By  on January 30, 2006

NEW YORK — There were some blockbuster hits at this month's fall market, with luxury goods and fashion looks leading the way.

While a majority of vendors were sweating over the fate of lingerie brands and private label programs in the wake of the Federated-May merger, it was clear there was a demand by retailers for product that would differentiate them from mainstream channels.

Vendors said best-booking items did not represent a hot new style. Instead, top items reflected the quality of the garment's workmanship, fabrics and special effects that exuded a look of richness and enhanced value. Retailers also were enthusiastic about collection concepts that included a broad range of lifestyle classifications in loungewear and dual-purpose apparel in fabrics including microfiber blends; supersoft knits; plush velvets and velours; printed laces and meshes, and luxe, lace-trimmed silks.

Top-booking items included:

  • Baby dolls, especially sexy layered looks in chiffon or charmeuse embellished with lace or mesh, or styles with animal or bohemian prints.

  • Hollywood-inspired long silk sleepgowns and coordinating robes.

  • Sexy, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"-inspired lace-trimmed full slips.

  • Lounge separates, whether a lace-trimmed cami with a knit shrug or a ballet-inspired wrap sweater, and easy, pull-on pants.

  • Spa-inspired long robes in plush nylon or polyester microfiber lined in luxurious satin.
Carole Hochman, chairman and design director of The Hochman Design Group, said anything that had a look of luxury was a top-booking idea.

"I think the feeling of luxury, such as an elegant easy-to-wear gown ... by Oscar de la Renta, was what everybody was looking for," said Hochman. "Brown has become such a neutral color — everybody has loved a rich shade of brown — and brown with black lace by Oscar has been outstanding.

"We also had a lot of success with bras by Betsey Johnson Intimates. They look very Betsey, but they are everyday bras and everybody reacted well to that. And the luxurious hand of Lauren Ralph Lauren sleepwear with a new micro satin, Modal and more lace embellishments was well received. We took the same approach of luxurious fabrics to Carole Hochman sleepwear with 100 percent pima cotton, and focused on quality product, more subtle prints and a lot more solids."Regarding the mood at retail, Hochman said: "I think there's a real big separation going on now. The better stores want to look better and they want to separate themselves from the mainstream."

Michelle Clark, vice president of merchandising at Movie Star Inc., said, "We did very well again with what we call ‘seductivewear' by Cinema Etoile — baby dolls in mixed fabrics like chiffon trimmed along the sides with mesh in animal prints and solids. We also had strong reaction to a dressy sleepwear collection of lace-trimmed knits in Modal, cotton and spandex, as well as a Modal-like fabric of polyester, rayon and spandex. It's really been about the soft hand and the feel of the fabric."

Clark added that a big hit in embellishments was an ecru "tea-stained" lace that has an antique look in a range of dusty midtones.

Jessica Mitchell, senior vice president of merchandising and marketing at the Natori Co., said, "We did a fashion approach, and we had a tremendous response to sexy knits like a new sleepwear line of Tencel, tricots and printed polyester interlock. The lounge area was an extraordinarily strong category, and anything in velvet, like soft wrap kimono jackets, were very strong."

Mitchell noted that "collectible pieces," such as daywear and sleepwear with appliquéd lace, embroidered kimonos and updated printed lounge separates in brushed-back satin, which the company is calling "BB satin," were best-booking items.

Ying Li, designer of her eponymous collection of robes, sleepwear and daywear, said, "Retailers really loved the baby dolls and rich colors, and I had very strong bookings in that area. I think it's because it has a bohemian feel and the baby dolls are dual purpose, easily worn with jeans or a suit. I'm getting a feeling that a lot of major retailers are beginning to support newer labels like mine, and are increasingly asking for collections that have a broader range of fabrics such as silks, chiffons, cottons and knits, which I do."

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