European department store executives have found an abundant autumnal harvest from a dormant segment of the fashion field. Hosiery is back in vogue and many stores are reporting strong sell-through for fall. Here, the second of a series looking at European merchants merchandise their legwear.


BERLIN — Fashion is on the move at KaDeWe’s hosiery department this fall, with color, pattern and stripes of all sorts animating sales of tights, socks, over-the-knees, legwarmers and handwarmers.

Located on the main floor, the 6,250-square-foot space houses women’s and men’s hosiery, and a large Wolford in-store shop.

While sheer hosiery has traditionally dominated the women’s assortment, novelty is featured strongly on both the decorative displays and the racks this season, said Jürgen Wilmer, buyer and divisional merchandise manager.

“Fashion has caught on,” Wilmer said, adding the more fashion-oriented items, like graphically patterned tights, “are already performing quite well.”

Reflecting KaDeWe’s overall merchandising strategy, brands play a key role in its hosiery business. “The whole department is built according to brands,” Wilmer said.

Twenty-eight names are included in the current assortment, from German stalwarts, such as Kunert, Elbeo, Ergee, Hudson and Falke, to Oroblu, José Eisenberg, Pierre Mantoux, La Perla, Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, Burlington, Doré Doré, Tommy Hilfiger, Mexx, Esprit and Cronert. There is also a KaDeWe private label sheer hosiery line.

With the exception of Falke, which has its own full-range women’s in-store shop, the department is largely arranged according to classification rather than brand. Tights and sheers are placed in one area, and socks in another. This season, there is also a separate wall for wool tights, a large corner for patterned pantyhose and areas for over-the-knees and legwarmers.

KaDeWe is looking forward to an upswing in hosiery sales for fall. “Customers are in the store and they’re buying,” Wilmer said.

Though he noted an industry trend toward lower prices, he said price is not a factor for special items.

“It’s like a car,” he noted. “If the customer loves it and feels they have to have it, they’ll pay the price.”— Melissa Drier

MILAN — The hosiery department of La Rinascente Duomo, the city’s main department store a few steps away from Milan’s cathedral, is located between the accessories and cosmetics areas on the ground floor of the eight-story building.

Measuring about 756 square feet, it features 10 hosiery brands tidily arranged on cream-colored shelves shaped as boxes. Personal sales staff in charge of each brand discreetly approach customers and offer assistance.

“Wolford, La Perla and Philippe Matignon are the most successful lines also because these companies invest heftily on their image and marketing,” said a spokeswoman for La Rinascente.

Other best-selling lines include Pierre Mantoux, SiSi, Oroblu, Levante, LeBourget and Gallo. Unlike the other brands, Wolford’s hosiery is displayed on the mezzanine floor with the company’s innerwear, due to space issues.

The spokeswoman said sales are picking up after a difficult five years.

“Women had stopped buying hosiery for years because that was what fashion dictated,” she said. “The latest runway shows by Giorgio Armani, Alberta Ferretti, Dolce & Gabbana, Emilio Pucci and Moschino helped boost sales with these designers showing colorful hosiery and ankle socks.”

She added the store has already sold 40 percent of the fall La Perla and Wolford collection in the first two months of the season.

— Chiara Hughes

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