U.K. Shapewear Gets A Makeover

The British shapewear market, spurred by independent labels like Made by Niki, has become more stylish.

LONDON — The British shapewear market has shifted its fusty image with independent labels such as Made by Niki producing control garments so stylish that British pop groups such as The Saturdays wear them as outerwear.

This story first appeared in the April 19, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Niki McMorrough, chief executive officer and creative director of Made by Niki, launched a range of body-sculpting miniskirts, pencil skirts, built-in bra tops and minidresses by Slinkies in March by incorporating advanced shapewear technology with a fashion-forward cut.

“It’s not even the same industry that it was,” McMorrough said. “I think that prior to 2007 shapewear was a sort of unloved category with an uncool image for people who felt negative about their body image.”

Made by Niki’s seamless garments, which feature antiroll waistline engineering, are made of a moisture-wicking knitted power fabric produced exclusively for the label by a manufacturer of high-performance sportswear. A Slinky minidress retails at 81 pounds, or $108, and the range is available at stores such as Journelle and Embrasse-Moi in New York in addition to the brand’s Web site, madebyniki.co.uk.

British online lingerie and swimwear retailer figleaves.com has also witnessed the shake-up of the shapewear sector and stocks an increased range of more feminine everyday shapewear. “Even for the most functional and controlling shapewear, there is an increasing move into a “lighter” appearance as laces and meshes are developed with ever increasing modules [elasticity,]” said Denise Fraser, senior buyer at figleaves.com.

British brands, including Debenhams, John Lewis and Ultimo, will be launching more feminine shapewear with a fashion twist in the next six months to compete with leading U.S. labels such as Yummie Tummie and Spanx.

Sales of nude-colored shapewear are strongest at U.K. department store John Lewis, but the chain’s lingerie buyer, Helen Spencer, said, “We are seeing stronger sales from more fashion-inspired pieces in black.” In August, John Lewis will launch a namesake brand of fashion shapewear.

Ultimo is redesigning its shapewear offerings online because of consumer demand, allowing women to trash “their Bridget Jones pants in favor of something more elegant.” said Michelle Mone, creator of Ultimo.