VENDORS FOCUS ON TEXTURE, COLOR AT HOLIDAY MARKET

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK--Lingerie treatments, solid colors and lots of texture were among the highlights of the holiday bodywear market.
Key items continue to be padded, push-up bra tops, crop tops and coordinating bike shorts, and capris and leggings. The demand for coverups--from T-shirts and a variety of jackets ranging from anoraks to vests--also are expected to be ongoing hits, say vendors.
Growing popularity of certain activities--namely, in-line skating and social dancing--are also getting credit for building retail sales in stretch apparel.
Some key vendors generally say they are focusing more on the promotional aspects of their businesses for fall and holiday, on ideas such as advertising, aerobics events, and signage and display to pull in more customer traffic at stores.
Orders for holiday are expected to be completed by mid-July, and vendors note that department stores are generally just now finalizing fall orders from the March market. One major customer that's late in finalizing orders is Federated/Macy, because of the recent merger.
Citing top attractions, Mary Ann Domuracki, president of Danskin, said, "We had a beautiful reception to our Supplex and Lycra spandex groups. A rich color story, mostly in midtone pinks, was very well received in Supplex, as well as a cotton fleece program."
She attributed the ongoing success of Supplex and Lycra blends to a garment-dye process, which "gives the Supplex a fluffier, softer hand. It also takes color extremely well."
The big silhouettes at Danskin, she said, included racer-back bra tops with seamed cups and "baby shorts" cut like HotPants; also important were lingerie treatments such as lace-up effects and bustier tops.
Domuracki further noted that Danskin will center all of its advertising print and promotion campaign around the firm's new spokeswoman, Nadia Comaneci, the Olympic medal gymnast.
"Nadia will represent an Olympic theme," she said, noting that a spring catalog for the trade in July will be among the first vehicles.
Gary Dembart, president and chief executive officer of the Sara Lee Bodywear Group, a part of the Personal Products division of Sara Lee Corp., said, "We've had an incredible reaction to our shaper bodywear, and to our uplift sports tops."
Dembart said uplift tops will be done in two additional fabrics for holiday--a blend of ribbed cotton and nylon, and nylon and Lycra that has a high shine. The basic uplift tops were introduced for fall in cotton and Lycra.
"We are expanding the uplift program to include fashion prints and colorblock looks in the Hanes Her Way and Body Force lines," he said.
Dembart added there "still is lots of attention on coverups--but only if they are value-priced."
Peter Marrone, manager of merchandising and design for the Capezio brand at Ballet Makers Inc., noted two dancewear groups received "excellent reaction": a group of leotards, skirts and coverups done in textured blends of cotton and Lycra in jersey and pique; and a group of body warmers and skirts of iridescent polyester and semisheer bicolor polyester jacquard. Coordinating jackets are of woven crinkle rayon crepe.
Colors for both groups are black, cinnabar and smoky blue.
"Black always had taken the majority of the business, but the three colors are being equally ordered," said Marrone. "It's very unusual, and it's indicative that people want color."
Marrone noted that he will be introducing an extra group in June called "Just Dancing." It will be done in "distressed rayon and Lycra blends that looks like pannA velvet." Colors are black and silver. It will be aimed at professional dancers and the general public.
"People are doing a lot more social dancing from ballroom to disco," he said.
"We anticipate sales increases of about 15 percent over the same period a year ago," said Mindy Solkin, marketing director at At Attitudes In Dressing, maker of BodyWrappers bodywear.
Solkin attributed the expected sales gain to the burgeoning of in-line skating.
"Lots of people are wearing bodywear for in-line skating, and it's becoming the fastest growing sport in America," she said. Key items are a variety of sports bra and bra tops, bike shorts and T-shirts, she said.
Two groups have been hits for holiday at BodyWrappers--a graphic printed group with gold accents called Hieroglyphics in marine blue, midnight blue and magenta, and Arctic Wave, a group of sherpa coverups and bodywear of rib-pattern nylon and Lycra. Colors are gray heather, natural and black.
She added that key items for fall and holiday are mock turtleneck bra tops and leotards.
Susan Fixell, designer of bodywear under the Susan Fixell label at Activewear Corp. of America, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said, "We've had very good reaction to anything twisted, ribbed and fabrics that feel good like Tactel and Lycra blends."
Colorblocking has been "terrific," and top-booking color combinations are solid black with brights, and black with neutrals, she said.
Special effects such as drop-needle stitching, zippers and trims also have been important, said Fixell.
At Jacques Moret, a spokeswoman said cotton french terry has been "very important" in basic bra tops, bike shorts, leggings, loose-fitting shorts and a variety of coverups.
"Biketards are making a comeback," she said.
Alan Shapiro, vice president of marketing at the Moret firm, noted that "Focus is the key to business today."
"It's all about a focus of what's selling at stores right now and maximizing it with the right kind of signage, merchandising and advertising," said Shapiro.

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