By  on May 5, 1994

NEW YORK -- The cleavage war is escalating.Following the barrage of publicity generated by the introduction of the Super-Uplift bra in the U.S. in March by British manufacturer Gossard, more makers are scrambling to get into the act with their own renditions of super push-up bras that enhance cleavage.Super-Uplift is Gossard's replacement for the Wonderbra, which it produced under license for 25 years in Europe. That license was taken back at the start of the year by Sara Lee Corp., which is introducing direct marketing of the Wonderbra to the U.S. through Sara Lee Foundations.Sara Lee's Wonderbra will make its official debut at next week's May market and will be previewed in certain stores at the same time.Others now getting into the fray with new or revamped and renamed push-up bras include Vanity Fair Mills' Vanity Fair and Vassarette brands, Maidenform, Warner's by Warnaco and Wacoal by Wacoal America.The press coverage is already having an impact at retail.Laurie Black, divisional vice president of intimate apparel at Nordstrom, noted: "All the hype has brought that classification of bras to the customers' attention. Over the past couple of months, we've doubled the push-up bra segment of our business over a year ago."Some manufacturers say they've been working nonstop for two months to come up with an appropriate product and promotion, with deliveries for some of the new entries scheduled to start June 25. Firms are planning aggressive initial production, running as high as 200,000 units.While push-up and demi-cup bras have been a hot classification for two years, some vendors say the current hoopla has made it necessary to address the demand for more cleavage with promotions and gimmicks.Why all the excitement?"Women just want to look sexy," summed up Linda J. Wachner, president, chairman and chief executive officer of The Warnaco Group. "It also has to do with everything happening in ready-to-wear. You need to see a pretty bra under sheer apparel, a bra that gives uplift and cleavage."The components that typically give that extra lift include non-stretch straps that lift the underwire frame, vertical seaming that pushes together, and additional fiberfill padding in the cups as well as fiberfill "cookies" -- removable pads.Sizing up Wonderbra's ad message, Paul Mischinski, president and chief executive officer of Sara Lee Foundations, said, "We want women to feel attractive, sexy, alluring and confident about themselves. The Wonderbra ads will be provocative, and will appeal to a broad range of women who are looking for a physical and emotional benefit."Mischinski said Sara Lee will spend $3 million this year on a national print ad campaign.Sara Lee will launch the Wonderbra in three flagship stores here Monday -- Lord & Taylor, Macy's Herald Square and Abraham & Straus. Some 2,000 to 3,000 Wonderbras will be distributed to each of the three retailers over the next two months. Distribution will be expanded to other major department and specialty stores after July.The Wonderbra of nylon, polyester and elastane wholesales for $12.48. Sizes are 32A to 38C. Colors are black, white and flame.Vanity Fair is calling its cleavage-enhancer It Must Be Magic."The reason we are doing our specialty push-up bra is because retailers were driving us crazy with phone calls," said Joan Persic, director of marketing for the Vanity Fair brand. "We started this project 60 days ago, and we will ship no later than June 25."Persic noted, however, that the "key is not just delivery, but that the product really performs and is comfortable," and added, "The customer wants what it claims to do -- give heavy-duty cleavage."The style, of nylon and Lycra spandex with lace cups, wholesales for $9. Sizes are 32A to 38C. Colors are white and black; fashion colors will be added in the future.Carol Stewart, director of marketing for Vassarette, which is calling its new push-up Her Secret, said, "We already had the product under development before all of the hoopla, and we are planning extensive point-of-sale programs, as well as co-op advertising."Kay Dobson, Vassarette's director of product development, added, "We saw a trend emerging in Europe several seasons ago, and brought back a Wonderbra. We also saw that padded bras were getting a lot of attention because of the silicone scare."Dobson was referring to the controversy over silicone implants, a practice discouraged by some plastic surgeons.The Her Secret bra wholesales for $5.77. Sizes are 32A to 38C. Colors are white, black, mocha and berry. Deliveries are slated for June 25.Warnaco through its Warner's division is coming out with a W-shaped wire push-up bra called BodySationals.Wachner noted that even before the Wonderbra hype, the padded, push-up bra was hot -- so hot that sales of such items at Warnaco have doubled over the last year.In January, Warnaco even introduced a new padded push-up bra style in its licensed Fruit of the Loom label that's distributed to mass merchandisers. It wholesales for $6. Warnaco, Wachner added, also moved even earlier on the look in its private label business, with the Miracle Bra it is manufacturing for Victoria's Secret. The bra made its introduction in the chain's stores and catalog in September.Warner's new BodySationals push-up number of shiny nylon and Lycra, to be introduced next week, will have molded, seamless cups and wholesales for $11.52. Colors are white, black and rose. Sizes are 34B to 36C.To meet the cleavage challenge, Maidenform is putting together a program of its nine best-selling push-up and demi-cup bras under the promotional banner of "Maidenform: Take the Plunge." The tag line will be used on hang tags and point-of-sale materials.The company also will introduce a still-to-be-named push-up number to its Maidenform line -- an adaptation of a best-selling push-up bra style from the licensed Oscar de la Renta line. The style of nylon lace wholesales for $11. Sizes are 32A to 36C. Colors are black, white and red. Deliveries are scheduled Aug. 25."This is such a PR job" said James Morgan, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Maidenform. "We've been doing push-up bras successfully for years, but with all of the hype over cleavage, we couldn't just stand by and not have an answer to Wonderbra."Mogan, who claims the Maidenform brand accounts for a 35 percent share of department store bra business, said the firm is "prepared to go to every major department store with a special program" to promote Maidenform's best-selling push-up and demi-cup bras.Wacoal America, the U.S. arm of the Japanese innerwear giant Wacoal, will start offering its cleavage entry next week for fourth-quarter selling. It's calling it simply the Push-Up Bra.The program will have what the firm says is an "aggressive" budget for promotion and will include co-op ads, point-of-sale materials, and hanger tags that will identify the style as giving more cleavage.The Push-Up Bra at Wacoal wholesales for $19.20. Colors are white, cafe and black. Sizes are 32A to 36C. The specialty style is in a shiny nylon lace cup and has adjustable picot-trim straps.

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