By  on August 8, 2005

NEW YORK — The spring market here last week was awash with new products, innovative concepts and a crush of retailers looking for the next big idea.

Buyers were upbeat, and many said last spring's business was better than expected and they anticipated a bullish back-to-school and fall selling season. Key areas targeted by merchants for growth included luxury merchandise, fashion-forward brands and contemporary separates.

Two venues provided buyers with nonstop action. The Lingerie Americas trade show at the Altman Building and Metropolitan Pavilion drew more than 3,000 attendees, and Madison Avenue showrooms, which in a number of cases — such as Maidenform, Karen Neuburger, Movie Star, Richard Leeds International, Natori and Russell-Newman — were overbooked with appointments.

But it wasn't all work and no play. The week's busy agenda was underscored by several events that lent importance to the industry's push for newness and fashion. Kicking off the week was the second formal fashion show and cocktail party by Lingerie Americas at the Puck Building, which pulled in some 300 retailers, vendors and media personnel. The $280,000 runway show, which was sponsored by Invista Lycra and the French trade organization DEFI, drew international TV coverage from France and Japan, as well as ABC's "20/20," which is doing a segment on lingerie for fall.

Mary Krug, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel and hosiery at Neiman Marcus, said, "This has been a terrific market. I love all of the fashion colors."

Top-booking ideas included:

  • Ingenue-looking chemises that double as dresses by brands such as French Jenny, Hue, Cinema Etoile and Natori.
  • Feather-light seamless shapers by Flexees, Barely There, Wacoal and Va Bien.
  • Bling embellishments on bras, panties, bustiers and nighties, such as sequins, paillettes, rhinestones and metallic accents. These included textured matte and shine treatments.
Festivities continued at two events celebrating new showrooms and offices at Natori Co., which unveiled it's sprawling white-on-white environment designed by Calvin Tsao at 180 Madison Avenue, and Russell-Newman's West Coast-inspired floor at 6 East 32nd Street. The Russell-Newman firm showcased five brands: Cypress, Jockey, Laura Ashley, Tommy Hilfiger and Caribbean Joe.Meanwhile, retailers generally said they were pleased with the freshness in the market.

"This has been a good market," said Danielle Yancy, sleepwear buyer at Parisian. "Cypress and Laura Ashley featured a lot of newness. Laura Ashley added new lace embellishments and there were more feminine, girly looks, and Cypress updated its product with new silhouettes for younger consumers."

Christy Thornburgh, intimate apparel and sleepwear buyer at Omaha-based department store chain Boardmans, said she was "extremely pleased" with the markets' fashion offerings.

"What I thought was really great were all of the bling embellishments," Thornburgh said. "The excitement is really coming from the branded people."

Rebecca Apsan, owner of La Petite Coquette, a lingerie boutique in Manhattan, said, "In my opinion, the British brands like Spoylt are doing the most exciting things in lingerie. But the French brands like Aubade, Simone Perele and Chantelle are always sexy and fun."

"Hanky Panky looked really great and On Gossamer looked incredible, really fresh," said Susan Nethero, owner of Intimacy, a lingerie chain with stores in Atlanta and New York.

Nethero added she planned to order more styles from several lines, including Barbara, Hanro, Pluto, Louis Féraud and Ying Li.

Geraldine Nuval, owner of My Boudoir Lingerie in San Francisco, said, "I always come to the Lingerie Americas show to pick up new fashion brands. I ordered a bunch of lingerie from Spoylt because it looked unique, a little kitschy and fun in silks and laces, and I ordered sexy little panties from Damaris. La Caprice de Marie always has wonderful items like chemises and bras with beaded shells."

Heather Taylor, owner of A Tropical Affair, a lingerie and swimwear boutique in Santa Barbara, Calif., said she was on the hunt for new product in existing lines.

"My customer is very brand conscious and knows brand names that I carry, like La Perla, Le Mystère and Cosabella," Taylor said. "But I did love a new line, Jacalyn Bennett, because it's very cool and sexy looking. It's nice to see the French have caught on with low-cut underwear. That's so important for us. Everything was so high-cut for so long."

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