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Lynn LaCava, a lingerie designer and sales executive for more than 25 years, has witnessed the consolidation among retailers and manufacturers that has transformed the $12.6 billion innerwear industry. Having owned her own company of silk daywear and sleepwear in the Eighties, and served in executive posts at International Intimates and Flora Nikrooz at The Age Group, LaCava has now made a foray into celebrity lingerie as vice president of sales at Jessica Simpson Intimates. The label is part of a fashion franchise controlled by the Camuto Group, which holds the master license. Jessica Simpson Intimates launched at this month’s spring market.
WWD: There have been several high-profile names from Hollywood that had lingerie licenses, like Jennifer Lopez, Pamela Anderson and Jaime Pressley, but the hoopla faded quickly and the lines were discontinued. What does Jessica Simpson Intimates have that other celebrity lingerie labels have lacked?
Lynn LaCava: Several years ago it was all about celebrity lines, but it all kind of petered out. The celebrities didn’t really take an active role with the licensees. Jessica Simpson has already developed a following with shoes. Once the customers buy the shoes, they realize how well styled and priced they are. They have become a [shoe] customer, not a celebrity customer. We want to do the same with Jessica Simpson Intimates.
WWD: What is the biggest challenge in developing an intimates brand in today’s market?
L.L.: The biggest challenge is for someone to develop a brand not just for boutiques, but for department stores. These days with the economic crunch, it’s next to impossible with the exception of a brand like Spanx. The beautiful designer products you see at lingerie [trade and fashion shows] look great and they get exposure. But for them to develop a new brand is almost impossible because stores don’t want to take chances right now. Stores and buyers are very limited in what they can do. It’s all about vendor structure, matrix and brand power.
WWD: When you were a designer, you specialized in silk daywear and sleepwear. What was the innerwear industry like in the Eighties and Nineties, and what transition did you see in the silk business?
L.L.: I started my company and label in 1980, when silk was luxurious and of premium quality. In the late Eighties, the factories in Hong Kong started coming to the U.S. and offering their own designs, and it became all about price. There was even a period in the Nineties when Victoria’s Secret didn’t do silk at all because it had become too moderate.
WWD: What was the relationship between retailers and manufacturers in the Eighties and Nineties?
L.L.: When I started, everything was much more design-driven. No one asked for any markdowns or co-op [advertising] money. If you had a good product, the stores bought it.
WWD: Do you expect to see more consolidation in the industry considering the tough financial and retail climate?
L.L.: I think the players in the field now have the depth and breadth of product assortment and collections to survive. I think you’ll see more licensees, not consolidation. It’s very difficult to build a brand right now. You have to buy one. I see more expansion of brands into different levels of distribution and companies will probably come up with more subbrands or exclusive brands for stores.