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The recession isn’t stopping a crop of new lingerie designers and iconic brands and licensees from filling the marketplace.

This story first appeared in the July 13, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Fresh resources said despite the harsh economy and retail climate, there is still a demand for creative, innovative merchandise, especially at a time when inventories are practically bare and selling floors are ready for innovative product, ideas and concepts.

Although intimates have been regarded as a recession-proof category, sales the first half of the year were down 10 to 12 percent, industry executives said.

Three major players are headlining the entry in the lingerie category: Jessica Simpson Intimates, a full range of lingerie, undies, shapewear and sleepwear produced under license by Vandale Industries Inc.; XoXo, a licensed line of bras, panties, daywear and bustiers at Dreamwear Inc., and the licensed Lucky brand that will feature contemporary fare at the D2 Brands division of Delta Galil Industries Ltd.

The new brands to be unveiled in August for spring 2010 include aspiring entrepreneurial designers such as Sara Romoli at SR Designer Fashions LLC, who is launching her eponymous corsetry label; Kristin Williams, who specializes in dual-purpose sleepwear and loungewear called KMadison, and Denise Johnson, a former lingerie retailer who founded Posh Intimates, a collection of colorful and printed cotton and Modal pajamas and robes called Posh Tea Time. There’s also a new line of dual-purpose, robe-style dresses from Los Angeles created by fashion entrepreneur Emy Hovanesyan called Bones and Roses Hollywood.

Also making an entrance for the first time in the U.S., will be Qi Loungewear, a line of at-home wear pieces of cashmere that will be produced by knitwear and cashmere sweater maker Qi; Slimminizers, a collection of fashion-forward, color reversible shapers by Muse Creative Group, and Plié shapewear, a new control brand to be launched by Brazilian denim specialist Mosa Inc.

These launches follow a plethora of innerwear introductions this year, including Italian luxury brand Intenzioni, the classic Izod brand and contemporary intimates label ABS at Vandale, as well as the first collection of Ellen Tracy sleepwear and loungewear at the Komar Co. and Ellen Tracy intimates at The Chelsea Design Group, a unit of Komar.

All of this activity doesn’t leave out the repositioning of the licensed Tommy Hilfiger line of signature all-American sleepwear and loungewear at Delta Galil, and two top designer labels: Donna Karan Intimates and DKNY foundations at Maidenform Brands Inc. and sleepwear and at-homewear by Donna Karan Intimates and DKNY at the Komar firm.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a first-year wholesale sales projection for new designer brands that operate on shoestring budgets that range from as little as $10,000 to $100,00, but industry estimates place the average beginner’s revenues at $250,000 to $1 million. Established brands and licensees, as well as celebrity franchises, can generate annual sales of $25 million to $50 million, according to industry estimates.

Sara Romoli, a native of Florence, is not a typical designer of intimates. She studied criminology at the University of Florence and was interning at a law firm in New York when one client on Seventh Avenue stimulated her desire for fashion. She quit a law career in 2007 and joined ready-to-wear company Morgan & Co., which is now out of business.

“I was very good at marketing and learned how to do everything firsthand when it comes to designing,” said Romoli, who worked for the apparel company in India and Dubai, and created a line of corsetry for Europe bearing her name. “I love corsetry and was inspired by La Belle Epoque and Paris.”

Romoli created her company and e-commerce site in September and hooked up with Frank Bibbo, president of Worldwide Solutions, a manufacturing consultant who oversees production. They are looking for a showroom.

“My experience is the young designers are very exciting and creative, but when it comes to the business side they don’t have the business expertise, and people like me can guide them financially,” said Bibbo, whose 30-year background includes private-label production for Cachet stores. “One advantage is we make the garments in New York City, with a 30-day turn, not 60-to-90 days from Asia.”

Romoli said her corsets are sized “one-size-fits-all, from extra small to large, because its a Victorian lace-up so it doesn’t have to be graded by size.” The embellished corsets of silk, satin and stretch cotton will average around $240 at retail. The collection was unveiled at a cocktail party and fashion show at Bar Italia in Manhattan on June 30 to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Kristin Williams, who is based in Greenwich, Conn., said she chose the category because “people need multiple reasons to make a purchase these days.”

“Rather than spending $100 on something you can sleep in, you are spending $100 on something you can sleep in, lounge around the house in, wear out to grab a cup of coffee, and even wear as a beach cover-up,” said Williams, a former sales representative.

Regarding the economy, Williams noted, “No time is ever going to be perfect and you can’t keep putting things off until they are, which is why I decided not to hold back on launching my collection. Also, I have found that due to the tough times, stores are looking for new, refreshing lines to bring in.”

The collection, of micro Modal and spandex, incorporates retro-inspired colors and prints. Suggested retail is under $100. Williams exhibits at trade shows at Moda, MAGIC, Surf Expo, and regional markets including Atlanta and Dallas. Information about the line can be found at

Denise Johnson, who owned The Lingerie Collection boutique in Winter Park, Fla., until it closed last year, said she has always had a “passion” for lingerie. That passion was the impetus to create a line of pajamas and robes trademarked under the name Posh Intimates.

“My mother and I used to travel to France and see all of the beautiful lingerie,” she said. “That’s where the desire to create a collection came from. Two years ago, I made some pajamas and one day came home put on a pair of pajamas and was having tea with my mother, when she said, ‘why don’t you design a collection of pajamas? I remembered that women in their 50s and 60s shopping at my retail store still wanted something fun, colorful and very cheery.”

Retail prices are $100 to $110 for pj sets, $28 for boxers, and $120 for short wrap robes.


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