By  on September 12, 1994

NEW YORK -- In an increasingly competitive market, more hosiery and sock manufacturers are toning down their packaging to attract customers.

In the past several months, about a dozen hosiery and sock lines -- in all price points -- have changed their packaging or have a redo in the works. While most said their new clean, simple looks reflect the mood of the Nineties, some said they wanted to simplify shopping more than anything else.

After upgrading the merchandise in his CK and Collection hosiery lines, Calvin Klein decided to update his packaging, according to Neil Kraft, senior vice president and creative director of Calvin Klein Inc. Kayser-Roth Corp. holds the licenses for both lines.

"We wanted to send out a strong signal that this was a new and improved product," Kraft said.

CK's new packaging was introduced in February and the Collection packaging will be shipped to stores in the next few weeks. The old gray Collection package had the same photo on each style; the new tan package will feature a different photo for each style, Kraft said. To promote Collection hosiery in New York and California, a free pair of pantyhose has been placed in 400,000 copies of the October issue of Elle, Kraft said. At the end of January, Evan-Picone hosiery will replace its signature herringbone-design flat package with a solid ivory-colored one. Licensed to Ithaca Industries, Evan-Picone hosiery has had the same package for more than 10 years, according to Joni Zeller-Claxton, vice president of hosiery design. The old packaging varied in color, and product information was difficult to read, Zeller-Claxton said. Designed to make shopping easier, the new package will have two or three color bars on the upper right-hand corner describing the product's texture and style, she said; size, color and price will be noted at the upper left.

The bottom of the package will have a number circled by a ring shaded to match the color bars at the top. The company hopes the consumer will become familiar enough with the system that she will know, for example, that a number two encircled in orange means a sheer with control top and reinforced toe.

"Most hosiery departments are self-service, and it can be confusing. If you don't get your message across in the first 10 seconds, you've lost her," said Zeller-Claxton.Photographs are an important packaging element for several hosiery manufacturers. Packages of Evan-Picone's thigh-highs and other specialty items will have photographs to show consumers how the products are worn.

Jockey International, based in Kenosha, Wis., plans to unveil its new color-coded packaging at the end of November, when its Jockey For Her maternity and special occasion pantyhose lines are launched, a spokeswoman said.

The company has maintained its six-year-old standard flat pack with a window at the top, but changes have been made. Now a color block across the top of each package identifies the category. A black bar, for example, will identify special occasion pantyhose. Jockey has enlarged its logo, eliminated a tag line and replaced full-length photos of women wearing the product with below-the-waist shots to emphasize the legs.

Gold Toe will keep its banded packaging with adhesive labels, but with new graphics. As part of the company's "For All Walks of Life" campaign, Gold Toe will replace its signature logo with block letters and candid-looking photographs.

The photos look like murals that will be used in Gold Toe's proposed in-store concept shops, which will offer women's, men's and children's products in the same area. For the past three years, a color photo of one woman has appeared on the label of some products. The new labels will be shipped when the concept shops open in department and specialty stores next year, according to a company spokeswoman.

New packaging is being designed for the relaunch of Ellen Tracy's sheer hosiery, now being made with Lycra spandex in every course, according to Barry Tartarkin, vice president of licensing and private label development for licensee Ridgeview Inc. In June, Ridgeview hired Ziccardi & Partners, an advertising agency based here, to design the new packaging in conjunction with the new print and direct mail campaign that breaks in November, he said.

The packaging will be coordinated with that of other Ellen Tracy legwear, which highlights the brand name. Tartarkin said the new package for sheers will open like a gift box instead of a standard flat pack.

Ridgeview has invested three times as much money in the redesign as it spent four years ago -- the last time the Ellen Tracy packaging was changed, Tartarkin said, adding, "We hope this will be more permanent."Unlike some manufacturers, K. Bell, a Culver City, Calif.-based socks and tights firm, reduced expenses by changing its look. By replacing color photos with black-and-white shots, the company cut packaging costs 60 percent, according to Karen Bell, president and chief executive officer. The new labels do not have a tagline or colored graphics. The savings allowed the company to absorb recent increases in cotton without raising prices, she said.

"We decided to let the colors of the socks and tights tell the story," she said. "In the Eighties, everything was color photography, but the Nineties are about simplicity and downsizing."

Look From London, a tights and pantyhose resource here, has reduced packaging expenses by replacing its lightweight clear vinyl package with a polypropylene version. The new packages will cost 12 cents each -- a 25-cent savings, according to Michele Harper, creative director. On the new package, the company's logo will be black instead of gold. Designed to resemble a stage, the package will feature a sketch of a showgirl holding a sign with the Look From London logo, she said.

After scouting various retailers, Look From London's salespeople decided the brand needed more visibility on the sales floor, said Harper, adding that the packaging looked too much like some other brands. With its new look, the company expects to double its volume this year from $500,000 to $1 million, she added.

"It was hard to read the name on the old package, and that gave the product a generic quality," she said. "Some of our competitors have been getting some of our business because customers see clear packaging and think it's our product."

When Danskin Inc. introduced general lines of Danskin brand legwear and bodywear in July, the company focused on the product rather than its name, according to Barbara Guzy, senior vice president of fashion merchandising. The lines come in packages banded with cardboard that are designed to hang on a wall, unlike Danskin's performance tights, which are sealed in a cardboard package. "The package is important, but we knew the product had to be right," Guzy said. "It's a sophisticated form of show-and-tell. The photo shows the product, but it's more important to be able to touch it."After rejecting 10 proposals, the company approved photographer Lois Greenfield's label shot of professional dancers in motion because it conveys an active lifestyle for the Nineties, Guzy said. Last month, Hanes Hosiery, a division of the Sara Lee Corp., shipped its revamped packaging for DKNY, one of its licensed lines. DKNY sheers are now packaged in a black flat pack rather than a gray cardboard pencil pack. On the old packaging, text ran across the entire package, including the photograph. The new packaging strives for a bolder look, said Debbie Hobbs, vice president of Hanes. Text has been cut back, the photos have tighter images and the logo is larger.

"We wanted to take a different stand compared to what's out there. We wanted to energize it and make it more consumer-friendly," said Hobbs.

After Hanes agreed to distribute the E.G. Smith sock line in May, the company decided to simplify Smith's 10-year-old logo by removing the circus-like graphics and emphasizing the Smith name. Stickers describing texture and style, applied directly to the product, are another new feature.

"We thought the label was distracting and Eric's [Smith] name got lost," Hobbs said. "Now the packaging stands out."

TrimFit Inc., a Philadelphia-based sock manufacturer, redesigned its own label as well as Adrienne Vittadini's, which it licenses, to highlight each company's name, according to Marty Kramer, chairman. "Sales have been healthy, but upgrading a label is just something that has to be done," he said.

Last month, Ben Berger, a sock resource here, replaced the marbleized adhesive label for its Mystique line with a larger neutral-colored label with bigger lettering. Consumers should be able to select merchandise faster, since thigh-highs and a few other fashion items have labels with photographs and descriptions of the product, said Michael Berger, vice president. The company last changed its packaging four years ago.

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