By  on August 4, 2014

The CurveNY show, which began Sunday and runs through Friday at the Javits Center North, showcases a curated mix of lingerie and swimwear amidst a still-struggling retail landscape with many shifts afoot.

The total intimates market in the U.S. was $11.1 billion in the 12 months ending May 2014, down 3 percent from the previous year, according to market research firm The NPD Group Inc.

The total U.S. swimwear market was $4.4 billion for the same period, up 6 percent from the previous year.

The current edition of the trade show is still an intimates-heavy affair, with the category accounting for about 70 percent of the 350 brands exhibiting in New York versus 30 percent swim, according to Curve chief executive officer Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel.

Curve presents its West Coast version, CurveNV, Aug. 18 and 19 at The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas.

During the February round of both shows, the focus shifts slightly from swimwear to sleepwear, but Hurstel said Curve plans to push swim more next February because they receive so many requests from buyers for immediates and strong summer merchandise.

“Our two main goals are to help buyers discover new brands and place orders on site,” said Hurstel. The show caters to department stores as well as boutiques, but pays particular attention to the boutique buyer looking for high-end offerings.

RELATED STORY: Spring 2015 Intimates Trends >>

To that end, Curve will continue its New Accounts Program for the third season, wherein buyers who open new accounts at the show are entered into a raffle for tickets and airfare to attend the Mode City show in Paris.

CurveNY also features trend presentations (both spring and a preview of fall 2015), and an interactive “trend rack” wall at its entrance updated regularly by Maria Teresa Pedro of Promostyl (#trendrack). Additionally, the Eveden Fit School will hold bra-fitting seminars open to all attendees. The company is launching its Simply Swim cup size swimwear collection at the show. Finally, trade group Proexport will have an area highlighting innovations, sourcing and branding opportunities in the Colombian market.

CurveNV will launch the 20/40 program, for which 20 buying representatives from top resorts and spas representing between 300 and 350 properties have been invited to present a panel talk to 40 top brands detailing their properties and what their clients are looking to buy.

“It’s a very tailor-made, edited program to introduce these buyers to swim and lingerie and loungewear brands,” said Hurstel. “It’s a way to highlight the best brands of the show that can fit in a resort boutique. The [buyers] don’t know everything they can do with what we have at Curve, and we want them to discover the best of it and interact with the brands. The brands may not understand or know those buyers; it is a different mind-set, buying schedule and expectations.”

In other market news, Wacoal, a wholly owned subsidiary of Japan-based Wacoal Holdings Corp., recently acquired Eveden and has undergone a structural change that resulted in classifying its former Wacoal Eveden Ltd. group as Wacoal Europe. Alongside Wacoal America, the company will be able to enhance its Western Hemisphere business (which includes Australia).

At both Curve editions, Wacoal will also introduce a premium European-designed collection with bras retailing from $74 to $88 within its Wacoal America offering, which currently caps off at $72. Tracy Lewis, ceo of Wacoal Europe Ltd., described it as “a uniquely styled collection, which merges beautifully with the existing market-leading Wacoal brand created in America.”

“[The premium collection] gives us a greater range of choice than we could ever offer before,” said Robert Vitale, president and co-ceo of Wacoal America Inc. “It’s been difficult to compete with the European brands because we really only had the [classic] American product. We will now have more product on the better end for America and that will give our stores here with more exclusive distribution an edge, and develop more business in Europe.”

Vitale said the changes come at a challenging time for the industry: “In general, business has been very difficult; department store business overall is flat or down and the Internet piece of it is flat or above. We are being aggressive by layering on new business, which is what it takes to gain market share.”

RELATED STORY: Intimates — Ones to Watch >>

At Calvin Klein Underwear, fit is king, and the brand continues to capitalize on its Perfectly Fit range, which leverages memory technology and launched in stores this month.

“We are extending the line for spring to include solutions — racer back, multiway — and a bright, vibrant color palette that allows our consumer to come back for her favorite bra in a variety of options,” said Cheryl Abel-Hodges, president of Calvin Klein Underwear.

CurveNY and CurveNV exhibitor Samantha Chang is feeling positive for this season. “The market has been steadier and more stable. We are a luxury brand. Our customer has recovered quite well from recession and is looking for different and cool, so we broadened our collection to continue growth with existing customers and expand our base,” she said.

For Chang, black silk and lace classic sets are still selling, so she has added a bralette, thong and tap pants to the mix. Her signature whimsical prints, which have been bold in past seasons, are now more “charming and sophisticated.” And she continues to follow the athletic-inspired trend with a cotton-rib bra trimmed with lace that wholesales for $24. Chang’s retail range for bras is $48 up to $135.

At New York-based Clo Intimo, which recently moved its production to Colombia, designer Claudia Ochoa, a Colombia native, will show nine new groups at CurveNY.

“Our stores have created a repeat business with us, where we focus on fit and quality and add newness by changing colors or hand-dyed details. We try to be consistent with our repeat customers but I add two or three totally new groups to test new ideas each season,” she said.

Those three groups veer more toward loungewear — shorts or camisoles or capris — where Ochoa focuses on South American color and flair, and fabrics like non-wrinkle rayon or organza — not the usual knits. Clo Intimo wholesale prices are $8 to $18 for panties, $18 to $26 for bras, and up to $56 for chemises and robes.

At French brand Chantelle, marketing director Tiffany Berrier sees the big trend as “lightness” — physically, with different laces or embroideries as light and flat on the body as possible, and visually, with the illusion of less bra on the body.

“We do a lot of bigger cup sizes and for those women it’s difficult to find bras not too matronly and opaque-looking. We offer them a similar aesthetic and stay consistent between a B and H cup,” she said. “Technically it’s a challenge to find fabrics that can do that support and uplift.”

Another trend for the brand is offering a wider range of skin tones in its basic “nude” styles. Fashion colors for spring include vibrant pastels like citrus yellow or lagoon blue and saturated shades like hot pink, turquoise or orchid. Chantelle retails from $68 to $115 with a core price point of $74 to $78.

At Lou Paris (which is now owned by Fruit of the Loom), U.S. sales director Krista Tonra also said the leading fashion trend was sheer, combined with a rich saturated palette inspired by Indian saris. The result are some nude mesh embroidered and embellished bras that look as though vibrant flowers are blooming on bare skin. Lou Paris bras wholesale from $31 to $56, with a retail concentration from $69 to $99.

Julie France, one of the Eurotard brands, is among several shapewear companies that exhibit at both Curve shows. The brand is launching its new Le’ger collection this month, which offers ultra-firm support with extra-light, softer and finer microfiber yarns and graduated compression — no panels — that allow for flexibility and comfort.

The range includes high-waisted boyshorts with a loop-and-strap system to hold the boyshorts to the wearer’s bra so it doesn’t fall when she sits down ($56 to $65 retail), and bottoms with wide waistbands to control the midsection ($45 to $51 retail).

Curve also showcases niche brands among the bigger players in the luxury market. Los Angeles-based The Little Bra Co. has expanded on the five styles of its launch collection in 2007.

“When I started the company, I wanted to provide more fashion and color, but this season is about soft and natural color inspired by ballet pink, nude, black and ivory,” said founder Emily Lau.

She has taken her most popular bra styles and transformed one into a baby-doll slip, and introduced a wireless style. Bras wholesale from $28 to $32 and underwear from $13 to $15.

“I have realized that if you stock it, they will come,” Lau said. “When the pick up my line, stores realize they have a whole new following. There were just never enough good bras available to the small-cup-size woman before.”

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