By  on June 29, 2009

While attendance may have been disappointing at the May market, vendors were encouraged by orders for key items in basics and fashion.

On the prowl for product that offers value, comfort and function, cautious merchants did not let the recession and tough retail climate stop their quest for newness and innovation. In many cases, manufacturers said retailers were frugal with open-to-buy dollars and are putting off orders until the last minute. But buyers have jumped on styles, categories and new fabrics and colors that could compel consumers to open their pocketbooks.

May was primarily a foundations market for spring 2010, but the small venue also provided opportunities for makers of sleepwear, robes, loungewear and daywear to firm up orders for replenishment items and immediate merchandise, as well as fall, back-to-school and holiday programs.

The most successful formula for top-booking items is the dual-purpose appeal that gives price-conscious consumers the feeling they are getting more value for their purchases, said innerwear executives.

Among the best-booking categories were:

• Loungewear, especially two-piece sets that have a look of casual sportswear in cotton knits and wovens, jerseys and buttery soft Modal and bamboo blends. The idea is consumers will be tempted by dual-purpose apparel that can be worn in or out of the home, providing added value.

• Shapewear, notably items such as a tailored bustier, corset or all-in-one body shaper that can be worn underneath a jacket, or as a key item with skirts, pants or jeans. In addition to versatility, the slenderizing function of a shaper continues to be seen as an extra benefit.

• Flirty camis and coordinating undies in white, black, nude, bold fashion colors and animal prints updated with a touch of fashion such as contrasting lace trim. A number of consumers who used to wear T-shirts perceive camis as an item that’s fun and feminine, and for many women, it’s not only a ready-to-wear item, but also doubles as sleepwear.

• Bras and matching panties, whether thongs, bikinis, hipsters or boy-cut briefs, that enhance comfort and give a smoother silhouette through high-tech applications such as seamless and heat-sealed treatments that are fashionable and lightweight. The rtw aspect also fits in with fabrics that have the look of denim, printed laces and tulle, and allover, seam-free microfiber.

Jan Snodgrass, president of Hanro USA, said a top basic style was a Touch Feeling Tank in black, white, nude and fashion colors that retails for $120.

“Customers loved the fact that it is very versatile and can be worn as an innerwear or outerwear item,” said Snodgrass. “It’s made of a high-density microfiber that has the most luxurious feeling on the body.”

He singled out a short-sleeve top from the Champagne collection in cocoa and oatmeal as a fashion winner, priced at $92. He described it as “casualwear with a sporty look that has dual functions.”

Snodgrass added that a number-one-booking basic item in the men’s line was a Cotton-Sporty Knit Boxer in black and white, selling for $70.

“It’s made of the finest single gauge mercerized cotton,” he said. “There are many boxers and boxer briefs offered by other brands, but it’s made of 100 percent cotton knit, and that makes it unique to the customer.”

A “Midnight” pajama in a shade of graphite was the big item in the men’s fashion segment, selling for $245.

Greg Holland, executive vice president of sales at The Komar Co. and president of the licensed Donna Karan sleepwear brand, said fashion basics by DKNY sleepwear, ballet-length and classic short nighties by Eileen West, and knits as a key classification in Liz Claiborne sleepwear, were top ideas. DKNY sleep pants retail for $48, while tops are $28 to $40, and sleep shirts sell for $48. Ballet gowns by Eileen West sell for $56 and short gowns are $48. Pajamas by Liz Claiborne are listed at $48.

“We think what makes these products top items is there is a lot of value and product for the money,” Holland said. “Premium fabrics and embellishments give added value.”

Rob Gardner, vice president and general manager of the licensed Donna Karan Intimates and DKNY foundations at Maidenform Brands Inc., singled out two top numbers by DKNY: a twill knit demi bra and hipster called Denim Love Addition that is considered a fashion basic and has the look of woven denim, and an embellished yellow and nude deep-plunge bra and low-rise undies called Modern Lineage Balconette, retailing for $38 and $20, respectively. The denim bra is priced at $36 and the hipster is $20.

Gregory Gimble, vice president of Va Bien International Inc., said the company had three “big hits:” The Ultra-Lift Perfect Strapless bra for $55, which goes up to a G cup and has patented technology built into each cup to hold the bust higher and prevents the bra from sliding down; a “multitasker” bra for $64 with patented Ultra-Lift cups that features a deep plunge front and is convertible to several strap stylings, and a “holiday season favorite” — an all-in-one shaper that provides firm body control and low-plunge bust support, retailing for $80.

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