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As a whole, the apparel industry might be limping along, but intimates is marching to a different drummer.
Lingerie continues to be a Teflon-coated business despite a lackluster economy. The current woes affecting the rest of the apparel industry just won’t stick to this particular market, and it’s not difficult to understand why. Having generated $12 billion at retail in 2001 — approximately $500 million more than 2000 — the consumer appetite for lingerie appears to be insatiable.
The second edition of WWDIntimates focuses on the factors that continue to spur the lingerie and hosiery businesses ahead, and why the intimates category has become increasingly popular at a time when consumer confidence is low, discretionary spending is tight and the sameness of apparel at stores generally makes for a dull shopping experience.
Though the apparel industry has traditionally pegged lingerie as a commodity business that’s about as stimulating as soybean futures, the innerwear crowd has lately won itself some serious cred with the style crowd. Lacy lingerie looks have been spotted on everything from Paris runways to “Sex and the City’s” quartet of dedicated fashionistas to Main Street, U.S.A., where slip chemises and bustiers are becoming an increasingly common sight.
Then there’s the exposure lingerie has received in a myriad number of music videos, motion pictures, TV soap operas and retail specialists such as Victoria’s Secret, with its highly hyped fashion shows and slick advertising. And let’s not forget the new breed of men’s magazines such as Maxim, Stuff, Gear and FHM, which appear fixated with glossy covers of models and actresses in skivvies little more substantial than dental floss.
Lingerie looks have also crossed over into other apparel categories, infiltrating activewear (the hoodie thrown over a sports bra), casual sportswear (a cami peeking out from beneath a suit jacket isn’t an unusual sight at the office these days) and eveningwear (the red-carpet look that’s suspiciously similar to a vintage nightie). In doing so, it’s broadened its range of materials from old standbys like silk and lace to stretch denims, silk charmeuse, velvet and faille.
Technology innovations have broadened intimates’ horizons as well, resulting in a new generation of microfibers that have a potentially boundless number of applications. Fabrics making their way to market include those that gently shape the figure instead of squeezing it into submission, that wick away perspiration and, with a little luck and some R&D dollars, that change color midwear.
Body-friendly fabrics are being taken to an even more specialized level with developments in textiles that all but aim to fulfill the functions of a spa: yarns are being blended with substances that moisturize and gently massage a wearer’s skin, or aromatherapeutic yarns suffused with scents of rose or lime that will not wash out. There’s even a pair of hose woven with minerals coming from the Dead Sea, perhaps coming soon to a drugstore near you. Read about all of these body-friendly innovations in “Let’s Get Physical” (page 36).
But obviously, there’s a lot more to lingerie than its tactile properties, as Maxim’s editors would no doubt agree. In terms of aesthetics, the latest intimates trend centers on shades taken from a makeup artists’ palette, aimed at a range of consumers with hues from soft blushes and beiges to whispery smokes and cocoas. These colors are a perfect match for the complementary trend of wearing soft, chiffony layers of bodysuits, slips and camis, or tank tops worn beneath sheer apparel. See them for yourself in an evocative pair of fashion features, “Free Spirit,” starting on page 18, and “Bedtime Stories,” starting on page 44.
It’s not just the dynamic future of innerwear that we were able to draw upon for this year’s issue of WWDIntimates; there’s elements of its history to be found in these pages as well. Senior Editor Jessica Kerwin looked into what makes the perfect boudoir, complete with perfume bottles and antique-looking hairbrushes, in “In the Bedroom” (page 16), while Fashion News Editor Meenal Mistry’s story, “The Art of Seduction” (page 40), examines the legacy of lingerie in the art world. In “Gotta Dance” (page 32), Fashion Features Editor Nandini D’Souza talked to the lead female dancers in Broadway’s “42nd Street” about what they look for in a great pair of hose (see photo above). And after writing “Tender Loving Care” (page 58), a girl’s guide to looking after her frilly unmentionables, Textiles Fashion Editor Daniela Gilbert was inspired to go home and rearrange her entire lingerie drawer.
Those of us who cover intimates are feeling inspired, too, by a market that continues to redefine its boundaries. Stay tuned.