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Two supermodels plan to spread lingerie joy around the world: Gisele Bündchen and Bar Refaeli.
This story first appeared in the January 23, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Bündchen, a former Victoria’s Secret Angel who gleaned inspiration from the VS catwalk, plans to turn her namesake lingerie collection into a global brand. Launched last May, Bündchen’s line is carried in Latin America, Portugal, Japan, Israel and at Gbintimates.com.br. Prices range from $20 for panties to $160 for a camisole or corset. Her inspiration for the summer collection includes burlesque looks of Fifties cabaret dancers with lots of garters, lace, ribbons and ruffles, and a Leo group of leopard-print microfiber with black lace.
Refaeli, who has modeled little nothings for French bra brand Passionata, will launch her first online lingerie venture at Under.me in the U.K. around Valentine’s Day. It features classic underwear for men and women.
Refaeli said she based her line on what “I like and find cute. The Under.me philosophy is that underwear should complement your body, not steal the show. It was appealing to me to do a line of underwear from the fabric I like with the basic, comfy design I always look for, as well as underwear that can actually be delivered to your door.”
Prices will be $7.50 to $12.50 for panties, and $12 to $25 for tops.
First-year wholesale sales projections were not available for either line, but each brand could generate revenues of more than $25 million the first full year, according to industry estimates.
— Katya Foreman, Paris; Karyn Monget, New York
Charnos, the British hosiery specialist, is making use of some icons of glamour in a collection created to mark its 75th anniversary.
The firm, established in 1936, has launched a collection of styles — and package illustrations — inspired by six stars, from Betty Grable and Katharine Hepburn to Jackie Kennedy and Brigitte Bardot.
The line includes the Ava, sheer hold-up stockings with a floral seam along the leg inspired by Ava Gardner; the Brigitte, sheer tights with tiny black polka dots in the style of the French Sixties siren, and the Marilyn, sexy sheer stockings with a diamanté velour bow at the ankle inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s steamy role in “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” The anniversary collection is available — mainly in the U.K. — through next summer and retails from 14 to 20 pounds, or $22 to $31.
This isn’t the first time the Derbyshire-based label has created legwear inspired by vintage celebs. In 2004, Charnos collaborated with Jerry Hall on a collection called Retail Therapy, while in the Eighties, the brand did a glam collection with Bruce Oldfield. The company worked with the late Ossie Clark in the Seventies on a quirky collection that featured ladder motifs on tights — something of an irony, as Charnos made its name in the U.K. in the early Sixties as one of the first firms to create run-resistant stockings.
— Nina Jones
Through the Eyes of Lillian Bassman
She is 94 years old yet sits in front of her computer for a few hours most days, working in Photoshop, playing with the highlights and shadows of the iconic images of women that she shot over 50 years ago.
Still working, as she has since she was 15 years old, groundbreaking photographer Lillian Bassman’s latest book, “Lillian Bassman: Lingerie” (Abrams, $29.95, 127 pages), features more than 80 black-and-white photos that showcase the quintessential feminine image of women in lingerie. The book rises above its commercial roots to portray a private realm where women appear to be effortlessly self-possessed.
“Photographically speaking, I’m completely tied up with the softness, fragility, and the personal problems of a feminine world,” said Bassman. She worked with fashion magazines including Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, plus ad agencies in the Fifties and Sixties to create a unique vision of lingerie for modern women. She photographed models in formal and informal sessions wearing bras, bodices, corsets, girdles, camisoles, chemises, nightgowns and pajamas. She made key images for Maidenform’s landmark “Dream” campaign for bras and, when Warner’s merged the brassiere and girdle into the trademark Merry Widow in 1955, Bassman turned it into a must-have item.
Her signature style has been described by the late Richard Avedon as making “visible that heart-breaking invisible place between the appearance and the disappearance of things.”
The Peter Fetterman Gallery in Los Angeles will dedicate a show to “Lillian Bassman: Lingerie” March 10 to May 12.
— Karyn Monget
Coming Up Roses
Having test-marketed new intimates brand Rose & Thorne in New Zealand, a Kiwi startup marketing itself as “The Guru of Bra-ness” is targeting the British market this year.
Unveiled via its Web site, roseandthornedesign.co.nz, and through The Warehouse, an 89-unit discount department store chain in New Zealand, Rose & Thorne was created by Stefan Preston, a former chief executive officer of Bendon Ltd., where he oversaw the international expansion of the licensed Elle Macpherson Intimates and Stella McCartney lingerie businesses. He lured five key designers from Bendon for his new venture.
Industry sources project sales of just over 1 million New Zealand dollars, or about $800,000 at current exchange rates, in its home nation.
The brand stresses affordable style and comfort.
“We’re living in a world where even middle-class people are finding it hard to spend $50 on a bra and we’re like, ‘Why should they? Why can’t give we give a them a $50 bra for $20?” said Preston,
The capsule collection of 10 bras and three panties are aimed at the low-service retail environment — which generally does not have great fit facilities. So, an “EasyFit” design system revolves around seven bra styles that incorporate flexible banding and cocoon-shaped cups to accommodate average-to-fuller figures. Bra prices start at 19.99 New Zealand dollars, or $15.50, for the light, lacy Justabra, to 24.99 New Zealand dollars, or $19.35, for the Curvylicious push-up style. Panties run from 9.99 New Zealand dollars, or $7.75, for a plain brief to 11.99 New Zealand dollars, or $9.25, for a stretch lace boy-leg short.
“If you look at a woman’s underwear drawer, you would see four bras they wear every day and then 12 ‘pretty mistakes,’” added Preston. “Other more fashionable bras are going to be in the ‘pretty mistakes’ area. But we are deliberately selling a message of everyday comfort for everyday women, without sacrificing style or function. That’s all we’re worried about — plain Janes that you wear every day. But by the way, they’re not so plain anymore.”
— Patty Huntington
Get Into Shape
Invista Inc. will introduce an innovative concept for fall that melds hosiery and shapewear into soft, allover knitted legwear for average and plus-size figures.
The company is marketing the initiative under Invista’s Lycra beauty hosiery/seamless program with the tag line “The Science of Shaping.”
Prints, patterns and textures — from tattoo motifs to delicate laces — will play out in a wide range of fashion colors, as well as black, under three platforms: Lycra Fusion fibre, which offers run-free technology; Lycra beauty hosiery/seamless, a quality certification program that uses 3-D body-scanning technology, and Lycra Xceptionelle hosiery, a plus-size initiative that combines shapewear technology with fusion applications for enhanced stretch and recovery.
Valerie Mackie, Invista’s marketing director for North America, described the new concept as a “breakthrough in hosiery,” especially for fuller figures.
“We’ve expanded from the cut-and-sew arena to the knit arena. In plus sizes, everything for shaping and support in the past has had shaping panels. This concept makes it easy for a woman to put hosiery on and take it off. It’s comfortable to wear and hugs without squeezing,” she explained.
Mackie added that the patented technology provides narrow knitted waistbands that won’t cut into the skin or roll over the waist or tummy.
“Control-top hosiery is different because it doesn’t necessarily shape,” she said. “Data and demographics are showing that more women want to wear hosiery that also shapes.”
Triumph International is expanding its retail presence in two key markets: India and Italy.
With combined retail and wholesale volume of $2.1 billion, the 125-year-old German brand will open 10 freestanding stores in Italy by June.
“In addition to Turin and Florence, we are particularly focused on Rome and Milan, where tourism has an important impact on sales,” said Triumph chief executive officer Olga Iarussi.
The company unveiled a 2,153-square-foot flagship on the Via Dante in December. Along with the Triumph, Valisère, Sloggi and Hom collections, the store also carries the new Triumph Essence line, a luxury range featuring model and photographer Helena Christensen as spokeswoman. Also, in partnership with Benetton, Triumph launched a “Dessous Lounge” on the second floor of the flagship. The Liberty-inspired space serves both as a showroom for all the company’s collections and a meeting point for media and marketing activities. The area also hosts a bar that’s open to the public.
“The store was a big investment for us, but it’s performing very well despite the economic crisis because women want to feel beautiful,” Iarussi said. She added the location is expected to generate revenues of more than 1 million euros, or $1.3 million at current exchange, within the first year.
In India, Triumph has increased its retail locations to 700 since the first stand-alone store opened in Mumbai in 2008. Plans are to expand into additional multibrand venues as well as freestanding stores by 2015. In-store fashion shows have proven to be extremely successful and the brand is currently gaining exposure throughout the region with a fresh round of fashion events.
While many brands are trying to get a piece of the fast-growing retail pie in India, David Gow, regional general manager for Triumph in Southeast Asia, would not give an estimate of how many stores are expected to open, but said the next three years will show continued growth and expansion. “Triumph is in an excellent position to share in this growth,” he said.
Triumph operates 2,100 stores in 35 countries.
— Alessandra Turra, Milan; Mayu Saini, New Delhi
It’s rare to find lingerie in South Africa that’s sold at a specialty boutique — as opposed to a department store or shopping mall.
But Blu Symmetry is breaking that rule with its trendy new intimate apparel shop in Johannesburg’s hip suburb of Parkhurst, where shops and restaurants are housed in converted homes or contemporary single-story structures.
As the retailer, agent and distributor of the upscale Italian hosiery label Oroblu, Blu Symmetry is “a great fit for Parkhurst,” said owner Charmaine Chamani, a suburbanite who had always flirted with the idea of working close to home.
“Oroblu would undoubtedly flourish in a shopping center,” she said. “But there are the onerous trading hours, prescriptive conditions and [sales] clauses. I much prefer the lifestyle in suburbia. This way I can offer a far more personalized service.”
Oroblu legwear and bodywear ranges from peep-toe hose to figure-enhancing hose, socks, stay-ups and leggings “from the classic to the wow factor,” she said. Bodywear includes camis, tops, bodysuits, vests, bras, briefs and shapewear, all featuring the form, fit and innovative fabric technology from Italy for which Oroblu is known.
Prices start around $20 for panties and go to $88 for a versatile convertible bra, a bestseller.
“Being a new brand in South Africa, it has been difficult to set a [sales] target,” she said, noting she exceeded expectations in her first two months in business. She said she gets an average of three to six clients and sells anywhere from six to 30 pieces each day.
— Bambina Wise
Designed for the last czarina of Russia, worn by Brigitte Bardot and coveted by a new generation of French actresses, the Delineator bra is being kept alive by seamstress Aimée Ammar, who produces high-end made-to-measure versions of the historic design in her unassuming atelier that doubles as a shop on Rue Saint-Lazare in Paris.
Formerly employed by the family-owned firm J. Berlé, which patented the Delineator in 1930, Ammar and a co-worker took over the rights to the design a few years after their employer closed up shop in 2001. At its peak, the company had outposts in New York and São Paulo, Brazil, and Ammar still keeps boxes of yellowing client contact cards that feature addresses ranging from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv. In 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, Ammar generated just less than $50,000 in sales.
With its distinctive fixed underwiring and crisscross elastic fastening at the back, the bras range in size from 28 to 52; cup sizes are custom-fitted. Prices range from 155 to 350 euros, or about $200 to $445 at current exchange rates.
The Delineator promises to minimize the look of larger-sized breasts by two cup sizes. Styles range from ruby silk overlaid with black lace to white eyelet cotton, and a blue-and-white gingham that instantly brings to mind Bardot in Saint-Tropez.
— Joelle Diderich
Know Your Lace
A growing number of European lingerie designers are championing the heritage and know-how of luxury laces, embroideries and fabrics created by French artisans.
“Lingerie is now an important accessory,” said Laurence Armand, lingerie buying director for Le Bon Marché in Paris. She cited Stella McCartney and Carine Gilson among luxury designers working with specialist ateliers in France to create couturelike ensembles that are often as elaborate as the ready-to-wear they enhance.
“I start with the first thing a woman puts on and then I dress her up,” said stylist-turned-lingerie designer Yasmine Eslami. Laces for her upscale line are sourced from top suppliers in France like Calais-based Noyon Dentelle, which traditionally creates concept pieces for the fashion trade.
Chantal Thomass visits several ateliers for her designs: “For feathers, I go to Marcy in the north of Paris, and for corsets, I go to Atelier Caraco Canezou.”
Gilson, a Belgian designer, has a love of couture and honed her skills with hand-crafted collections using high-quality materials.
“The haute couture spirit leads the whole mood in which the collections are created, designed, developed and produced,” said Gilson. “We don’t compromise on the quality of fabrics. They come from France — Lyon for the silk and Calais for our finest laces — and Italy for muslin silk.”
For Fifi Chachnil, quality and unique fabrics are also paramount. “Clients are becoming more sensitive to this, and as a designer, it’s nice to see people appreciate this. The luxury and hand-crafted elements for lingerie begin with the sourcing of the materials — the savoir faire is knowing how to use the high-end fabrics and laces.”
— Natasha Montrose
When Katie Halford isn’t fitting celebrity clients like Julia Roberts or Christina Hendricks in vintage-inspired lingerie, the London-based designer is gradually building her empire on the West Coast, one bullet-shaped bra and seamed stocking at a time.
Halford, founder and designer of a lingerie line called What Katie Did, has made her way to trendy West Hollywood with her first U.S. store located just steps away from hipster favorites like G-Star Raw and American Apparel.
Evoking a glamorous boudoir for the modern woman, the 750-square-foot West Hollywood shop stocks Halford’s ultrafeminine pieces inspired by the Forties and Fifties.
A voluptuous 40-year-old with two-tone Bettie Page bangs, Halford herself favors bullet-shaped bras in pink satin and a re-creation of a Fifties strapless corset with cathedral boning in purple organza and black lace.
Prices range from $15 for a pair of stockings to $50 for a bra to $300 for a steel-boned corset.
The name comes from a 19th century book called “What Katy Did” by Susan Coolidge. Halford’s grandmother gave it to her when she was a child.
Halford founded the company in 1999 and has one store in Notting Hill, London, and sells online worldwide.
“I opened a store in London as we didn’t have a great stockist there and it seemed crazy that you could purchase our lingerie from a store in Helsinki but not in our home town,” she said.
Over the years, WKD also has sold through 120 retailers globally, from Hong Kong to Brazil and Iceland to New Zealand, including Urban Outfitters, Topshop and Liberty of London.
“We’ve been sending orders to the U.S. for 11 years, but discovered that although the brand was well-known on the vintage scene, women were hesitant to order from an overseas company,” she explained. “The same applied for potential retailers: they were wary about import duties and taxes. We started with dedicated American retail and wholesale Web sites in September 2010…and when this proved successful, investigated opening our own store.
“Having a store is important — it means our staff are constantly fitting women in our lingerie, so are very familiar with the styles. Had we just opened a warehouse and used a call center, our staff would not be as knowledgeable and wouldn’t be able to offer informed advice for phone and Web orders.”
Global volume is $2.5 million a year, and the target for the U.S., including Web sales, for 2012 is $750,000, she said.
Halford professes that her mission is “converting [the everyday woman] from Spanx” — with a little push from Hollywood. Her underpinnings are quickly gaining attention in pop-culture shows like “American Horror Story” and music videos by Duran Duran and Rihanna.
“It’s difficult to find [vintage] lingerie,” Halford lamented, “and when you do find it, it’s not your size or it’s worn.”
— Stephanie Montes
Legs à la Edo
The Tokyo-based team behind the small, edgy Japanese clothing brand Lelativement recently shifted gears from apparel to legwear, launching a brand of high-end tights and socks for last fall called Fakui. The line is inspired by Japanese courtesans of the Edo period, who in addition to having an obvious dark side, dressed in brightly colored and richly decorated kimonos.
“When I was young, I always thought the costumes of these women were so eccentric-looking, and I was really influenced by their edgy world,” explained designer Ayako Yano. “They were fascinatingly beautiful but also very strong women.”
Yano aims to create a new aesthetic for legwear with Fakui.
“At first we were told that [the designs] we wanted to do were impossible. But after talking to many factories and adjusting the designs, we were finally able to accomplish it,” she said.
Among the offerings are delicate nude stockings with prints in dark hues; tights with metallic prints; sheer bejeweled ankle socks, and a pair of tights that uses three different fabrics to create the illusion of thigh-high socks layered over ribbed tights.
Prices range from 1,890 to 9,975 yen, or about $24 to $128 at current exchange rates. The line is available only in a few select boutiques and department stores, but the team hopes to start marketing it outside of Japan this year.
The fall line features motifs of butterflies, flowers, lace, geometric shapes, leopard prints and a colorful parrot’s wing. For this spring, Fakui enlisted a renowned calligraphy artist to create patterns using brush strokes and paint splatters.
— Kelly Wetherille