By  on May 5, 1994

NEW YORK -- Classic looks -- in pretty sleepwear and embellished robes -- and dual-purpose items -- such as crop-top and drawstring pajamas that can double as sportswear -- will be in the spotlight at the May market, say vendors.

The market is a key one for sleepwear for holiday and resort, and following better-than-expected March markets, some manufacturers say they're looking for double-digit gains this time around.

As for fabrications, makers pinpoint three important directions: cottons, both woven and knit; textured treatments, and lace, either in allover stretch or as trims.

Prints also will get big play, with patterns ranging from traditional florals to dots, stripes and plaids, and whimsical motifs.

Norman Katz, chairman of I. Appel Corp., maker of Appel sleepwear, commented, "Our fall bookings for March market were much better than I originally expected, and because of that I anticipate total company sales gains this year of 12 percent." Katz had previously projected a sales increase of 8 percent for 1994.

He further noted that there have been "a lot of new developments in the cotton and synthetic fabrics markets, and our May line of Appel sleepwear will be featuring a lot of fresh, new product."

Katz said the focus of the line will be on cotton knits that have surface interest, yarn-dyed woven cottons and allover lace patterns.

"We also will be doing a lot of innerwear-outerwear looks that the ready-to-wear people have be doing, such as slipdresses," said Katz.

At Natori Co., Josie Natori, president, said she is banking on two directions for resort and late holiday: pretty, traditional-looking sleepwear under the Eve Stillman and Natori labels, and dual-purpose items such as rtw-inspired pajamas in the Josie line.

"Multipurpose items are something we plan to capitalize on, and we've positioned ourselves for a lot of reorders," said Natori. "These looks -- which typically retail between $54 and $60 -- began selling across the board in January.

"The multipurpose items will be responsible for the sales growth in the Josie line this year," she added.

Natori described the Eve Stillman line as a "tried and true line of sleepwear that people know and understand." She projects a 15 to 20 percent sales gain in the Stillman line this year. She said she will add more traditional and embroidered sleepwear styles to the Natori line because retailers have been seeking those looks.Carole Hochman, president and designer of sleepwear at Carole Hochman Designs Inc., noted that a "constant flow of pretty, feminine-looking sleepwear in fabrics that can be worn 12 months a year" will be the hallmark of the licensed line Christian Dior sleepwear in May.

"May is a fairly big market for us, and we'll be featuring a lot of charmeuse, coordinated prints and solids, and a textured cotton knit and cotton woven story," Hochman said.

Key ideas will be a chevron-pattern cotton knit nightgown that Hochman will team with a polyester sateen chintz robe, and softly tailored pajamas and kimonos.

Anne Lewin, managing director and designer of the Anne Lewin sleepwear division of Nap Inc., expects fall and holiday bookings will be completed in May, and she projects a 50 percent sales gain over a year ago.

She bases the sales projection on the demand for more cotton sleepwear that features textured treatments and novelty prints.

Among Lewin's ideas for resort selling will be a whimsical bra and panties print combined with stripes, textured pointelle rib-knits in heather tones and novelty embroideries teamed with gingham trims.

Lewin's palette for resort will be navy, white, blue, yellow and pink.

"Retailers have been asking for sleepwear items that have a lot more texture, and for more pajamas that have a ready-to-wear look," said Mina Koo, owner and designer of Mina Koo Inc.

Koo, who has been in business for one year, said her sleepwear collection for resort will focus on windowpane-pattern woven cottons, crinkle rayons and stretch rayon and Lycra spandex blends.

She will continue a sheer story, but it will be textured in tiny matte-and-shine checks of polyester georgette. Colors will include ivory, navy and ecru.

Priamo Espaillat, an owner and designer of Priamo Designs Inc., said he will focus on a sleepwear collection done exclusively in prints for the first time.

The prints in a silk group will include one floral, a whimsical motif of cowboys and cowboy hats, and a jaguar pattern. Colors will include midtones, brights, and black and gold. He also will be doing a group of double polyester georgette that has a rose print in pink, yellow and green."We've been selling very classic looks that are modestly styled," said Priamo. "The stores want sleepwear that doesn't look glitzy, and they don't want sleepwear that is too transparent, either."

Jon Wolohojian, owner and designer of sleepwear under the Lucine Almas label, said he plans to triple his fall business this year with his introduction of coordinating bedding and home accessories.

Wolohojian, who didn't show his fall and holiday sleepwear in March, will present his most recent line of 15 robes, two pajamas and three sleep shirts in May. The line, which is done in natural colors and natural fabrics like linen flannel and jacquard woven cotton, has a unisex appeal.

Special effects include buttons of seashells shaped like stars and hearts, and coconut shell buttons inspired by the TV sitcom "Gilligan's Island."

The bedding, a lot of which is done in coordinating handloomed fabrics and manufactured by Wolohojian, was introduced at the Bed & Bath trade show here in April.

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