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NEW YORK — The graduates of intimate apparel design at the Fashion Institute of Technology have high hopes for 2003.

With an eye on breaking into the intimates business at Victoria’s Secret, a capsule group of 14 new designers recently showed their concepts and styles to John Caleo, vice president of design at Victoria’s Secret. Caleo, who over the past five years has overseen the development of best-selling ideas at Victoria’s Secret such as Body by Victoria and Very Sexy foundations.

“The business is all segmented,” said Caleo, at an impromptu show-and-tell session at FIT’s intimate apparel design room. “Basically, because we produce differently than other foundations businesses and some sleepwear companies, we do four collections a year. For every 300 pieces we get into the stores, we probably do 1,200 styles every season.

“There are 80 people working in all departments of the business who have to be responsible for the one vision of the store,” said Caleo, noting that it is essential for the creative crew to work in a “very interactive environment” when working for a retailer. “When you work for a manufacturer, you can pretty much do what you want.”

However, Caleo said the creative effort is not exclusively in the design arena.

“We do Santoni [seamless knit] and we do sub-brands that fall into the body laboratory, such as lifestyle, which is almost like having a separate company,” continued Caleo. “There is a team of designers and merchants who manage the growth, a director, a designer, and an associate designer and a merchant, who help develop and drive the business.”

Currently, the number one selling item at Victoria’s is the Very Sexy Push-up Bra, he said.

One student asked if the panties business has a best-selling style.

“Our lace tanga is a huge business that no one imagined,” he said. “It started at three units per store to 120 units per store. It turned into a huge volume business no one suspected.”

Caleo noted that when it comes to fashion drawings, the process at Victoria’s Secret is split into two areas: senior and associate designers create and work directly with drawings, while junior designers work with technical renderings.“It’s been a really great year for us with some big promotions and assistants being named designers,” he added.

Regarding employment opportunities at Victoria’s Secret, Caleo said: “We’re wide open for new entries and we would love to have internships along the way. Not everybody is interested in lingerie, so we are interested in a capsule of the [design] population to intern with us and nourish them.”

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