Fashion, Comfort Keys to Spring

NEW YORK — Retailers and vendors didn’t walk away from the spring market disappointed.<br><br>The strengths presented at Madison Avenue showrooms, as well as two trade shows — the Intimate Apparel Salon and Lingerie Americas —...

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NEW YORK — Retailers and vendors didn’t walk away from the spring market disappointed.

This story first appeared in the August 26, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The strengths presented at Madison Avenue showrooms, as well as two trade shows — the Intimate Apparel Salon and Lingerie Americas — were anchored in fashion ideas.

Retailers were focused on special-looking merchandise, whether it was a different spin on a cami and matching thong, expanded assortments of daywear items that coordinate with foundations or sleepwear collections, or at-homewear pieces such as softly tailored pajamas in feel-good fabrics that satisfy the growing demand for enhanced comfort.

Top-booking ideas included:

l An array of fashion colors, ranging from solid cosmetic pales and midtone brights to multicolored combinations.

l A big return to lace, especially cross-dyed goods.

l Textured treatments, including engineered prints and plissé effects.

l A continuation of crossover looks such as slips that double as dresses and tailored pajamas that can be worn to sleep, while entertaining at home or out as casual sportswear.

Mary Krug, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel and hosiery at Neiman Marcus, said: “After we sat down and had seen everything we needed to see, we still thought the daywear category looked very strong. It still continues to perform very well for us, whether it’s luxe lace, tulle or mesh. The strength was in contemporary looks.”

Krug said she generally thought the at-homewear category “looked very good,” particularly yoga-inspired looks from designer names such as the Donna Karan Body collection at Wacoal America.

“The demand for comfort goods will only get stronger. Overall, I was very pleased with the market based on sales,” said Krug, noting that contemporary brands such as Cosabella, BedHead and Claire Pettibone looked “very strong.” She added that the licensed Oscar de la Renta sleepwear collection at Carole Hochman Designs “looked very salable for the traditional customer.”

Donna Wolff, vice president and dmm of intimate apparel at Bloomingdale’s, said daywear and foundations brands, including Hanky Panky, On Gossamer, Calvin Klein Underwear and DKNY Underwear, “looked great.”

“There’s been a big return to lace and color, much more than I’ve seen in a long time,” said Wolff. “I thought spring merchandise looked very fresh. Anything new and different is selling.”

Wolff further noted that at-homewear business at Bloomingdale’s continues to be “extremely strong. Overall, [innerwear] business right now is on plan, and we exceeded plan in June and July,” said Wolff.

Anne Caetano, the newly appointed dmm of intimate apparel at Saks Fifth Avenue, said: “Daywear has been amazing, and we are seeing it as an emerging category. Foundations resources are continuing to add daywear pieces to their collection, but now they are important pieces that are not so basic looking, almost looking like works of art.

“Daywear is becoming much more of a necessity because of its dual purpose and is a great segue into the foundations department and a way to have fashion on the selling floor. The consumer is not afraid to buy fashion colors and a variety of styles.”

Caetano said she liked “interesting mixes” of laces with other fabrics such as featherweight jerseys and microfibers. She singled out daywear by Natori as looking “very strong.”

In both the daywear and foundations categories, Caetano cited a neutral palette of cosmetic shades as a “top idea.” In foundations, she said several brands looked “updated and contemporary,” citing Aubade, Chantelle and Wacoal.

“Donna Karan [intimates] continues to be very focused and strong with unique-looking woven textures such as geometric-pattern microfibers I haven’t seen in camis, soft bras and underwire bras,” she said. “We are seeing a big opportunity in loungewear and contemporary sleepwear. We see vendors who are more modern and contemporary-looking in sleepwear as continuing to perform.”

Regarding the pace of business at the spring market, Caetano said: “It’s becoming very fast, and our vendors are responding to that and are keeping up with trends and giving us product we want.”

Polly Berg, owner of the lingerie boutique that bears her name in Wayzata, Minn., said: “I went to the Intimate Apparel Salon show at the Millennium Hotel and spent a lot more time there than I usually do because there were a lot of important resources.”

Berg said she placed orders for a line of robes and at-homewear by Cabana Club, which specializes in softly tailored items in men’s shirting fabrics, as well as pima cotton pajamas in wovens and knits by three sleepwear brands, Cotn, P.Jymas and Treesha, which also is shown at the Olivia Feldman showroom here on Madison Avenue.

From a vendor’s perspective, Gianluca Flore, chief executive officer at La Perla Fashions, the U.S. unit of luxury Italian lingerie house Gruppo La Perla, said: “We wanted to introduce an item that would make a big difference because people are thinking a little more when they spend. So, we came up with one-of-a-kind hand-painted lace bras, matching thongs and a full slip.”

Flore said the hand-painted numbers, which feature a floral motif on a leaf and have dyed-to-match embroideries, are available in light blue, coral, nude, and white and black. Bookings were “significant,” despite the high-end price tag — suggested retail is $280 for a bra, $120 for a thong and $400 for a full slip, he said.

Barbara Lipton, vice president of merchandising and design at the licensed Donna Karan innerwear businesses at Wacoal America, said a top-booking group by Donna Karan Intimates was a mix-and-match group of tops and pajama pants in cotton wovens and knits.

“Sleepwear items crossing over into loungewear was very important,” said Lipton, noting that a top idea for Mother’s Day selling was an engineered print on silk as well as cotton sleepwear.

In the DKNY Underwear line, Lipton singled out a cross-dyed lace group of bras and daywear items, called Seduction, as a key group. She added that another daywear group of embroidered tulle also received strong reaction.

“Everything was available in fashion colors, and color across the board were very well received. The combinations of colors were integral to the success of the collections,” said Lipton.

Victor Lee, chief operating officer of NAP Inc., said bras of Calais and Guipure lace by Princesse Tam Tam booked well, as well as lingerie items that can be merchandised with sleepwear. In the licensed Crabtree & Evelyn sleepwear collection, a crinkle cotton with a soft hand that had a plissé look was a key classification.

“The Anne Lewin line is all about at-homewear,” said Lee. “We offered six months’ worth of deliveries and a number of new fabrics. A shimmer knit of cotton and viscose was a big hit because of its comfort value and drapability. Overall, comfort and versatility were key factors at this market.”

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