PARIS--In an international market that seems saturated with similar goods, exhibitors at the recent Salon International de la Lingerie (SIL) here went for new market share by both expanding the scope of their collections and better targeting their product. Approaches ranged from touches of fashion to full-blown glamour. Some 340 exhibitors representing about 500 brands showed at the SIL, an increase of about 9 percent compared to the 1995 session. Overall, attendance for the four-day show, which ended Jan. 30, dropped 4 percent to 16,650 visitors--buyers plus suppliers, mill people and others--against a year earlier. Meanwhile, the number of visitors from the U.S. rose about 24 percent to 282 visitors, while the number of visitors from Canada more than doubled to reach 138. Despite the drop in general visitation, the number of buyers rose 5.4 percent to 12,266. "It was a very unusual session," said SIL director Jehan Quettier, who noted that business was erratic on a day-to-day basis. "The first day, Saturday, was bad and we don't exactly understand why. But after that, the ambience improved. "Overall, we are satisfied, because it is not an easy climate here," he said. Quettier was referring in part to the depressed French economy where consumer confidence is at a low point. "The French retailers who did attend were looking to become more targeted with their offerings, and were eager to establish better ties with manufacturers," said Quettier. Femininity and sophistication were strong themes among resources, both high-end and more basic labels. Examples from Italy included Lastraioli Flora from Florence, which showed an exquisitely detailed romantic-looking peignoir set trimmed with delicate lace from Bischoff, a Swiss lace maker. Ritratti, a Milan-based foundations maker, highlighted a sexy bra and panty set in a mocha color trimmed in antique-looking gold embroidery. Layal, a London sleepwear firm, had solid champagne silk charmeuse daywear items, including tap pants and camisoles, trimmed in reembroidered rose organza ribbon. Guillermina Baeza, from Ripollet, Spain, and Ci-Dessous from Clichy, France, both featured baby-soft stretch velvets. Metallic prints or details were important at Divertimento, a daywear firm from Marseille, which featured paisley-print camisole slips of silk chiffon in gold or silver. Even the most basic foundation or lingerie makers went after very feminine looks. A key example from Germany was Medima, a thermal underwear resource from Maulberg, whose product line featured angora. "While our product is functional, it should be modern, and the wearer should be able to show it," said Claudia Lindeman, product manager at Medima. "We have added laces, which has broadened our price range, introduced wool and silk blends and silk products." Hanro of Switzerland broadened its line to include more seductive lingerie, like a white bra and panties with garters detailed in contrasting black lace and stitching. "We are doing a lot more bras using different kinds of molded cups and closures," said Niki Kalish Sachs, president and chief executive officer of Hanro USA. "We are doing much more fashion, and including more fashion in our warmwear, like the new fabrication blending silk and cashmere." Sachs noted that the number of pieces in the Hanro range has not greatly changed. Rather, the collection has been segmented into more specific and better targeted product categories, she said. Hanro of Switzerland broadened its line to include more seductive lingerie, like a white bra and panties with garters detailed in contrasting black lace and stitching. "We are doing a lot more bras using different kinds of molded cups and closures," said Niki Kalish Sachs, president and chief executive officer of Hanro USA. "We are doing much more fashion, and including more fashion in our warmwear, like the new fabrication blending silk and cashmere." Sachs noted that the number of pieces in the Hanro range has not greatly changed. Rather, the collection has been segmented into more specific and better targeted product categories, she said. Hanro, like other companies based in countries with strong currencies, has been forced to do more manufacturing outside of Switzerland. "The most important thing is for us to bring better prices to the market," Sachs said. The company also is taking lower margins when exporting to markets like the U.S., where the dollar is weak against the Swiss franc. "Even so, we have supported the brand with major advertising, and U.S. sales rose 10 percent in 1994 and 15 percent last year," she said, declining to disclose volume. Also reflecting the emphasis on market segmentation, New York-based Natori Co. was previewing its assortment of fall-holiday collections--Natori, Natori II, Josie and a new line of basic sleepwear items with a touch of fashion called Natori Classics, launched in New York in January. "This is a way to expand retail distribution," said Susan Borman, international sales manager, who noted a bestseller at SIL was a leopard collage-printed polyester charmeuse gown and padded cocoon-style robe lined in velvet, to retail at about $620. A newcomer to the SIL was the Valentino Intimo collection of foundations, which was launched by The Warnaco Group as a worldwide license at the Lyon, Mode City trade show last September. The license excludes Japan. The line has landed 16 sales points in the UK and this should grow to 60 by the end of the year; it also has gained some distribution in France and Spain, said Claudia Mundi, the European marketing manager for Warner's based in Nottingham, England. Warner's Europe, a unit of Warnaco, is handling the distribution of the line. Mundi said she feels that the Valentino intimate apparel will do well in Europe, especially the more luxurious, pricier items, because Europeans "are less price-sensitive" than Americans. As for SIL, she said, "The show has been very busy for us. We could have used more tables." A veteran U.S. exhibitor at SIL, Diane Semandi, the designer and owner of Jonquil, Santa Monica, Calif., also reported good action, even though there was a low turnout of Mideast buyers, who usually account for a good share of her bookings. She attributed their absence to the Ramadan Moslem holiday. "Generally, 40 percent of my business at this show is with Mideastern buyers," said Semandi. "This year, it was more like 10 percent." Semandi believes the appeal of Jonquil sleepwear in Europe is its look of glamour. "It's old Hollywood, what they envision from the vintage movies," she said.
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