NEW YORK — Pumped up over strong pre-Mother’s Day business, manufacturers are looking at May market as a slam dunk.
This week’s market may be smaller than the March and August ones, which focus on entire fall and spring collections, but it will be jam-packed with fashion items for Christmas and Valentine’s Day gift-giving. In some cases, vendors got a jump start on Valentine’s Day business by showing key items in March and will only do a recap of product this week. In other cases, companies will concentrate on expanded assortments of key items and groups, as well as a broader palette of fashion colors.
While gift items may be the main ingredient, manufacturers agree on one point: This market is an important barometer of key trends for spring 2005 as retailers strategize advertising and marketing campaigns, preview concepts and firm up fall buys.
So far, top ideas include:
l Contemporary sleepwear with whimsical sayings such as “High Maintenance” and “I Love Me” by David and Goliath at Richard Leeds International, and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”-inspired lines like “How Do I Look Darling?” and “Searching for Love in the Big Town” by French Kitty at The Komar Co.
l An expansion of pet motifs, including See Spot by Love Letters, a mascot white dog with a black circled eye.
l Novelty bustiers, corsets and garters by Cinema Etoile at Movie Star Inc.
l Sexy-looking bra introductions like Maidenform’s Take the Plunge cleavage-enhancing, push-up bra in fashion colors, and expanded styles of fashion bras and panties by Natori Black Label and Natori White Label at Dana-Co.
l Spa-inspired looks such as Hanky Panky at the Spa, a product launch that can either be yogawear or everyday wear.
Assessing the anticipated action this week, Josie Natori, chief executive officer of the Natori Co., said, “This is the first time we showed everything, including Valentine’s Day, in March. But we’ll nonetheless be busy meeting with stores and talking about spring. Actually, we’re very happy. This allows us to gain more time, which is great for our design staff.”
However, Natori noted there will be a capsule preview of the licensed collection of Natori Black Label and Natori White Label foundations by Dana-Co. for spring 2005.
Maurice Reznik, president of the Maidenform brand at Maidenform Inc., said the company will have a “major launch” this week.
“We’re introducing Take the Plunge, a sensual deep-plunge bra a woman can wear every day,” said Reznik. “It’s part of our One Fabulous Fit portfolio of bras, and it will be the most aggressive color launch we’ve ever made. There will be five fashion colors and four basic shades.” He added the new bra style will feature a “very successful ingredient” — microfiber stretch foam bra cups.
Reznik noted there are three additional initiatives: a group of mesh and satin panties called Sexy Thongs by Maidenform; a body briefer and cami with built-in stretch foam bra in sizes 38D to 42DD by Flexees One Fabulous Body, and two new minimizers by Lilyette — a tailored style and a lace number.
Regarding the business outlook, Tom Ward, ceo of Maidenform, observed, “Business has been pretty good lately, and our business has been strong. We’re definitely optimistic about the rest of the year.”
Seth Morris, president of Carole Hochman Designs Inc., agreed. “Business has been better. We were very pleased with last week’s business and we hope this velocity continues.”
Morris said the Hochman firm “showed holiday and Valentine’s Day in March and consolidated everything in one swoop. I’m sure we’ll see a number of specialty stores, who tend to buy closer to need, and we’ll be seeing major department store buyers to make sure everything we’ve done to date makes sense.”
Marcia Leeds, ceo of Richard Leeds International, said the French Jenny sleepwear collection will feature a “more contemporary fit” for holiday and Valentine’s Day selling.
“We’ve spent a great deal of time and attention on new fabrics in wovens and knits and detail that has a lot of bows, beading and 3-D art,” said Leeds. “The art is simpler looking with sayings like ‘Easy to Love’ and ‘Tempt Me.’” Leeds added there will be a “unique” packaged gift called “Whisper Sweet Nothings,” a thong in a clear plastic zip envelope with a screen that says “A Message Can’t Be Wrong If You Say It with a Thong.” The envelope comes with a mailer and the purchaser can also write a personal note on the screen.
David Komar, executive vice president of The Komar Co., said, “This may be a very small market, but this is the time we plan to show our ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s starring French Kitty’ program. It’s a co-branding effort between French Kitty and Viacom Consumer Products at Paramount. In the estate of Audrey Hepburn, it was noted that her image could not be used on panties. But everybody loves the movie. So Paramount’s idea was to substitute French Kitty in that role.”
Komar said the line will feature a combination of mesh and stretch satin daywear with heart motifs, classic and whimsical pajamas and robes, and a “sexy component,” a V-string panty and cheeky pants. Packaging for gift-giving will include a “martini bikini” — a signature black-and-pink box with two pairs of French Kitty panties and a martini glass, and a heart-shaped box with three pairs of panties with sayings such as “Ooh la la.”
Komar added the licensed line of Lucky Brand sleepwear will feature a gambling theme: a queen of hearts border print on tank tops, a placed print of a hand of cards on sleep shirts and pajama sets and a “Let It Ride” saying with a Lucky Brand four-leaf clover printed across the front of cheeky pants.
“This happens to be a very important market for us,” said Howard Radziminsky, senior vice president of sales at Movie Star. “February is a huge business for us, and it represents about 35 percent of our total spring business.” Heart prints, clipped jacquards, marabou trim and novelty corsets in red, pink and black are the key classifications, he said.
“Last year, baby dolls accounted for 80 percent of our Valentine’s Day business. This year, it looks like bustiers and garters will generate 40 to 50 percent of that business,” said Radziminsky.
Richard Catalano, president of Los Angeles-based Love Letters, said reaction has been strong to a mascot dog group called Spot Says by Love Letters. The line of dual-purpose sleepwear features sayings like “Save the Trees,” “Carpe Diem,” “Relax” and “Bite Me.” The line has been expanded to include tote bags, baseball hats and two “doggie Ts” — mini T-shirts for dogs with sayings “Beware of Big Attitude” and “Will Beg for Treats.”
“Red, pink and green are the top-booking colors,” said Catalano.
Gail Epstein, president and design director of Hanky Panky, said, “May is a minor market but it’s an important market for us because we’re introducing our velvets. We’re also starting to get some nice response to our new Hanky Panky at the Spa line. This collection is a synergy of all my favorite items that have been designed and draped for a new level of performance.”
The spa line features Lycra spandex blends with nylon jacquard and cotton, cotton interlock, French terry and a moisture-wicking microfiber Epstein calls “moisture magic.” Color combinations include paisley jacquard eggplant and burnt orange and black and tan, as well as solid coral and black. Sizes are S, M, L and XL.