NO SAG IN THE CRAZE FOR CLEAVAGE

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK--Cleavage mania is continuing to pump up foundation department figures, and both retailers and manufacturers are busy trying to think up ways to expand the push-up theme and keep the momentum going.
Ideas have not yet been clearly defined, but control shapewear items that lift and shape the derriere and all-in-one bodysuits with built-in push-up bras are considerations.
At the same time, the emphasis on structured apparel for fall is spotlighting corsets that nip the waist and plump the breasts. Spinoffs of the padded push-up rage are being spotted in everything from swimwear for resort to evening dresses for holiday. Corset looks in ready-to-wear were one of the big themes at the California Collections Preview featuring West Coast spring lines in Los Angeles a week ago.
The comfort issue, some innerwear executives say, may well be a main factor in keeping up demand for cleavage-enhancing bras. Soft, pliable, satin cups are one idea to enhance the comfort level, say executives. So far, most of the serious push-up numbers have cups that are done in rigid lace.
Meanwhile, retailers, in a spot survey, said the classification is hotter than ever, and stores can't keep enough of the cleavage-enhancing bras in stock. Media hype and publicity stunts continue to help build excitement.
Foundations makers say they are thrilled--but frustrated because they can't produce enough to meet the continuing demand.
The Super Uplift by Gossard, and Wonderbra by Sara Lee Foundations--both introduced last spring with a barrage of promotion--are the two foundations brands that helped ignite the bra rush. The Wonderbra had been produced for years by Gossard, a U.K. bra maker, under license from Sara Lee. When Sara Lee took back the license at the start of this year to introduce the bra into the U.S., Gossard introduced a push-up under the Super Uplift name.
Chuck Nesbit, senior vice president of marketing at Sara Lee Foundations, said, "Stores that are introducing Wonderbra with a media launch are having sell-throughs of 80 to 100 percent the first day."
Sales of the Super Up-Lift bra in the U.S. this year are expected to be three times the initial projection--between $15 million and $20 million at retail--said Mark Pilkington, group marketing director for Gossard.
Retailers noted that overall bra business over the past six months has seen sales gains of up to 20 percent, because of the ongoing craze for cleavage. Since spring, sell-throughs of cleavage-enhancing bras have doubled at major department and specialty stores, as well as at mass outlets.
Neiman Marcus has installed in-store videos at its 27 units explaining what a cleavage-enhancing bra is and what apparel to wear it with. Neiman's has also conducted cleavage-enhancing promotions at seven stores since this summer. The results have been "super," said Leslie Freytag, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel.
"The whole push-up classification has exploded our foundations business," said Freytag. "It's working so well because the clothes have become so fitted for fall. You need a real push-up bra to wear under the new, fitted jackets."
Freytag further noted that cleavage-enhancing bras were worn exclusively by models under all ready-to-wear shown in NM Edits, the retailer's early fall catalog.
Macy's East and Bloomingdale's have set up areas with signage for cleavage-enhancing bras. Macy's boutique is called One Little Push, and the area at Bloomingdale's is called Push-ups.
Robin Suvoy, administrator of foundations and sleepwear at Macy's East, stated: "We sold half a million dollars the first seven weeks of the fall season in the padded, push-up classification. We are exceeding our initial projection by 20 percent.
"Vendors just can't make enough to fulfill demand," said Suvoy.
Laurene Gandolfo, divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Bloomingdale's, said, "Business has doubled for us in the padded, push-up classification at all of our stores."
Gandolfo noted that the increases were generated by styles from seven brands: Super Up-Lift by Gossard; It Must Be Magic by Vanity Fair; Vogue Dessous; Lilyette; the licensed Oscar de la Renta name at Maidenform, and the licensed Natori and Josie labels at Bestform Foundations.
"We got one shot of Wonderbra this spring," said Gandolfo. "They cannot meet the demand and we can't get it in all of our doors at the same time. It's all being done in stages."
Other labels that cropped up for fall selling at stores around the country include La Lift by Lily of France from Bestform Foundations; the It Really Works bra by Maidenform; Sensuous Solutions by Olga, and The Push-up Bra by Wacoal.
J.C. Penney Co. introduced two private label styles in late spring--Dream Maker by Adonna and The Amazing Bra. Also jumping on the cleavage frenzy have been chains and mass merchandisers. The Her Secret bra by Vassarette has been a "major hit," according to Vanity Fair, the producer, and it has been selling at mass outlets such as Wal-Mart and Kmart since early summer.
Private label numbers at mass outlets include the Enchanting Uplift bra at Sears, Roebuck & Co., and a super push-up bra at Kmart under the Jaclyn Smith label.
A spokeswoman for Kmart said the cleavage-enhancing style has been selling "extremely well."
Push-up fever has even reached Anchorage, Alaska, where the Lamonts department store unit there flew in several thousand Wonderbras by helicopter in September. A Lamonts executive said Wonderbra business the first day accounted for 10 percent of total store business.
Paula McManus, foundations buyer at Jacobson Stores, Jackson, Mich., noted, "It's definitely attracted a younger consumer to the foundations department, and brought in new customers we never had before."
McManus singled out the Super Up-Lift by Gossard, Jezebel and Lilyette, as top-selling labels.
She noted, though, that comfort will be an important factor in continuing the trend.
"When you're pushing everything somewhere else--what is the comfort level? The bottom line is the product has to perform and provide better comfort," she said.
Among the vendors, Paul Mischinski, president and chief executive officer of Sara Lee Foundations, said, "The sell-throughs of Wonderbras has been short of phenomenal. We are selling every unit we make--it's unfortunate that we can't make enough of them.
"The uplifting trend has added a lot to retailers' business, and manufacturers who are putting it out are doing considerably well," said Mischinski, noting that the classification has become a "very big business" over the past six months.
Ben Kish, director of marketing for Wonderbra, noted, "In our wildest dreams we couldn't have anticipated the response to Wonderbra. The industry gets a trend like this once or twice in a lifetime."
Kish said three fashion looks that have an innerwear-outerwear flavor will be added to the Wonderbra lineup for spring 1995--a Monet-inspired watercolor floral print bra, a cheetah print bra and a solid denim blue style. The bras and coordinating panties can be worn on the beach, he said.
Kathy Reynolds, vice president of Lovable Co., Buford, Ga., noted that two cleavage-enhancing styles in the Rumours line are selling "very well"--a fiberfill number introduced to department stores in June that has removable cookies, retailing for $14.99, and a style under the Illusions label, which retails for $13.99 and has molded foam demi cups.
"It's been really tough keeping up with the demand for our It Must be Magic bra," said Karyl Chongas, vice president and general manager of the Vanity Fair brand at Vanity Fair Mills. "The trend is still very, very hot, and we are looking at different fabrics and different opportunities to go beyond bras."
A spinoff idea of the push-up bra in Jantzen swimwear was a hit for resort and is a harbinger of other such ideas to come, the executive noted. Both Vanity Fair and Jantzen are units of VF Corp.

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