By  on August 6, 2007

After a stellar year at retail, legwear manufacturers are prepping for another strong fall season by tuning into runway trends and thinking outside the box.

Metallics, layered knits and chunky sweaters are a few fall ready-to-wear looks that have inspired the season's legwear collections. Well-aware that hosiery is no longer a simple accessory, legwear brands are creating innovative styles and exhibiting confidence and momentum that retailers are readily buying into.

"Fall tights are huge," said Mimi Merkin, legwear designer director for Hue. "We've had double-digit increases for months and months starting from last fall, continuing into spring 2007 and into this fall. The runway coverage has been great. Legwear is now meant to be noticed, where in the past, it was meant to be invisible."

Ann Watson, vice president and fashion director for Henri Bendel, said, "The runway has revitalized the legwear business. Designers have re-embraced the leg with more energy and creativity, which created more of an assortment for fall. Legwear has become more diversified and novel as a fashion item."

Legwear companies such as Hue and Calvin Klein's cK label are cashing in on the layered trend by incorporating legwarmers and over-the-knee socks into their offerings.

"Legwarmers are up about 200 percent," Merkin said. "This fall is the first time it's really being bought as a trend and buyers are open to buying more styles. One used to be enough, now we can do several. Over-the-knees also went up several hundred percent."

"We're referring to it as leg decor," said Michele Slade, vice president of sales and marketing for American Essentials Inc., which produces legwear for brands such as cK Calvin Klein and Michael Kors. "It's taking that little extra thing, like thigh highs, and scrunching them down to do a boot-topper with a miniskirt. It's a cool, edgy way to wear things. In every fashion magazine I pick up, any shoot has tons of layered legwear. It's so encouraging after years of a bare-leg look."

Legwear designer Hannah Byun of the emerging label Hansel from Basel has also struck gold on funky thigh highs and over-the-knees, picking up select retailers such as Barneys New York, Anthropologie and Opening Ceremony for fall.

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