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Leggings Come Back to Bodywear

NEW YORK -- After 2 1/2 years of faded glory, footless leggings are making a comeback, say bodywear manufacturers.<BR><BR>Following a strong fall bodywear market in March, particularly with footless leggings, vendors say they expect a greater demand...

NEW YORK — After 2 1/2 years of faded glory, footless leggings are making a comeback, say bodywear manufacturers.

Following a strong fall bodywear market in March, particularly with footless leggings, vendors say they expect a greater demand at this month’s holiday market for basic and fashion leggings. Some firms are projecting increases in fall and holiday bookings of approximately 30 percent in footless leggings over a year ago.

For fall selling, manufacturers have been offering a lot of fashion treatments such as stitch seaming, cuffed and zipper detailing at the ankle, lots of textured matte-and-shine looks, and lingerie effects like nylon bands. There’s also a host of ready-to-wear colors such as solid hunter, wine, brown and navy, and lots of heathered grays and natural tones.

Manufacturers generally note that the renewed interest in footless leggings began taking shape in late 1993. The product — after some explosive business — began slowing down for bodywear firms back in 1991, when the market became saturated with the look, say bodywear makers. During that period, junior sportswear makers were cranking out five-denier cotton and Lycra leggings that generally cost 33 1/3 to 50 percent less than leggings made by bodywear firms, say bodywear makers.

Bodywear firms typically manufacture leggings of 10-denier cotton and Lycra or nylon and Lycra.

Footless leggings by bodywear firms generally wholesale between $12 and $24.

Glen Greenbaum, vice president of sales for sporting goods and specialty stores at Danskin Inc., stated: “First and foremost, we’ve been getting reorders over the past six weeks on every style of footless ankle pants we do at Danskin. I was really surprised — we are almost 30 percent ahead in fall bookings over a year ago.”

Greenbaum said an expanded number of styles of footless leggings will be shown in every bodywear group at this month’s holiday market.

“I thought bike pants would be the strong gun for fall, but ankle pants are way ahead. I think it’s because women are not willing to give up stretch and comfort. I also think that maybe Seventh Avenue wasn’t doing well with it because it was being done by the junior market. Those consumers maybe buy one pair of ankle pants; it’s not an issue of stretch or comfort.”

Norm Zwail, president of Weekend Exercise Co., San Diego, said, “We did a special program of footless leggings in the Marika line for fall, and it’s been very successful.”

Wholesale prices for the footless 10-denier leggings of Lycra spandex, cotton and polyester start at $14.75 and go to $17. Colors include black, blue, heather gray and heather straw.

Zwail said the firm will get into more footless leggings programs this year, and he projects a 20 percent sales increase in the classification for the year over 1993.

“I just came back from Europe, and leggings are very much alive in Europe as well as the U.S.,” said Susan Fixel, designer of bodywear under the Softouch label and activewear under the Susan Fixel label at Softouch Inc., Miami.

“I’m seeing a resurgence of leggings business at my company because they are a perfect crossover into activewear looks. It’s a whole lifestyle statement,” said Fixel.

Fixel said styles of footless leggings will be more than doubled for the May market to 15 styles.

“I’ll be showing a lot more textured solids in ready-to-wear colors,” she said.

Scull Campana, vice president of sales at Attitudes in Dressing Inc., maker of bodywear under the Bodywrappers label, said footless leggings are part of the firm’s active apparel segment, which now comprises 35 percent of total business, compared with 10 percent a year ago.

“It’s become an integral part of a women’s wardrobe in the 30-year-old and under range,” said Campana. “Footless leggings also are great items to wear with loose, oversized cotton tops, which make heavier women look slimmer.”