LOS ANGELES--Innerwear as outerwear took the spotlight at the Intimate Apparel Show last week at the California Mart. The five-day event, held simultaneously with the mart's holiday and resort market, ran through Tuesday. The innerwear-outerwear trend got a lot of attention among the 121 lines on exhibit in temporary and permanent showrooms; bodysuits and baby-doll and slip dresses were among the items getting a play. The trend was further promoted by mart management at a lunchtime seminar that featured sportswear looks from about 40 innerwear resources and attracted about 50 buyers. Even though the innerwear-outerwear push has been going on for a number of seasons, the specialty store retailers at the market appeared enthusiastic. "They've been talking about innerwear as outerwear for over a year now, but this season it's big," said Susan Wilson, buyer for Underthings & Other Delights, Boulder, Colo. "You even see innerwear pieces in ready-to-wear showrooms." Wilson, looking particularly for glitter and sexy silhouettes for holiday with a budget up 10 percent over last year, was typical of the upbeat spirit prevailing at the innerwear market. Overall attendance at the resort and holiday event was reported by mart management down about 10 percent from a year ago--a reflection of the slow California economy. However, innerwear showrooms carrying major labels such as Christian Dior, Donna Karan Intimates and Wacoal saw a constant flow of buyer traffic. While separate attendance figures were not tallied for the innerwear segment, exhibitors noted that this third edition of the semi-annual innerwear show--held each January and August--seemed busier than previous ones. Wacoal sales representative Cindy Freeman noted, for example, that opening-day action was "nonstop." 'We couldn't even break for lunch because we were overwhelmed with so many walk-ins. I opened a lot of new accounts," she said. Christian Dior sales representative Stacey Lazar also reported seeing a lot of new faces at this market. While reviewing the trends, retailers made it clear they were also concerned about quality and comfort as they talked about their buys from individual resources. Carol Gill, owner of Undercovers in Glendora, Calif., pointed out: "Carole Hochman Sleepwear uses quality trims that make the customer feel her dollar is going far. "Four-button plackets make their pieces look like a lot is going into it," she noted. Shopping for holiday deliveries, Gill's open-to-buy was up 25 percent from a year ago, when she first opened her store. "I'm not in a mall so I have to make an effort to find all kinds of merchandise--from novel to sophisticated goods," she said. "But what's most important to my customers is quality at a fair price." Joella Cowan, owner of Malibu Style Dressy Drawers Lingerie in Malibu, Calif., shopped for brand-name items at $15 to $125 wholesale. "It's the quality and the names that sell," she said. "Donna Karan, Wacoal, Christian Dior all do well. They are easy sales because they provide fit and comfort. Lejaby, Le Mystere and Huit are French sources with these features. "Hanky Panky sells daily because of its soft cotton and lace," she continued. "My customers are contemporary and like cottons and soft cotton lace." Susan Sunkin, owner of Livingstone's of Beverly Hills, in Beverly Hills, Calif., and buyer Gloria Drecklin said that natural colors and fibers were important to them. "We're a very pastel store," Sunkin said. "We like sages, pinks and peaches, especially in floral prints, and 100 percent cotton pieces. We're also seeing a lot of textured fabrics, including pointelle and ribbing." Sunkin and Drecklin were especially pleased with Carole Hochman and Dior because of the knit T-shirts in the lines. They noted these lines also have a cachet with their customers. They were also excited about Lucie Ann, a loungewear and lingerie company where designer David Brown is now on hand. Apart from such lines, the two said they had trouble finding merchandise suitable for their mature clientele. "I think the industry is oriented toward younger people," Sunkin said. "On top of that, many major New York manufacturers aren't coming to L.A., which makes it hard for small stores like ours. It puts us at a disadvantage." In contrast, Susan Wilson, of Underthings & Other Delights in Boulder, said she found the market had a lot to offer. Shopping for holiday pieces at $20 to $40 wholesale, she was especially pleased with Deena Inc.'s new day-into-evening lingerie division, Toujours. "The new line is very sexy and not at all like Deena, which is usually more conservative," she said. "This line has glitter and sequins that's new for them." Kathy Abarr, owner of Bare Essentials, Jackson, Wyo., and buyer Linda Weydeveld shopped for early spring goods in the $20 to $80 wholesale range. "For Body and Soul was the most fun line we found," Abarr said. "They're new out of L.A. and they're showing pieces in soft cream lace trimmed with cream, peach and taupe ribbon. They have bodysuits, catsuits and camisoles." Weydeveld was also impressed by the French resource Huit because its plaid cotton bustier and boxer sets can be worn as outerwear. For a similar reason, she liked Hamilton Kennedy's silk broadcloth loungewear sets and ordered them in cream and black. Abarr was especially taken with P.J. Flanagan sleepwear. "The pieces have an old-fashioned, nostalgic flavor to them that is truly feminine. They are handpainted in a white, pink or ivory floral pattern on chiffon or charmeuse," she said. As she held up a nightgown and cover set, she noted that the cover could be worn as outerwear too.
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