By  on January 31, 2005

NEW YORK — The lingerie market this month was packed with fresh ideas, but retailers showed some trepidation about investing in new brands or concepts for fall-holiday selling.

Merchants and vendors said fourth-quarter business, which typically represents the lion’s share of annual sales, was strong for major specialty retailers and smaller operations that took fashion risks with key items, updated color and prints, and a new generation of soft microfibers. However, it wasn’t as good for major department stores that relied on traditional private label and promotional brands that were said to be risk-averse to new ideas and concepts.

A strong turnout of senior retail executives and buyers of sleepwear, robes and at-homewear from major stores, including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus and Federated Merchandising Corp., as well as smaller, independent operations hit town. But there was an air of disappointment in the showrooms over the holiday season.

Top-booking ideas included:

  • Woven and knit cottons, which are now regarded as a year-round business.

  • Hybrid boy-cut pants that are cut high and have the look of a tanga.

  • Anything that can be folded and merchandised on table tops, from panties and pajamas to camis.

  • Asian-inspired prints with tea party motifs, exotic florals and colorful costumed figures.

  • A new breed of soft sportswear-inspired separates in soft fabrics that can be layered or worn as a dual-purpose item.
“The newness was not in silhouettes,’’ said Linda LoRe, president and chief executive officer of Frederick’s of Hollywood. “It was in interesting fabrics, techno fibers, ribbons, beading and handcrafted embroideries. There also were a lot of uneven hem lengths, something everybody was showing in their lines.”

Addressing the question of fashion versus traditional looks, LoRe said: “We have a heritage of innovation. It is incumbent upon us to take risks. I heard from many stores, whether department or specialty stores, that intimate apparel business was generally soft for holiday. There are very similar intimate apparel looks like baby dolls, see-through ponchos and corset looks being done by the women’s apparel industry, and it’s crossing over across the board.”

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