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Power Brokers of the Fashion Industry

Thirty years ago, clothing existed in two worlds. One of fashion, where opulent designers like Christian Lacroix created crinoline-filled ball gowns covered in ornate tapestries. And one of retail, where practical garments were sold at affordable prices for reasonable people.

Then the ‘90s happened, and fashion became more than a playground for those who could afford couture gowns. French luxury conglomerate LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) and PPR (which owns Gucci, Balenciaga, Stella McCartney and more) began bringing in billions of dollars in sales a year. The money was made from, yes, clothes but also fragrances, handbags and accessories. The turn of the century brought us fast fashion, in which discount retailers—including H&M, Zara and Topshop—ripped styles right from the runways and sold them at a scandalously low prices.

Now, fashion is a $500 billion-plus industry, with the potential to make a lot more: particularly in emerging Asian markets. Click ahead to see who is currently setting the trends—and cutting the deals.

By Lauren Sherman, Special to CNBC.com
Lauren Sherman is an editor at “Lucky Magazine.”
Posted 16 May 2012

Cover: Image Source | Getty Images