By  on May 5, 1994

NEW YORK -- Novelties with glitter, soft fibers and trendy thigh-highs have legwear vendors anticipating gains of at least 5 percent at next week's holiday market, compared with last year.

Some manufacturers also expect a pickup in the lagging sheer hosiery business, based on the more feminine looks that walked the fall ready-to-wear runways. Bright color is another emerging trend, moving away from the quiet neutrals of past seasons.

"We're expecting a dramatic turnaround in sheers over the next six months," said Howard Hyde, vice president of worldwide marketing and sales for Pennaco Hosiery. "The sheer comeback is due to the new fashions and the more delicate shoes we're seeing for next season. The combat boot look is on the way out."

Hyde predicts a 5 percent overall gain this May market over a year ago.

The company is pushing thigh-highs in opaque, texture and shimmer, said Barbara Guzy, Pennaco's senior vice president. In the licensed Anne Klein group, a new textured thigh-high style is being added, and Danskin Legwear is showing the silhouette in various glossy styles.

The newly licensed Christian Dior line, she said, will be shown for May with additional fall colors.

"Across the board, color is gaining in importance," she said.

Joni Zeller-Claxton, vice president of research and development for Ithaca Industries, which holds the license for Evan-Picone hosiery, agreed color is a hot trend.

"When it comes to fashion looks, we're focusing on neon colors in microfiber opaques," she said. "There's a strong trend toward sheer again, too. Very short skirts, high heels and hosiery were all over the fall runways."

Evan-Picone also has three thigh-high styles in its line, and a two-tone tight that gives the illusion of over-the-knee socks.

Zeller-Claxton anticipates gains of 5 to 6 percent for holiday, due to a lower-priced microfiber program implemented at the last market.

At Kayser-Roth, Susan Danish, vice president, said the holiday market is an opportunity to "freshen up the department, especially with new glitter looks." The company holds the licenses for both Calvin Klein hosiery and Hue.

For Calvin Klein, the company is showing a shiny gold opaque thigh-high, sheer Lurex ankle-highs in new colors and a metallic body stocking. The color palette, she said, has been expanded to include new tones such as dusty blue and mauve."With all of the black and dark gray on the runway, designers are using the legwear to add a splash of color," she noted.

With Hue, she added, velvet and silver over-the-knee socks and thigh-highs will be featured.

Color and soft, luxurious fibers are getting a strong play for holiday at Hanes Hosiery's licensed DKNY line, where neutrals usually dominate.

Three new groups will be shown. One features light pastels in patterned and jacquard knit socks in cashmere and soft cottons. A second has accents of red and navy combined with khaki, gray or black in wool and slub textured shaker knits. Bright neons distinguish the third group, in shiny leggings and socks in slick, high-tech yarns.

The color trend has even made its mark on DKNY's new packaging. Instead of the usual monochromatic boxes and bands, a graphic label with accents of green, red and yellow will debut next week.

"We felt that hosiery packaging had become too neutral," said Debbie Hobbs, a Hanes vice president.

In addition, the DKNY sheer program will be relaunched with lower price points and new textures, said Hobbs, who said "major increases" are expected for May in DKNY.

At Hot Sox, three new groups are being shown for holiday: a metallic group with anklets, thigh-highs, over-the-knee socks and tights; socks with Christmas patterns, and a group of vintage, nautical-inspired looks.

For the fall-holiday season in general, president Gary Wolkowitz predicted 15 to 20 percent increases in both Hot Sox and the licensed Ralph Lauren line.

At Leggale, which does Kenneth Cole licensed socks as well as its own brand, Barbara Russillo, vice president, said soft fibers such as lambswool, angora and cashmere are major holiday legwear directions.

"We've found that the consumer is willing to pay more for luxury fibers," she said.

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