The shapewear boom spawned several lines, but Spanx still owns the market when it comes to brand recognition.
Sara Blakely, Spanx’s founder, used her perky personality, rags-to-riches story and an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey to push the body-slimming product into women’s wardrobes and the pop-culture lexicon.
But there’s a Brazilian shapewear brand with another easy-to-remember, one-syllable name that’s beginning to gain traction in the U.S. market.
Enter Squeem, which was founded in 1936 by Antoine Pasos and launched in the U.S. in 2010. Pasos great grandson, Thiago Pasos, is running the business in the States and, much like other shapewear brands, has found himself in a precarious place given the body inclusivity narrative that’s percolating through fashion. According to The NPD Group, shapewear sales in the U.S. declined by double digits in 2016 to $604 million.
“The shapewear industry is in a dilemma with the body-positivity movement,” said Pasos, who is based in Orlando and joined the family business as chief executive officer in 2015. “But in our case, it’s something that has helped us a lot because we were always about loving who you are and highlighting your attributes.”
Pasos says he’s been able to appeal to retailers, consumers and celebrity stylists with sexy branding centered on accentuating curves rather than concealing them — a message that’s intrinsic to Brazil — and innovative product that does more than smooth and firm.
Squeem started in the U.S. with a tight assortment of pieces including the Perfect Waist, a waist cincher, and the Seductive Vest, a shaping vest. Its core products can be best described as modern-day corsets that either create or enhance an hourglass shape — a silhouette that’s trending at the moment. They are made from a one-way stretch rubber along with cotton and have a hook-and-eye closure. The product, which retails from $59 to $109, has been picked up by retailers including Lane Bryant — Ashley Graham wore a Squeem piece in the retailer’s “Plus Is Equal” campaign — David’s Bridal, OuiHours and Bare Necessities.
“It’s currently positioned as one of our top-10 selling brands,” said Elizabeth Echevarria, assistant merchandiser at OuiHours. “The collection is far more feminine than most of the other shapewear brands and we haven’t found any other brands that compare in terms of garment construction and design.”
Pasos has also targeted celebrity stylists, who have made Squeem a permanent part of their kits.
“I don’t go to a fitting without it,” said Eric Archibald, whose clients include Jennifer Hudson and Audra McDonald. “Of course I still use Spanx, but I’ve found that the products actually work well together, but Squeem gives my clients a great posture.”
Squeem’s product goes against the Millennials’ desire for lightweight and less-constricting undergarments, but Alissa Hines, the associate vice president of merchandise for Cacique, Lane Bryant’s intimate apparel line, said there is a customer who likes the support Squeem offers.
“We found in doing customer research and talking to clients in store that they either love shapewear or they don’t,” said Hines, who added that Lane Bryant also carries Spanx. “Being comfortable means different things to different people.”
Squeem is hoping to broaden its scope with Body Glam, a new line of shapewear that accommodates sizes 0 through 20 and can be worn every day. The collection, which includes six pieces, is free from hook-and-eye closures. The team has designed midwaist briefs, boy and thigh shorts along with high-waisted briefs. The collection, which will be available for spring, retails from $55 to $98. The campaign for the new line will feature models with diverse shapes.
“Body Glam helps us with our messaging,” said Pasos, whose great-grandfather actually started in the beauty industry. “Women should perceive shapewear the same way they do cosmetic products. It’s the lipstick for your body.”