By  on February 24, 1994

NEW YORK -- I. Appel Corp. is out to give to its sleepwear business a lift with an emphasis on updated looks and the addition of imported washable silks and rayons. All this comes with a shift in sourcing.The moves are expected to nearly double annual volume of the firm's two-year-old Appel Sleepwear division to $10 million this year, said Norman Katz, president of I. Appel.Until November, the sleepwear division featured traditional styling, domestic fabrics and a lot of 807 production in the Caribbean. To gain the new looks the firm wanted, it began sourcing its fabrications and piece work operations to China and Hong Kong in November and will expand its sourcing network in Mexico in March.I. Appel will have two manufacturing facilities in Mexico, a two-year-old plant in La Paz and one in Zacatacas that will open next month. The firm also uses its Mexican production for its primary businesses in daywear, loungewear and robes.The sleepwear division is headed by Marie Monske, who joined the firm in October as the division's vice president and general manager. Patricia Larkin continues as the division's national sales manager and Donna Richard as its designer.Monske said 60 percent of the sleepwear line currently is sourced overseas (excluding the Caribbean), compared with 20 percent a year ago.Monske -- who was an executive at May Merchandising Corp. for 25 years and was a general merchandise manager there since 1977 -- said she wants Appel Sleepwear to become known as a "key pajama resource" for major department stores."We still want to hold the traditional base of our sleepwear business, but we see the updated looks as the opportunity that will give us the plus business this year," she said.Monske said younger, contemporary-looking pajamas of woven cotton currently account for 50 percent of Appel Sleepwear business, while sleep gowns and sleep shirts account for 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively. A year ago, sleep gowns constituted 50 percent of the sleepwear line.In addition to contemporary long and short pajama sets, the updating of the line is reflected in leggings, crop tops, jumpsuits, capris, ruffled bloomers, short and ballet-length Empire sleep gowns and Henley tops that have a layered effect.While wholesale prices for fall have not been set, Monske said prices will start at around $10 for a cotton knit chemise or a polyester satin shirt and go to $35 for a lace-trimmed long wrap robe of polyester and nylon panne velvet. Long woven cotton pajama sets are $17.50, and short pajama sets wholesale from $11.25 to $13.Sandwashed silks and washable rayons will be introduced in May."Basic silks generally did not perform as well as expected at retail over the past year," Monske said, "but I think if the silks look special and are washable, sandwashed, printed or jacquarded, the classification will sell well."Both the rayons and silks will come in solids and combination floral and abstract prints. Colors in the silks will be mid-tones, and the rayons will feature earth tones.Brushed thermal cotton knits and polyester satins and charmeuse are other fabrics being added to the line, while rigid and stretch nylon laces continue.Main colors are ivory, blue, navy and burgundy.Monske further noted that young, updated bridal looks will be strong."I strongly believe that bridal looks are important, and we are trying to turn it into a basic, year-round business," she said.Embellished bridal items of polyester satin comprise teddys, short sleep gowns and long peignoir sets. Colors are white, black, peach and blush. Wholesale prices start at $19 for a teddy with matching wrap and go to $32.50 for a peignoir set.

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