By  on August 27, 2007

The spring-summer market turned out to be the busiest and most trafficked of the year.

The two-week event, which ended Friday, included action at Madison Avenue showrooms and the Lingerie Americas and Boutique Lingerie by Samantha Chang trade shows.

What made August such an important edition was the change of seasonal markets that was sparked by the consolidation of the January and March venues into one edition in February. The move did not sit well with a number of vendors and retailers, particularly for a majority of smaller specialty buyers who remained in their stores to watch over the traditionally lucrative Valentine's Day business. As a result, scores of boutique buyers and owners also passed on May market, waiting to place orders this month for fall, holiday and early spring merchandise.

Fashion, lifestyle trends and innovation led the way with new brands, line extensions and product launches, which included the introduction of Carole Hochman Midnight and the licensed Lilly Pulitzer sleepwear at the Carole Hochman Design Group; the new Josie foundations label produced under license by Dana-co Apparel Group presented with a sportswear twist with Josie daywear, sleepwear and at-homewear, and an expansion of eco-friendly bamboo and organic cotton undergarments by Cuddl Duds called Ecosoft by Cuddl Duds.

Also making a debut were the first line of daywear bearing the Karen Neuburger label at San Francisco Network, a first-time collection of at-homewear by Cosabella and an extension of green-friendly at-homewear of milk and silk by Fernando Sanchez.

Top-booking ideas included:

- A shift away from traditional sleepwear such as coordinating gowns and robes for everyday wear.

- Bold, bright prints and colors.

- Mixes of different fabrics, prints and laces.

- At-homewear and active-inspired pieces that double as casual sportswear.

- String bikinis.

- Environmentally friendly underwear, daywear and sleepwear rendered in organic cotton, and blends of bamboo, soy and milk with Lycra spandex, cotton or silk.

Richard Murray, president of Wacoal America Inc., a unit of Wacoal Japan, said, "We were very happy with traffic, especially at the Lingerie Americas show. We really want to make a real push for specialty store business. It looks like we opened over 10 new accounts at the show."Ugo Campello, vice president of Miami-based Cosabella, said, "I met with all of our major customers, and a lot of retailers looked at our collection at both our showroom and Lingerie Americas. Reaction was very strong to new prints, colors and fabrics such as a cashmere and Modal blend, a lightweight 50-gauge micro Modal, and very fine and delicate new laces. It's great what technology does today."

Guiseppe Campello, vice president of branding and product development and son of Ugo Campello, said a number of appointments were booked with stores from the international marketplace.

"We had a great international turnout with stores like Saks in Dubai, Lane Crawford from Hong Kong, which came in to buy for the new Beijing store, and lots of resort stores from the Caribbean," Campello said. "We also had a new Canadian distributor at Lingerie Americas, which worked out well."

He added that Cosabella launched an "image" Web site at the beginning of this month, and due to a growing international presence, the company plans to feature the site in French, Spanish, Japanese and possibly Chinese by year's end.

Regarding sleepwear and loungewear trends, Josie Natori, chairman of Natori Co., said there's been a "definite decline" in demand for traditional looks.

"Traditional sleepwear and loungewear is great for holiday gift giving, but it's no longer where it's at," said Natori. "It's now about contemporary knits and wovens, and mixing different materials, textures and prints. I know of some stores that are abandoning or just redoing classic sleepwear and lounge. The classic part of the business just hasn't been growing."

Carole Hochman, chairman and design director of the Hochman company, said the timing was "perfect" to introduce new brands.

"We were challenged by Nordstrom to do a sexy, provocative new collection, so we introduced Carole Hochman Midnight," Hochman said. "I think they are trying to inspire people to create more modern product, product that keeps up with ready-to-wear trends."

The Midnight line features four groups: one group in pima, a Supima cotton segment and two Modal-blend groups.

Susan DeMusis, executive vice president of merchandising at the Hochman company, said, "We were extremely busy. We introduced the Lilly Pulitzer collection this week and it was quite successful. She is known for her color, great caftans and terry robes and wraps. Everybody thought it was very Lilly-looking. The collection spans a younger customer, as well as the core misses' customer. People are even doing bridesmaids dresses with Lilly."Colleen Cotter, vice president of merchandising and product development at Cuddl Duds, a unit of O'Bryan Bros. Inc., said, "We relaunched all of our panty groups under the Ecosoft organic umbrella. We think it's our reason to be. We've received great interest because some people are dabbling in environmentally friendly products, but nobody has been able to pull together a full [underwear] story."

Top-booking styles are rendered in 95 percent bamboo and 5 percent spandex, 97 percent Tencel and 3 percent linen and spandex. Tencel is made of renewable eucalyptus wood pulp.

Mark Sandler, senior vice president of O'Bryan Bros., said: "Since seamless came out in the panty business eight to nine years ago, there's really been nothing for people to get excited about. The eco category definitely gives retailers an opportunity and I believe the category will explode over the next six to 18 months. We feel we've gotten ahead of it and we are planning to expand the Ecosoft umbrella into other apparel and accessories categories."

Sue Quinn, senior director of merchandising at Jockey International, said function, fit and fashion colors are important elements for spring.

"Fashion colors were very well received from nature-inspired colors to a spring bouquet," said Quinn, noting the success of No Panty Line Promise underwear has been expanded into a variety of coordinating camisoles in two top classifications: Modal and Tactel microfiber.

She added a best-booking item was a matte-and-shine group with a variegated stripe pattern in silver, orchid, fuchsia, and lagoon blue and green.

Leigh Bantivoglio, designer of upscale daywear and corsetry that bears her name, said top-booking items were primarily rtw-inspired.

"We had great success with items like an eggplant baby doll with mink gray lace trim and matching tap pants," Bantivoglio said. "We follow the rtw colors more than traditional intimates colors and it's been working."

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