NEW YORK — Luxe lingerie brand Eres has created a unit in Japan and expanded distribution to 10 in-store shops at Japanese department stores, said Irene Leroux, founder and designer of the 35-year-old Eres brand.

The Chanel-owned company is also looking to satisfy the appetite for the minimalist intimate apparel and swimwear brand by adding two classifications for spring: a new matte-luster satin and a featherlight blend of cotton and Lycra spandex.

The additions are meant to address the lifestyle needs of a growing international base of consumers, many of whom already are devotees of Eres’ trademark “feather taffeta” and Mouselline sheer, stretch polyamide and elastane fabrics, but want more options, said Leroux.

In addition to distribution in Japan and more than 200 specialty store doors worldwide, including Brazil, Russia, Lebanon, Belgium, Italy and Germany, there currently are eight freestanding Eres boutiques: four in Paris, one in Saint-Tropez and three in the U.S.: two in New York and one in Palm Beach, Fla.

Leroux would not give sales figures, but lingerie, which was introduced in fall 1998, is estimated to account for close to 50 percent of combined wholesale and retail sales, according to industry estimates. She did note, though, that total sales of intimates during the past year have increased 20 percent.

The collection was previewed in early September at the Lyon, Mode City trade show in Lyon, France, where a “good deal of business” was generated, said Leroux.

“Usually, the spring-summer collection is a continuation of the winter collection,” she said. “But this is the first time there has been so much newness, whether it is prints or fabrics, and that lends far more importance to the collection.”

Leroux, who recently unveiled her new intimate apparel and swimwear lines at the Chanel offices in New York at 15 East 57th Street, said a “tremendous amount of effort and time” was dedicated to finding the right mix of fashion and fabrics.

“We are using a very thin, highly specialized Pima cotton trimmed with lace from machines from Le Puy in the Haute Loire region of France,” she said. “These machines practically don’t exist anymore because they are extremely slow, but they are the closest to creating lace that looks handmade.”She noted that the lingerie will feature vintage prints for the first time from Mulhouse, a town near the Alsace-Lorraine region, which is known in Europe for its specialty prints.

“Mulhouse used to be the center in France for specialty prints,” she said. “You can buy a vintage print from the print museum and you can have the exclusive rights for two or three years.”

The signature lingerie print for spring-summer is a retro plumeria floral print of the 1920s in pale aqua and off-white, and pale peach and off-white combinations.

Leroux said her next project will be to “build a special fixture that will display all of the Eres products in a new, fashionable way.” The Eres boutiques already emulate an “intimate luxury” with unique soft, overhead lighting that has a romantic relief effect and signature Eres-logoed Lucite hangers.

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