NEW YORK — An appetite for what consumers want, not what they need, is expected to set the pace of the spring 2004 market.
An emphasis on fashion and anything with a special twist will be the focus this week at Madison Avenue showrooms and two trade shows: Lingerie Americas, which will be staged at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Pavilion & Altman Building, and the Intima America fair at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
Following several seasons of retailers holding off on order taking until the last minute, vendors generally said they feel bullish about spring business, primarily because of a reserve of open-to-buy dollars. Another positive sign is the expected turnout of senior retail management looking to support key lingerie initiatives and programs with established brands and new talent, vendors noted.
Tom Wyatt, president of the Warnaco Intimate Apparel Group, said new fashion introductions by Lejaby, the French premium foundations brand, will be important for spring.
New entries will include a contemporary group of bras and coordinating panties and a sleep slip of Liberty floral printed mesh, a recolored version of an embellished bra and panty group called Gypsy done in chocolate for fall and strawberry for spring, and an embellished eyelet bra and matching low-rise panty in white and powder blue called Cotton Anniversary.
“It’s amazing how our designer, Colette, put together the Cotton Anniversary collection,” said Wyatt. “She gleaned inspiration from a collection of antique laces and embroideries and translated it into this unique eyelet look.”
Wyatt noted that Warnaco plans to unveil a secondary line in November called Lejaby Rose. Deliveries are slated for spring.
“It will stay true to its French heritage,” he said. “Our goal is to create a Parisian-type brand for better specialty and department stores to differentiate themselves from other brands that are more widely distributed. Distribution will be select, about 600 doors.”
Josie Natori, president and chief executive officer of Natori Co., said the new Natori Black Label bras and coordinating panties will be introduced this week.
“For the past 10 years, 90 percent of the Natori bras were tailored, clean looks. Now, we will be showing signature bras that have the look of the Natori collections,” said Natori, noting that special effects will include subtle Natori crest logos on stretch bra straps.John Bowman, president of Dana-Co, maker of the licensed Natori foundations, said, “We’ll be adding new seamless and contour styles, but there certainly are customers out there who want beautiful embroideries and that’s what the Natori name stands for.”
Four bra and panty groups by Natori Black Label will include: Obsession, a lace group featuring a seamless, padded demi-cup bra and an unlined underwire style with a string hipster and a boy-cut pant; Animal Instinct, an embroidered animal-print mesh group consisting of a contour and unlined underwire bra with a thong and boy-cut pant; Zen, a sleek microfiber group of contour and full-figure bras with a thong, boy-cut pants and high-cut briefs, and Natorious, the “Natori signature look,” which highlights microfiber contour and full-figure bras and matching bottoms with Asian rose embroidery on a contrasting ground.
Tobie Garfinkle, senior vice president of merchandising for the new licensed line of foundations bearing the Liz Claiborne name at Chelsea Design Group LLC, a part of Gelmart Licensing LLC, said, “We’ve already previewed with May Co. and Federated, and everybody is very pleased that the Liz name is coming back in bras. We’ve stayed true to the Liz customer and we’ve also introduced new ideas and styling with more feminine looks that have satin trims and lace embellishments. We’re hopeful that the power of the Liz name will stimulate business at a time when business at stores is so tough.”
Garfinkle added that innovations will include a proprietary microfiber blend that is called Soft Touch and an airy “spacer fabric, a super lightweight fabric that feels like foam and is made all at once with a fiber that has loft to it. It has all of the properties of a foam bra, it’s breathable and it does not yellow.”
Victor Lee, president of NAP Inc., said new fabrics will be showcased in several brands: a soft, lightweight “Hollywood” velour of cotton in the Ann Lewin line of sleepwear and robes, a soft “Newport” terry of cotton and Modal in the licensed Bill Blass Intimates collection of sleepwear and at-homewear, a washed blend of cotton and linen in the licensed line of Dockers sleepwear and daywear, and a double-face fabric in the licensed Crabtree & Evelyn sleepwear collection constructed of cotton loop terry on the inside and waffle-pattern woven cotton on the outside.“The Princesse Tam Tam and Argentovivo collections will feature lots of fun colors in pastels and brights,” said Lee.
Regarding the mood of the market, Lee said, “We are quite optimistic and in addition to spring, we anticipate being able to fill in year-end deliveries to fill the gaps in retailers’ assortments.”
Carole Hochman, ceo and design director of Carole Hochman Designs, said, “I think it will be a fabulous turnout and a lot of upper management is coming in. They’re really tuned into making positive changes. I also think there’s definitely a push for elegance and femininity right now. Retailers will be looking for product that stands out. I’m not playing down casual, everybody has that look. I think it’s all about casual elegance. Retailers are looking for special product and different trends, ideas that will make customers buy.”
Cindy Kelly, president of Hanro USA, said reaction has been positive to a lifestyle collection of dual-purpose at-homewear called Style de Vie. Because of that, the line of mercerized cottons and circular knits has been extended for spring with pieces that crossover as daywear items or as active-inspired separates. Top ideas include contemporary tie-front fitted cardigans and low-rise drawstring pants, sporty Henley tops, and softly tailored, button-front sleep shirts with Modal-blend treatments on cuffs and collars.
Specialty fabric blends include Caresse, an ultrasoft melding of cotton and cellulose seaweed, a proprietary microfiber called Total Feeling that is incorporated on Santoni-made seamless garments, blends of rib-pattern wool and silk, and a Tactel and Lycra spandex application that has a double-face effect with soft cotton against the skin and microfiber on the exterior.
“My objective is to get two seasons shown in one market,” Kelly said.
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