Forbes just published its list of "fashion billionaires," and in the top 10 are the folks behind several brands Americans can find at almost any mall or department store: Gap (the Fisher Family, $4.9 billion); Ralph Lauren ($3 billion), Oakley (James Jannard, $2.2 billion); Limited Brands (Les Wexner, $1.7 billion); New Balance (Jim Davis and family, $1.6 billion); and Urban Outfitters (Richard Hayne $950 million).
But at the tippy top of the list are French luxury mavens, and the man who made a mint off an improbable- sounding "whoosh." They are:
#1: Bernard Arnault
Forbes also calls Arnault the richest man in France. The magazine put his worth at $16.5 billion in March and speculates it is now even higher as shares of his luxury conglomerate LVMH -- the "LV" is for Louis Vuitton and "MH," Moët Hennessy -- rose by almost a third since then.
Keep this in mind every time you plunk down a few hundred dollars for those Fendi sunglasses, a Marc Jacobs bag or even a new jar of Benetint by Benefit.
To be fair, Monsieur Arnault's firm also owns Princess Yachts, Tag Heuer watches, Dom Perignon and many other brands, so not all his francs come from fashion.
#2: Francois Pinault
He was ranked at $7.6 billion in March, and that amount, too, has probably gone up as the value of his firm, PPR, has. If you like Puma, YSL, Gucci or Bottega Veneta, Pinault owes you a "merci."
#3 Philip Knight
He's the founder of Nike, which Forbes says is the largest sports footwear and apparel company in the world. Forbes says he's worth around $9 billion now, and notes he has recently given or pledged more than $200 million to charity.
We're glad to know some established names in fashion are still doing well.
News that Christian Lacroix has filed for protection from creditors and that Escada is on the verge of bankruptcy has made us fear for the future. Then there was the New York Times report this week dissecting the troubles small boutiques that take risks on new designers are having.
Do your part to keep fashion alive and well and go shopping this weekend!