By  on December 20, 2000

NEW YORK -- Holiday shoppers aren't about to let freezing temperatures deter them from buying bikinis and translucent bras at Eres's new Madison Avenue store.

Sales at the new Manhattan location are exceeding those at its flagship on La Madeline in Paris, according to Carole Fenon, boutique manager. Should the company sell as many $200 swimsuits and $150 bras as expected in the New York store, annual sales should be well above $500,000, she added.

Based in Paris and owned by Chanel, Eres specializes in luxury swimwear and lingerie. The company is more than pleased with how women have taken to the brand Stateside.

Reached in her office in Paris on Tuesday, designer Irene Leroux, who flew to New York for the Thanksgiving weekend opening, said American women surprised her by their interest in see-through and sophisticated styles, especially in intimate apparel.

"Frankly, I was quite pleased and surprised by the reaction in this store. I had a funny idea about American women not wanting to have see-through lingerie. I was surprised how up-to-date they were," she said. "They were asking for elegant, sexy and sophisticated styles even in C and D cups."

The company, which has four stores in Paris, also opened a Palm Beach, Fla., store late last month. Eres is considering opening a store in Beverly Hills next year.

Eres executives expected swimwear to account for 75 percent of total sales in the U.S. stores, but interest in lingerie has been so strong that the category's sales comprise half of each store's sales. After five days of selling, the New York store had to reorder 300 units of lingerie and has since placed three other reorders, Fenon said.

Clearly, shoppers aren't shying away from the retail prices, which range from $150 to $170 for bras, and $70 to $85 for panties. Sheer looks and simple items with sophisticated finishes in light fabrics have been the most important offerings in the 80-piece line in the Madison Avenue store, Leroux said.

Stark and minimalistic, the store's pale wood and clean interior is designed to play up the product -- most of which is stored away in drawers behind a sand-colored credenza. Instead of blanketing the store with merchandise, select styles are displayed to give the 1,000-square-foot space an airy feel. The eggshell-colored walls are free from images, with the exception of one wall with two color shots of models wearing the product, and another wall with the carved backlight Eres logo.Located at 621 Madison Avenue between East 58th and 59th Streets, Eres executives were attracted by the bustling shopping area, Fenon said.

"Our priority was to find a good location in a very busy area," Fenon said.

Having produced swimwear since 1968, Eres now offers hundreds of styles. One-piece swimsuits retail from $160 to $285. To accommodate women of all sizes, styles are offered up to size 16 and two-piece swimsuits are sold as separates.

Bikinis retail at $90 for bottoms and go to $110 for tops. Pareos, skirts, one-shoulder top, pants, blouses and other coverups are also offered.

Swimsuits with pinking -- the zigzag finish produced by pinking sheers -- are popular with New York shoppers, with a plunging V-neck tank and a triangle-top bikini being key looks.

"I always dreamed of just cutting bathing suits and not sewing them," said Leroux. "Now, we have this laser technology to do the pinking."

Another hot two-piece look is a halter-neck triangle top paired with boy-leg shorts. In terms of color, black continues to be strong, turquoise and pink are also gaining importance. A leafy print is expected to be a favorite for resort, Fenon said.

Several women plan to use their swimwear as eveningwear or sportswear, said Paula Duchene, assistant manager. That was the case with the woman who made the store's first purchase. When Duchene offered her a plastic bag for her new black tank, the woman said she planned to wear it under a sheer black blouse and didn't realize it was a swimsuit.

Most shoppers purchase two swimsuits and many opt for mesh or viscose coverups, Fenon said. Merchandising the coverups near the store's five dressing rooms helps make them an easy add-on sale, she added.

Referring to Eres's hundreds of swimwear options and extensive sizing, Fenon said, "For each woman, we can propose a solution."

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