By  on February 22, 2010

LAS VEGAS — The mood picked up considerably at CurveNV last week compared with a year before, as brands and buyers put the worst of the recession behind them and set out to satisfy consumer demand for affordability, size variety and newness.

“The show is about innovation,” said Laurence Teinturier, executive vice president of CurveExpo Inc., organizer of the three-day CurveNV lingerie trade fair held at The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. “Every brand has to bring new product and retailers are looking for new players.”

There were plenty of innerwear upstarts, including nearly 30 first-timers out of 180 exhibitors. There were also more buyers — 1,923 buyers, an increase of 9 percent from a year ago.

Among the exhibitors was Snoa Lingerie, with sleepwear wholesaling for $32 to $110 and featuring eco-friendly fabrics such as organic fleece and biodegradable viscose wool, and Candace Kelly, a active line wholesaling from $39 to $99 with cotton loop terry culottes, jumpsuits and halters.

Arin Robinson, who started Zinke with her sister and premiered it last year at CurveNV, said the brand is sold at 60 stores and is becoming known for its 90 percent silk charmeuse bralets and panties. Prices are $35 to $175.

“Stores had been resorting to basics, but now they are saying, ‘We need to see that special piece in our store,’” said Robinson.

Out of all the intimates categories at CurveNV, shapewear was the leader in attracting newcomers. Joe Smith, Wacoal’s manager of international logistics and specialty stores sales, reported wholesale shapewear sales climbed 45 percent in 2009.

In the crowded shapewear field, companies are trying to carve out lucrative niches. HCI Direct, a 35-year-old company behind direct mail pantyhose, hosiery and shapewear brand Silkies, introduced Sculptz, a shapewear and legwear line wholesaling for $8 to $35.

“We identified a gap in the market for comfortable shapewear,” said Jean Vernor, president and chief executive officer of Sculptz. “There are a lot of women who would wear it or wear it more often, if they could…and [Sculptz shapewear] is not a garment that is going to hurt you all day.”

Regardless of category, price remained a critical factor in ordering decisions.

Robert Zarabi, president and ceo of Felina Lingerie and Jezebel, stressed his pricing strategy is to keep Felina bras under $40 retail and Jezebel’s under $30. Smith of Wacoal outlined an expanded value program with five full-figure bras priced at $48 at retail, compared to $58.

“It helps the retailer capture that multiple sale,” he said.

Roomier bras were a focus, as well. Smith said Wacoal offered H cup sizes for the first time. Jim West,East Coast sales manager for Chantelle, said the brand’s cup sizes go as high as 44H and that it added three-part-cup styles at every price point, notably $68, $78, $88 and $98 at retail.

“In specialty stores and department stores, the three-part-cup category has been a real mover for us,” said West.

Chantelle also presented the younger, contemporary Passionata brand, which has bras wholesaling for $20 to $35. Chantelle began testing the label in the U.S. last season. Tiffany Berrier, a specialty business manager for Chantelle, said Passionata targets professional women in their 30s with T-shirt bras being the bestsellers in the U.S.

“Our strategy is to build the brand in specialty stores and learn about the American consumer,” said Berrier.

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