

On Tuesday, the AAFA honored apparel and footwear industry leaders at its 39th AAFA American Image Awards in New York City.

Throughout the evening, designers and brands shared their creative roadmaps and emphasized how new methods were necessary for successful adaptation. Proceeds from the event also benefited the Fashion Manufacturing Initiative, a program established by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Foundation and New York City Economic Development Corporation that supports local garment production.

“Collaboration is essential during these uncertain times, and the American Image Awards showcases the many stakeholders that are essential to make the industry a success,” said AAFA chairman Paula Zusi. “It was an honor to be able to bring all of these influencers together to recognize the best in the industry.”

Theory founder and CEO Andrew Rosen was honored with AAFA’s Person of the Year award. As a contemporary fashion pioneer, Rosen has witnessed the transformation of this apparel segment over the past few years. Due to consumers’ changing purchasing behaviors and a crumbling brick-and-mortar space, Rosen highlighted how Theory will evolve accordingly while preserving its heritage.

“Our company has to continue to be innovative and work quicker,” Rosen said. “We continue to change the methodology of how we work, but not the culture of our company.”

Since Theory’s sale in 2003, Rosen has invested in the next generation of young designers, believing that the incoming group of creators could accelerate contemporary fashion with highly-functional garments and digital solutions. This initiative is part of Rosen’s plan to strengthen contemporary fashion and lead Theory to its next chapter.

Marc Fisher Footwear is also changing its approach to combat brick-and-mortar’s demise. As the recipient of the AAFA Company of the Year Award, the company credits its success to its diverse team and its ability to cater to a broad consumer demographic.

“Behind each and every shoe we deliver, there is a passionate group of individuals,” said Marc Fisher Footwear president Susan Itzkowitz. “This has helped us thrive in the retail environment.”

To stay ahead of the curve, Marc Fisher Footwear will focus on talent recruitment and expand its brand portfolio. With several footwear brands under its belt, including Easy Spirit and Tommy Hilfiger, the company plans to add more labels to its lineup in coming years.

Fashion may be on the cusp of a digital revolution, but the industry isn’t settling. As shown with Theory and Marc Fisher Footwear, investment and passion, coupled with collaboration could be the answer for long-term success.

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