By  on January 3, 2005

NEW YORK — It’s a new market and a new year, so the lingerie industry, not surprisingly, is focusing on innovation and newness.

It’s also a time to get a read on retail sell-throughs for Christmas, as manufacturers of sleepwear, robes and at-homewear present and solidify orders for major programs for fall and holiday selling, as well as back-to-school promotions. Warm wear in particular is an important classification, especially lounge separates and key items in brushed-back satin, flannel and fleece, while foundations firms will focus primarily on expanded color palettes for spring and early fall.

Despite the traditionally easy pace of a small market in which markdown money is the main complaint, one topic will overshadow a number of conversations between merchants and makers: the status of product and delivery schedules that may be compromised by the devastation of the Dec. 26 tsunami, with a death toll of at least 117,000 estimated at press time and obliterated coastal towns across South and Southeast Asia (see story, page 19).

While global sourcing and manufacturing will undoubtedly be a hot-button issue, executives said they will continue to focus on the needs of retailers and the demand for new ideas and product.

Josie Natori, chief executive officer of Natori Co., said, “We’ll have quite a bit to show retailers. I hope a new brand, the Josie Natori Collection, will define a modern, new image for lingerie. One of the trends I’m seeing is everybody wants happy prints. We are known for our Asian-inspired prints, and we’ll have prints from tea parties to geishas from every [Asian] nationality in the Natori and Josie collections, as well as the Cruz line.”

Natori targeted two other classifications that have been selling “extremely well” at stores and will be expanded in each brand: woven and knit cottons that now sell year-round and the zip-front hooded jacket she described as a “hot item.”

Seth Morris, president of Carole Hochman Designs, said, “January is a very significant market for us and everybody pretty much comes to market. We’ll show a lot of micro fleeces and brushed-back satins, and we’ll introduce the Stan Herman robe collection. There will also be the first collection of Lauren Ralph Lauren daywear, and it will be the first full fall season for Betsey Johnson sleepwear and daywear.”As for how the fourth quarter panned out, Morris said, “It’s still a little unclear, and it hasn’t all fallen to the bottom yet, but it’s time to get some results from the stores.”

Howard Radziminsky, senior vice president of sales and merchandising at Movie Star Inc., noted, “Our expectations have never been better. We have major initiatives that are bearing fruit, and with January being the biggest volume-producing market of the year for us, we expect great things.”

Radziminsky singled out several initiatives that are producing “very good” results: the launch of the licensed line of Maidenform sleepwear for fall; an expansion of “seductivewear” and daywear by Cinema Etoile that includes bras, panties and additional sleepwear items, and a new private label program for department stores that was previewed in November.

Stacy Abrams Medvin, vice president of Ganis Bros. Inc., said January was the “perfect time” to introduce new trends and capitalize on new brands.

“It’s a very important market where retailers will be leaving orders for fall, but we’ll still be showing Harvé Benard sleepwear for spring because the reception was amazing,” Medvin said. “There’s really been a big shift in junior sleepwear. Last year, there were lots of duck and puppy prints and really racy sayings. The racier the sayings, the faster it flew off the shelf. A lot of parents were complaining. Now, there are more tailored, classic-looking pieces in colors like pink and black and lime and orange.”

She said top ideas for Friends of the Heart, a line of contemporary, junior sleepwear, will include tops that coordinate with a variety of woven and flannel pants featuring novelty pockets, velvet trim, fabric-covered buttons and printed drawstring treatments.

“Knits by far have been our number one selling classification, and we’re going forward in that direction,” said Kathy Thomas, East Coast sales executive for JD Fine. “The Lemon Tart brand, which features lots of very soft, sensual knit Modal, has really taken off because it fills a contemporary niche. It used to be retailers would come to January market to only collect markdown money. All of our retailers are coming in and they said they’ll be looking for newness.”Designer Leigh Bantivoglio said, “I’ll be showing a lot of new ideas which reflect what’s going on in ready-to-wear, like rhinestones and sequins on stretch lace. I’m also creating my first holiday collection, which will include lace and silk kimonos and a lot of earth tones I call ‘brunette’ colors. Camel was one of the strongest colors I did for fall. I want to have a balance of ready-to-wear colors such as gray and moss with a mix of traditional lingerie colors, including pink or soft blue.”

A key rtw item will be part of Bantivoglio’s holiday collection: V-neck silk and lace shrugs that can be worn over camisoles and bustiers.

Regarding foundations, Tobie Garfinkle, senior vice president of merchandising at the Liz Claiborne Intimates unit of Chelsea Design Group, said, “We’ll be finalizing spring orders and previewing the fall collection with a few samples. It’s really a time for us when everybody reviews the season and sets up everything for spring.”

Gwen Widell, vice president of merchandising and design at Wacoal America, said two new groups for fall will be introduced: a shapewear one called Try A Little Slenderness and a daywear group called Your Perfect Match. Shaper styles include a long-leg panty, a traditional brief, a high-waist brief and a molded-cup cami. Colors are black and toast. Daywear styles include a bralette and three bottoms: a boy-cut pant, a thong and a tanga. Colors are milk chocolate, black, nude and suntan.

“The shapewear is ideal for the woman who wears St. John Knits,” said Widell, noting that the Meryl, nylon and Lycra spandex shapers feature raw-edge treatments that “do not leave lines, making this corsetry invisible under clothing.”

She said the nylon and Lycra daywear is rendered in a newly developed “zone” technology in which the product’s edges are knitted with extra yarns of floral-pattern Lycra that replace facings and maintain a “snug feeling where you want it to.”

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