By  on September 15, 2008

SYDNEY — Zimmermann is applying a bit of its beach savvy to the boudoir.

The fashion and swimwear brand based here launched an eight-unit lingerie line that was offered last week for retailers alongside its spring-summer 2009 ready-to-wear collection at the Bryant Park Hotel during New York Fashion Week. Later this month, the lingerie will go straight into Zimmermann’s 12 Australian boutiques for the Southern Hemisphere summer.

The capsule lingerie collection, unveiled during Zimmermann’s runway show at Australian Fashion Week in Sydney in April, features two bras and two knickers in four signature silk prints, including a Fifties-inspired floral, a tie-dye and a leopard motif.

Retail prices start at $119 for a full brief knicker and $132 for a boy-leg brief and go to $163 for a soft triangle bra and $171 for a classic underwire bra.

This will be the company’s second attempt at lingerie after a short-lived effort six years ago with a larger lingerie range that proved too costly to produce. But the new lingerie line is here to stay and will be part of each seasonal fashion collection, said designer Nicky Zimmermann.

“We’ll do it as an ongoing thing with our silk prints,” she said. “We’ll transfer ones that we think are working nicely and we’ll cut some lingerie in whatever we think looks pretty cool. It’s kind of ridiculous-looking lingerie…it’s very much the fashion girl. It’s sexy and it fits because it’s based on our swim fits.”

After starting their fashion business in 1991, sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann decided to produce a fashion-forward swimwear range for export in 1996 and unveiled it at that year’s inaugural Australian Fashion Week. Until three seasons ago, swimwear accounted for 100 percent of overall export business, totaling $17.6 million. The Zimmermann brand sells to 80 to 100 international boutiques and exports have doubled in the past two years, accounting for 30 to 40 percent of total sales.

After two consecutive runway seasons in Miami, the Zimmermanns hope their next international runway show will be in New York, which also is targeted for three international boutiques they plan within the next three to five years. Unlike Australian designers who have reported a tough U.S. retail market, the Zimmermanns said their business in the U.S. grew more than 30 percent in the last year.

In Australia, where the company wholesales as many as 100 accounts, including David Jones, things are also looking up even though Australian consumer confidence reached a 16-year low last month, with clothing sales slumping by 5 percent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Zimmermann will open its 12th freestanding Australian boutique this month in Melbourne’s Doncaster area, and will also relocate its Australian flagship to twice the space, 969 square feet, in Paddington’s Intersection development district. The boutique will be adjacent to boutiques for Willow, Sass & Bide, Scanlan & Theodore, Ksubi and New Zealand’s Zambesi and World.

“People are talking about how horrific retail is in Australia, but we are busting our budgets in our own stores and we are having an absolute ripper of a season,” said Zimmermann, noting that 60 percent of the company’s summer swimwear collection has already sold.

“It is tough out there, but I think sometimes you’ve got what they want at the moment,” she said. “And they’re out there buying. They’re buying dresses in particular. They want color from us and they want print. I think our summer [collection] has a bit of an optimistic feeling and I think it’s resonating with people.”

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