NEW YORK--Neon brights, updated prints and active looks were the top performers at last week's bodywear market. While vendors continued to show holiday goods, most took the opportunity to preview ideas for spring lines, which will be shown in November. Traffic was thinner this year, particularly because many major stores had already ordered merchandise for fourth-quarter selling. Some attributed the lighter turnout to continuing consolidation at retail. But manufacturers remain bullish about bodywear business in the stores and anticipate gains in their holiday bookings of up to 20 percent over a year ago. They base the increase on the demand for key crossover items such as leggings, crop tops and a broad range of coverups. Directional ideas included: Fleece. Lace-up effects. Metallic shine Lots of crop tops that show off the midriff. Any coverup with a hood. Softly layered items such as mesh boxers worn over bike shorts. Active sport looks that resemble sweater dressing. Textured treatments such as ribbed nylon and Lycra spandex, and cotton and Lycra crepe. Continuation of heather tones. Norm Zwail, president of Weekend Exercise Co., San Diego, said a group of active sport looks in fleece by Marika is booking briskly. "Several years ago, it was hard enough to get retailers to buy fleece for fall. Now they all want it." Zwail said he expects holiday bookings to be 20 percent ahead of last year in the Marika line, primarily because of the interest in fleece and active looks. "We previewed spring and zeroed in on active sport looks like pants, vests, shorts and shirts. The retailers who had invested in these looks last year were coming back for more," he said. Regarding retail turnout during market week, Zwail noted, "A lot of stores don't come in anymore, and most of our accounts have already ordered goods for the balance of the year." In July, Weekend Exercise showed its holiday line to retailers at its showroom here, and through a traveling sales staff. "The traffic has changed a lot, and it reflects what's going on at retail and in other industries," said Alan Shapiro, vice president of marketing at Jacques Moret. "But bodywear business at stores has been very strong. "The bodywear departments have picked up on a lot of sportswear trends, especially in cotton and Lycra," said Shapiro. Shapiro noted the company expects to be 10 to 15 percent ahead in holiday bookings over a year ago. He attributed the increase to a growing demand for active sport separates. "Retailers were definitely looking for items that have an athletic look," he said, noting that a new line of bodywear and activewear under the licensed Nautilus label was well received. Active styles in SPA 810, a moderate line of bodywear introduced in May, also got good reaction, he said. Karen Grasemann, designer of bodywear at Jacques Moret, said one print in particular was a hit--a bandanna print in cornflower blue, rose and sage in the Jacques Moret line. Maureen Broughton, vice president of Danskin Inc., said reaction to a new group in acrylic called Sweater Sweats was "excellent." "We are trying to introduce a new category of outerwear for spring, by taking sweater fabrics and putting them into athletic-looking sweater silhouettes," said Broughton. Styles include a long-sleeved V-neck sweater, a crop top, a full-length unitard with a camisole top, and two bottoms--a bike short and a footless legging. Colors are ice pastels. Wholesale prices start at $10 for a crop top and go to $25 for a unitard. Broughton said inspiration for the line was gleaned from Danskin's archives of dancewear, which contains a lot of photographs of ballerinas warming up. "The photos show how the ballerinas wear their warmup sweaters--either knotted across the chest, falling off the shoulders or wrapped around the waist," said Broughton. Kerry Kligerman, vice president and national sales manager at Gilda Marx Inc., Los Angeles, said, "There was real optimism in the market, and I think a new palette of chemical brights set the tone." Bold brights, along with the addition of "a lot more activewear looks," are expected to increase early spring bookings by 20 percent, he said. The top group in the active classification by Gilda Marx is a garment dye cotton group which features three T-shirt tops and two shorts. Each item wholesales for $6.40. Kligerman said the hottest new item by Gilda Marx was a thong-back leotard that has zip-front detail and a sewn-in sport bra. The leotard of polyester, cotton and Lycra is available in solid black, and the bras come in six neon shades. It wholesales for $15. Kligerman noted that the number-one reorder item is a pair of footless leggings of cotton, polyester and cotton, which wholesales for $12. "Retailers want to keep expanding the whole concept of streetwear looks, and they are starting to have success with leggings again," he said. At Attitudes in Dressing Inc., Scully Campana, vice president of sales, said metallic shine got good reaction, along with cotton and Lycra crepe fabric, which was used in the BodyWrappers line for the first time. The metallics in Antron nylon and Lycra comes in three groups: an allover woven satin finish, a satin colorblock group and satin stripes. Wholesale prices start at $6.75 for boxers and go to $18.75 for jackets. Colors are copper, silver and black. The cotton and Lycra crepe group is in indigo and wholesales from $11 for a bra top to $16.75 for footless leggings. The group coordinates with activewear pieces, in brushed fleece and cotton jersey, which wholesale from $11 for boxers to $17.75 for a short romper with pockets. Talbert Yilmaz, president of Eurotard, Atlanta, said lace-up HotPants and crop tops of cotton and Lycra are his hottest booking items. Both items wholesale for $15. Another key item is a pair of black nylon mesh shorts, which wholesales for $15, said Yilmaz. He said retailers thought it was a good merchandising tool, because consumers can wear the mesh shorts over HotPants and bike shorts. Also getting strong response is a group of streetwear looks done in a blend of Polartec polyester and Lycra. "The fabric has a great crossover appeal, and it's been a major success with us for the past six months," said Yilmaz. Doug Levine, president of Crunch Gear, said one of the company's top ideas was an rtw-looking print that he described as"a cross between a leopard print and a camouflage print." A colorblock group of olive and orange also was a hit, he said. "Crop tops with hoods and anything that bared the stomach was strong," said Levine. He added that a bodywear group that had a look of underwear with elastic waistbands was also well received. The waistbands feature the Crunch logo.
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