hen fashion week starts in New York City shoppers in cities around the globe celebrate Fashion’s Night Out. It’s a great time to look at the world's most exclusive brands for fashion and fashion design, creators with a disproportionate impact on what's hot and what's not, and what gets admired and purchased by the most successful people on the planet.
When you think of wealth and fashion, certain names come to mind: Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, maybe Benetton. And that's the irony of the fashion industry. While you know the brands, the designers and the supermodels, chances are, you've never heard of the people actually running the show. Despite bankrolling the tastes of millions--and making billions doing so--their names remain largely unknown.
One such fashion billionaire is Stefan Persson. Who? Here's a hint: 26 years ago, the Swede took over Hennes & Mauritz, the retailer founded by his father. Still don't know him? Today his chain is better known as H&M. It keeps its lines fresh by bringing in celebrity designers like Karl Lagerfeld, and keeps its prices low. The result is big sales--and billions for Persson. The company's annual revenues tally about $15 billion, and his net worth hit $17.7 billion, by our estimates.
How about brothers Alan and Gerard Wertheimer? They control Chanel, founded by their grandfather and Coco Chanel. The brand remains one of the most coveted in the world under the vision of Artistic Director Karl Lagerfeld. It's next big opportunity is China. A recent survey of the Chinese affluent revealed that Chanel is their favorite luxury brand. (See "China's High-End Consumers Seek Quality Over Status.")
Tadashi Yanai, worth $3.6 billion, created Uniqlo, a popular discount clothing brand sometimes called the Japanese version of the Gap (nyse: GPS - news - people ). Haven't heard of him? You will. Yanai is now looking overseas. The chain opened a sprawling flagship store in New York's trendy SoHo in late 2006 and opened a similar store in Paris in 2009. Yanai is looking to go upscale as well as global. He even unsuccessfully bid for the high-fashion department store chain Barneys back in 2007.
Either way, fashion billionaires abound you can always count on Billionaire Fashion to keep you up to date from now on. Make sure you're wearing Prada.