By  on September 26, 2011

Innovation is the key to prosperity — that’s what the legwear industry is betting on.

Retailers, buyers and manufacturers will convene in Barcelona on Thursday and Friday to attend Invista’s second-annual conference to discuss the future of the legwear industry.

“There really isn’t a platform where the industry can connect,” said Christine Do Phan, brand communication director for Invista Europe. “It’s also a platform to release innovation.”

Last year, Invista, the maker of spandex and Lycra, unveiled a Lycra fusion fiber, which helps prevent runs in hosiery without sacrificing its stretch and flexibility. This year, the company is planning to introduce another innovation designed to drive legwear demand.

The thrust of the conference will be dedicated to how the turbulent economy has impacted the industry.

Several panels will address the global volatility, as well as the overall economic outlook in the next three to five years. Additionally, the conference will feature consumer and retail trends and a session on the importance of design in packaging as a driver of brand innovation.

“Just look at Europe — the packaging is rather traditional and conservative for legwear and hosiery,” Do Phan said. “There could be something interesting to learn.”

Learning is “key” to growth, according to Valerie Mackie, Invista’s marketing account director of North America, who said the conference will welcome 250 attendees from American brands like Spanx, Hanesbrands, Nordstrom and Thorlo.

Though she acknowledged her industry has felt pressure during the economic instability, Mackie said that, “there are certain areas where we’re seeing a surge.”

Industry sources have said that U.S. legwear sales at retail in 2010 were up 4.6 percent, according to Mackie. Tights grew 24 percent while sheer hosiery declined 4.7 percent. Socks grew at a rate of 4.7 percent.

Both performance and fashion socks are growing categories, as well as opaque hosiery. The latter is a credit to the popularity of the Duchess of Cambridge, who has a penchant for wearing opaques.

“This is impacting European business, and the industry as a whole can only applaud that,” Mackie said optimistically.

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