PARIS — The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and their impact on business dominated talk at the recent Salon de la Lingerie and Interfilière trade shows here, held from Jan. 23 to 25 under heightened security.
Visitor numbers from the U.S., Canada and Japan declined at both shows, although footfall overall was stable at SIL and grew slightly at Interfilière, according to organizer Eurovet.
“People who don’t have to be here aren’t coming,” observed Chantelle president of North American and U.K. business Sonja Winther.
For the major French exhibitors, business in November and December was tough. Despite having expanded their export footprint in recent years, many still depend on the domestic market for more than half of business. Some cited sales declines of up to 40 percent in France in November and soft business in December.
In 2015, French sales of lingerie (excluding legwear) grew 1.7 percent to 2.8 billion euros, or $3.11 billion at average exchange for the period, according to IFM data, suggesting that had it not been for the attacks, annual sales would have been brisker.
“It has been difficult,” said Chantal Thomass. “December was significantly calmer than usual; there was a definite impact on holiday sales.”
Fluctuations in other markets are affecting the Chantelle-owned brand as well, she said.
“The Russian ruble has also impacted the market, although our corner at Tsum is performing very well,” continued Thomass.
“Given the market context, we are not doing badly,” said Lise Charmel, managing director Olivier Piquet. “The environment was difficult in 2015 and will continue to be so in 2016.”
He said business last year was complex for wholesale in France, although department store accounts had performed better. Sales in the U.S. are growing, and the company continues to expand its offer there, notably through Neiman Marcus.
In Russia, the devaluation of the ruble and lower middle class purchasing power are impacting business in a traditionally strong market for lingerie, Piquet added.
The brand presented a new range featuring crystal details and pieces that could be worn as daywear, like bodysuits in tulle and lace.
Another French firm, Aubade, was praised by buyers for its tie-up with Christian Lacroix, launching in September.
“We’re really excited about the Lacroix collaboration with Aubade,” said Lauren Thurston, junior buyer for U.K.-based Figleaves.com.
Maison Lejaby, back at the show under new management, also garnered praise from buyers with its delicate, Seventies-inspired Desseilles lace designs.
Business for European brands in North America has been growing, meanwhile. Chantelle is expanding its offer for American consumers, with sizes now extending to an I-cup. It is also building awareness for sister brand Passionata, stocked at Nordstrom, Dillard’s and online in the U.S.
“We’ve had a good year in the U.S. Bra sales were up 1 to 2 percent and we’re in line with that,” said Winther. “In Canada we had an excellent year, with strong double-digit growth.”
Louise Schultz, general manager of Simone Pérèle in the U.S., called 2015 “a good, stable year.”
“We have seen healthy growth, some organic, some strategic,” she said.
The brand is expanding its presence in Saks Fifth Avenue doors, notably. This September to celebrate its 10th anniversary, Simone Pérèle will introduce a collector’s edition of its best-selling Andora spacer bra with a removable guipure back panel, priced $120 at retail.
Buyers from key markets praised the back-to-basics approach noted at many stands.
“We’re seeing a lot more simplistic design, and less lace,” said New York-based Journelle’s chief financial and merchandising officer Justina Cho. “There are a lot of grays and dusty rose, and a lot of silk.”
Allison Beale, Journelle’s marketing director, added that business for the retailer has been brisk. “Holiday was excellent and there’s still steady growth,” she said. “We are on the lookout for new brands.”
Figleaves.com’s Thurston said the e-tailer was scouting for new brands to continue top-line growth. “We have room for some new boutique brands,” she said.
Sexy and sporty styles were also a major part of the offer at SIL, as was loungewear.
Wacoal revealed a new, more upmarket positioning. For example, its Sensuality line combines the label’s shaping technology with embroidered mesh panels, while the Chrystalle range featuring Leavers lace combines loungewear with lingerie. The firm also made its debut of a new, harmonized image for its shapewear, to be rebranded Reshape for both the U.S. and Europe.
Switzerland-based Hanro, winner of SIL’s Designer of the Year award, dipped deeper into the ath-leisure category with sportswear items like a racer-back crop top and leggings, both with a cotton interior and tech fabric outer, priced $128 and $168 at retail, respectively.
“The first reaction from retailers has been brilliant,” said a brand spokeswoman.
Another trend was for bondage-inspired items. Aubade showed the Entrevue Secrète line combining Leavers lace and satin banding, with a set retailing for an average of 350 euros, or $382 at current exchange.
Berlin-based DSTM, a first-time exhibitor, presented a racy collection using vegan leather, velvet and performance fabrics, with a bra retailing for 200 euros, or $218.50. Another newcomer was Brigitte Bardot, entering intimates through a license with V2D Lingerie. The mass-market range uses fabrics like gingham, lace and satin, with an average wholesale price of 10 euros, or $10.93.
As for loungewear, as well as core lingerie houses offering transitional items, an increasing range of smaller specialist brands was present.
U.S.-based Maison Papillon categorizes its offer as “Boudoir to boardroom,” and is seeing growing interest from high-end boutiques, hotels and resorts. The label presented a long cashmere wrap cardigan in moss green that retails at $688 as well as double-layered silk georgette pants in a pale pink, priced $498.
At Interfilière, trends for 2017 harnessed the natural world, folklore and tribal references. The Exception space focused on jacquard, and highlights included a bronze wool-silk blend featuring bird and feather motifs from Tissages Perrin and two-way stretch fabric with a raised poppy design from MG Creation.
Laura Welsh, a designer for U.K.-based Ann Summers, was shopping for spring 2017 trends, and cited a predominance of blush and earthy tones, as well as tropical and reptilian motifs. “The metallic trend has stayed and is progressing,” she added.