LYON, France — It’s already the biggest lingerie show in the world, and now, the Lyon, Mode City trade event might be getting longer by a day.

Unlike a majority of trade shows thatempty out quickly on the final day, the summer 2003 lingerie fair closed Sept. 2 with a prodigious number of exhibitor booths still packed with buyers from around the globe. Particularly significant were increases in buyers from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine, among other nations. Visits from Arab buyers, who have been absent from the U.S. scene over the past year, turned Lyon into a key meeting point for clients from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to a number of vendors.

Exhibitors, makers and merchants generally said the three-day session was not long enough to digest the enormity of the fair, and executives generally agreed the format should be expanded to a fourth day, like the Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris.

The show here posted an overall 5.1 percent increase in visitors and drew a record turnout of over 18,500 attendees at the sprawling Eurexpo Expositions Center.

The request for more time was primarily due to a 20 percent expansion of real estate this year which totaled 650,000 square feet. The number of exhibitors is also staggering — more than 450 international lingerie brands from 33 countries were showcased, as well as over 400 textile companies at the fall-winter 2003-2004 Interfiliere segment. Additionally, the number of swimwear brands exceeded 200.

The show is expected to be even larger next year, according to Jehan Quettier, director of show producer Eurovet, who said an entire new segment will be dedicated to what he called La Glisse — bodywear and related active separates that feature high-performance fabrics, products and brands.

"Lyon has become the largest and most important venue for the trade and intimate apparel. Our mission to make it so has been accomplished," said Quettier at a reception co-hosted by DuPont Textiles & Interiors and the mayor of Lyon, Gerard Collombe, at the Lyon town hall (see page 10).

This year, attendance was significantly higher against a year ago from a number of countries including Turkey, which posted a 68.8 percent increase totaling 189 visitors; Russia gained 61.4 percent with 113 attendees; The Netherlands edged up 29.8 percent to 222; Sweden was up 25.5 percent to 118, and the turnout from Austria gained 22 percent to 144.The number of French visitors increased 4.1 percent totalling 8,715, while the 7.7 increase of American attendees came as a happy surprise to vendors and show organizers, many of whom had privately said they had expected a slim turnout because of terrorism fears.

Meanwhile, a sour economy on both sides of the Atlantic as well as an uncertain political climate did not keep away throngs of visitors who were packed elbow-to-elbow in the cavernous halls and exhibitor stands in search of the newest fashion idea, the most provocative looking intimates, the most innovative laces and fabrics, and the latest high tech development in fibers.

While order-taking was generally brisk, vendors said a main reason they were exhibiting in Lyon was to solidify partnerships with major retailers and suppliers and expand distributorships in Europe, Asia and the Mideast.

Major U.S. retailers were spotted canvassing the show including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Victoria’s Secret, Federated Merchandising Group, Lane Bryant, Barneys, Nordstrom and Sears, Roebuck. But few would openly comment on their impressions.

Anne Caetano, divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel and hosiery at Saks, said:"There was a big focus on sheer underwires, and the focus was more on the beauty of fashion rather than the shape of underwire bras. I also liked the broad spectrum of colors from the brights to the neutrals. I happen to think the neutrals were very strong, rich and sophisticated.

"Lejaby continues to be strong, and Chantelle intensified its fashion looks in a modern, sophisticated direction. Aubade had some unique watery prints that were sophisticated and updated."

Ann Cox, buyer of contemporary foundations and daywear at Neiman Marcus, said: "The show for us was very good. There was newness at Chantelle in my price range and Eres looked very strong. But I really felt Cosabella was the star of the show."

Another retailer, who did not want to be identified, said he was impressed with the show’s fabric and color trend presentations as well as the lingerie and swimwear fashion shows, which he characterized as "extremely directional and in step with the pace of fashion today."

Key ideas included:Cross-dyed laces, metallic laces and lavish embroideries.

Trompe l’oeil effects that incorporated fabric and texture mixes such as combinations of engineered laces and flat microfibers in one fabric treatment.

Unusual color combinations, like sky blue and grass green at John Galliano, violet and gold at Leonisa, orange and black at 6ixty 8ight, blue and mauve at Triumph, and beige and Lifesaver green at Fidelia. The key solid color was brown.

Special effects like keyhole treatments at the front, back or side of panties, double and triple-string looks with layered thongs and boy-cut briefs, and oversized embroidered flowers on a contrasting sheer ground.

A continuation of crossover looks in lingerie that could be worn to the beach and swimwear that could double as intimate apparel.

From a manufacturer’s perspective, Tom Ward, president and chief executive officer of Maidenform Inc., observed: "We have operations in Europe, and we’re here because it’s a good opportunity for our European unit to see new customers. It also provides a platform for our European customers to see innovation and new product."

Tony Thwaites, managing director of Eveden Ltd., maker of British foundations brands Rigby & Peller and Fantasie, said: "This has been a strong ordering show for us. We have a bigger stand this year and it’s becoming a growing business for us. We are expanding our business outside the U.K. and into France, where we just opened an office in Lyon, and in Manheim, Germany, where we opened an office a year ago."

James Mogan, president of the intimate apparel division at Kellwood Co., said: "I’m here for trends. And this is a great show for new ideas. I definitely saw less of a focus in tailored bras and more of a focus on lace bras and lots of printed mesh. Hopefully, the customer will go for it."

Dale Darmante, president of Kellwood’s Biflex division, said he thought an extra day was needed to cover the full breadth of the Lyon edition.

"The show was so big that I didn’t get the time to spend in individual booths. It was either a choice of giving the time warranted or get an overview," said Darmante.Robert Mazzoli, senior vice president and creative director of the Bali Co. unit of Sara Lee Intimate Apparel, said he was pleased with a runway show of lingerie and directional trends. "It enables us to work on a creative and operative level," he said.

Poupee Cadolle, owner and designer of the French corsetry house, Cadolle Paris, said: "We’ve had a lot of visitors, more than ever before. But we were disappointed because a lot of our German accounts did not show up. The Russians, though, have become one of our main areas of development, especially the Ukraine, an especially lucrative area because there’s a lot of money there and the women like to wear corsets as if it were the 20th century."

Josie Natori, ceo of Natori Co., said: "I walked away from the show pleased. I spent a lot of time in the fabrics area, which was very innovative. I particularly liked the cross-dyed laces and metallic laces."

Iris LeBron, fashion director of intimate apparel, activewear and swimwear at DuPont, said: "There was definitely enough newness to inspire buying. I really liked the different shades of brown, from henna to clay."

She said several brands stood out: Le Mystere’s orange, chocolate and red embroidered sheer lace bra and coordinating panties; khaki-colored tops and briefs of cotton, elastane and Lycra spandex by Hanin; a nude-tone short sleep gown of polyamide and elastane with big multicolor floral embroideries by Marjolaine, and a violet bra and matching string panty of embroidered tulle by Jealousy.

"I’ve seen all of my Mideast accounts, the accounts I haven’t seen for about a year. That’s what’s been driving my business in Lyon," said Diane Semandi, owner and designer of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Jonquil sleepwear. "We also opened new accounts in England and I was able to see a lot of American stores as well. I’ve been showing here for 11 years, and it gets better each year."

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