That's the word from vendors, who report that fabrics with a dressier look, often used in combinations and made in ready-to-wear colors with textured surfaces, have helped build fall orders.
While cotton continues to be the basic panty fabric, vendors reason that the new interest in fashion pants, as in other areas of innerwear, reflects a consumer who is willing to splurge a little more as the long bout with a tough economy slowly subsides.
At the department store level, daywear cotton panties generally retail for about $3, while fashion pants typically retail between $6 and $7. The growing demand for control items is also helping to increase the average ticket.
The ideas for fall include
A mix of silky polyester and panne velvet.
Matte-and-shine looks with Shimmereen and Matinesse nylon and Lycra spandex.
Shiny Antron nylon with matte elastic band treatments.
Floral-pattern nylon laces that have a dull and shine finish, layered over a cotton base.
Blends of nylon, polyester and spandex that offer support and soft comfort.
A lot of the silhouettes are softly tailored, and detailing includes metallic piping, crystal pleating and sheer and semi-sheer insets.
The best-selling silhouette continues to be the French high-cut brief, vendors say. The high-cut style -- cut high enough to reveal more of the thigh area while giving the fuller coverage of a brief -- is seen as appealing to both a younger, more contemporary customer and the misses' customer.
Clint Klein, an account executive with MRCA Information Services, Stamford, Conn., a consumer research firm, said the French high-cut brief was the top panty style at all U.S. outlets of distribution in 1993, posting a 3.5 percent sales gain in units over 1992 figures. The style accounted for 29.3 percent of unit sales of panties, according to MRCA.
The demand for more control bottoms -- ranging from light control to medium and firm support -- also grew last year, as the overall panties market registered moderate growth over the previous year.According to NPD Group in Port Washington, N.Y., another consumer research firm, unit sales of panties in the total U.S market posted a moderate increase of 2.8 percent in 1993 against 1992 figures. The panties classification that registered the biggest gain in unit sales -- 21 percent -- was blends of nylon and spandex, including Lycra, said Rosalind Wells, a group supervisor of NPD.
"The trend towards control and nylon blends really seems to be taking off," said Wells.
Among the vendors, Chellie Henkin, vice president of sales and merchandising at Myonne, a panties division of I. Appel Corp., said, "We had very good reaction to any style of panty in new fabrics and to more sophisticated colors.
"The greater percentage of increases in fall bookings has come from our fashion business, and we've doubled that segment of our panties business over last year," she said.
Henkin cited an iridescent fabric of polyester, nylon and spandex with a silk-like hand in silver as the firm's top idea for early fall. She said more metallic shades of gold, pale red, mauve and aqua will be added for the May market.
Wholesale prices for Myonne's fashion pants are $2.50 to $3.25.
At the Formfit Intimates division of I. Appel, Denny Bro, general manager, said a seamless group of bodyshapers of nylon and Lycra spandex will be introduced in May.
"A year ago, we launched Antron nylon and Lycra spandex seamless panties, and they are doing very well. The real growth of our panties business has been in nylon, and it now accounts for one-third of our business," said Bro. The Formfit brand of panties was introduced three years ago. The nylon and Lycra spandex briefs wholesale from $4.23 for light control to $5.88 for medium control.
Vanity Fair Mills noted success with its Daisy Lace group of novelty panties, which were introduced for fall. The line features a cotton knit base covered with a daisy-pattern lace of matte-and-shine nylon. Current styles include a high-cut brief, a bikini, and a crop top. The wholesale price for the two styles of panties is $3.15, and the top is $5.75.Greg Stephenson, director of product development for daywear and panties and other areas at Vanity Fair Mills, said Daisy Lace styles and colors will be expanded for the August market.
The panties are an offshoot of the group of Daisy Lace body fashions, which were "a hit" at the spring market in November, according to Stephenson.
Enrico Varani, national sales manager of the Cinejour daywear and Claxton panties division of Movie Star, noted that novelty panties of imported polyester with crystal-pleated ruffles have been the top items for fall.
"We showed a lot more fashion styles in interesting fabrics and fashion colors," said Varani. "The whole point of the fall market was to give a different twist to the silhouettes."
Claxton's fashion pants wholesale from $1.25 to $7. Claxton, with varied labels, targets department stores, chains and mass merchandisers.
Varani credited the new, updated styles for an increase of more than 10 percent in fall bookings over 1993 figures.
Hanes Her Way, one of the leading mass market labels in panties, used cotton exclusively until a year ago, when it added Captiva nylon, a smooth silk-like nylon.
Carol Mabe, vice president and general merchandise manager of the Hanes Her Way panties division of Sara Lee Intimates, noted that so far over 1 million dozen nylon panties bearing the Hanes Her way label have been shipped to mass merchandisers and discounters this spring. The nylon program was introduced to 2,400 doors in March 1993. "It's a very small percentage of our business so far," said Mabe, "but we see an opportunity because there's a consumer who prefers nylon to cotton, and there's also a consumer who likes both nylon and cotton."
Distribution of the HHW nylon panty program will be more than doubled to 5,500 mass merchandise doors by August, added Emily Portteus, marketing assistant for HHW underwear.
Portteus said the firm is considering expanding the product range with a printed nylon panty group, as well as a six-pack of six of the same style, and other items in the near future. The nylon panties currently sell in a package of three of the same style in a mix of colors.Portteus said the suggested retail price for the three-packs is $7.19, but she noted that mass merchandisers typically retail the three-pack for $4.96.
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