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W2W: What to Watch – The Big Stretch

There seems to be no end to the vast horizon ahead for seamless apparel. The offspring of the hosiery business, the booming seamless category started shifting gears in the past couple of years into other apparel categories, such as swimwear,...

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There seems to be no end to the vast horizon ahead for seamless apparel. The offspring of the hosiery business, the booming seamless category started shifting gears in the past couple of years into other apparel categories, such as swimwear, ready-to-wear, children’s and men’s wear, and is increasingly appearing in the men’s and women’s activewear and athleticwear arena.

This story first appeared in the December 30, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Consumers are becoming more aware of new generations of softer, multifunctional microfibers such as DuPont’s Tactel and Lycra spandex, Lycra Soft, Micromattique and CoolMax that have properties that range from wicking moisture away from the skin, providing shape retention that gently moves with the body and knit-in engineered control for problem areas.

But as executives at major textile and innerwear firms continue to feverishly work on research and development of new concepts in stretch fibers and fabric, they’re also slugging it out to acquire more Santoni-engineered knitting machines that can spin seam-free garments in a variety of shapes and forms. However, in order to be cost-effective and competitive in this field, the ongoing challenge for companies will be to have the ability to invest in such machinery. The average price of an Italian-made Santoni machine is more than $100,000. At least 200 such machines are required to sustain a strong seamless operation.

Displaying the prowess of the seamless classification at huge companies such as Sara Lee Intimate Apparel, the 12-month advertising budget for Body Revolution by Barely There, which is being photographed in its second year by Richard Avedon, is estimated around $20 million. A Sara Lee megabrand is expected to generate wholesale sales of at least $100 million the first couple of years.

Meanwhile, the fashion aspects of seamless garments have dramatically graduated beyond flat, tailored looks to a kaleidoscope of colors and prints. The idea over the past year has expanded into light and ultrasoft stretch laces of microfiber.

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