NEW YORK -- Fashion looks are getting a boost in bodywear this spring, thanks to an improving economy.
Retailers and vendors both report that consumers are apparently feeling easier about spending their money, and as they look to freshen up their bodywear wardrobes, they're being attracted to the more interesting treatments, including textured fabrics and ready-to-wear colors and prints.
Pieces in fleece or jersey that coordinate with activewear are also important at some stores, with dual-purpose items that a woman can wear shopping as well as while she's working out continuing to build sales.
In general, say observers, basic items continue to account for most of the business. But the upbeat action in fashion looks is providing a welcome hike in figures. Some executives say volume in fashion looks is up this spring as much as 20 percent, over a sluggish period a year ago.
The importance of fashion bodywear appears to vary widely from store to store. In Florida, for example, Burdines reports fashion is key as bodywear commonly doubles as sportswear.
"South Florida is a very unique market," said Barbara McDonald, bodywear buyer at the Miami-based Burdines. "Our strength has always been fashion, especially streetwear looks."
McDonald, who oversees bodywear in 40 Burdines units, said the fashion influence emanating from trendy South Beach over the past several years has been instrumental in making stretch streetwear looks -- often put together from bodywear lines -- a part of everyday dressing in Florida.
She singled out three labels as fashion bestsellers: Softouch, Curbtex by Fashion Trend International and BodyWrappers by Attitudes in Dressing. Others that have had good sell-throughs in fashion items this spring are City Lights, and three lines by Weekend Exercise Co. -- Aerodynamics, Marika and the licensed Baryshnikov collection, she said.
Top items have been unitards, and active sport looks such as shorts, tank tops and cotton T-shirts.
Bodywear departments in Burdines units are generally located near active sportswear, she noted. The category continues to grow because in the Florida climate, it can be worn year-round as streetwear.
"Because of that, it has a permanent spot," she added.Macy's East has fueled a growing demand for fashion looks this spring with the addition of two new bodywear lines -- Mossimo and Carushka -- said Robin Satty, divisional merchandise manager for fashion accessories, bodywear and hosiery.
The two fashion lines have encouraged more high-end business, she said, and a third line is on tap -- OMO Gym by Norma Kamali bodywear, which will arrive this summer.
Key items so far in Macy's fashion bodywear include bike shorts, bra tops and thong-back leotards. Satty said a top-selling group has been Marika Swetz, a group of activewear-related items such as crop tops and shorts by Weekend Exercise.
"We're definitely doing a very strong fashion story, and we've totally revamped our basics assortments with textured solids," said Margie Dupuis, director of merchandising for the catalog and retail division of NordicTrack, Chaska, Minn.
Dupuis said response has been "very good" this spring to surface treatments and nontraditional bodywear prints and colors inspired by sportswear. She said dual-purpose items that can be worn in and out of the gym are the hottest sellers at NordicTrack.
NordicTrack at present has four apparel and sports equipment retail operations -- 60 NordicTrack Fitness At Home stores; two Fitness For Fun units for men, women and children; six NordicTrack Factory Direct shops, and 12 NordicSport shops in the U.S., four in Europe and one in Canada.
"Basics for us right now are pretty much driving our bodywear business," said Karen Failes-Coad, senior buyer of bodywear for the department store division of Dayton Hudson Corp., although she noted that higher-end fashion items are getting somewhat more play.
In basics, Failes-Coad said, a new strategy of everyday low pricing introduced this spring at the Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's stores has been "very successful."
"It's split into two areas," explained Failes-Coad. "What's selling are basics at down-and-dirty price points, or the higher-end merchandise from Aerodynamics or Nike."
At the same time, she said, the increase in fashion business has been with nontraditional bodywear that has coordinating fleece and jersey pieces in nontraditional colors.
"We are doing very well with Nike, because of its dual-purpose appeal," Failes-Coad said, noting that Speedo by Authentic Fitness, another fitness wear vendor, is the newest entry in the store's bodywear lineup.Among vendors, Glen Greenbaum, Danskin's vice president of sporting goods and specialty store accounts, reported, "Our fashion bodywear business is 20 percent ahead over fall 1993, and our basic business is up 12 percent over the past two months, because of strong reorders."
Greenbaum attributed the increases in fashion and basics to "a lot of stores placing reorders after having let their stock go low in January and February."
"It's encouraging for bodywear business," said Greenbaum. "More people have more discretionary income right now."
In a recent marketing research study, he noted, the firm's marketing executives found that memberships at health clubs around the country have picked up this year.
Anne Wiper, divisional merchandise manager of women's apparel at Nike Inc., Beaverton, Ore., said that while the company continues to emphasize basics, the introduction this spring of a fashion group of red, black and white colorblock bodywear, called Swoosh, has helped Nike's fashion business grow 10 percent over a year ago.
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews