POURING ON THE FASHION FOR A ROBUST MARKET

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Fashion was what innerwear retailers wanted — and a mother lode of fashion is what they will be getting for spring.
Bookings generally will not be finalized for the next several weeks, but manufacturers said the retail turnout at last month’s market was exceptionally robust, fueled primarily by an ever-increasing hunger for more color, unique-looking laces and embroideries and a broader selection of microfibers — rendered in allover sleek looks or buttery soft laces.
There’s a big difference, though, when it comes to the overall look of foundations, daywear, sleepwear and at-homewear this spring compared with last: Undergarments, including bras, shapewear and a variety of daywear tops, have a more contemporary flavor in minimally detailed silhouettes that often are molded and seamless. The focus now is more on an interesting fabric such as printed, double meshes and nets in soft, romantic pastels or tone-on-tone patterns. Lace embellishments and embroideries are used sparingly, giving many styles a modern yet feminine look.
Daywear has also taken a more modern approach. A popular idea at the August market was the mixing of different fabrics like a chemise by Natori of stretch lace microfiber jersey.
Kathy Nedorostek, president and chief operating officer of Natori Co., noted, “It was a great market overall. Anything in stretch, animal prints and cottons that are solid, textured or printed were great. Embroideries were exceptional.”
Generally, winners last spring included items that featured tons of lace — the more elaborate the lace treatment, the better, whether it was bright multicolored, cross-dyed laces, heavy-handed embroideries and ornate lace patterns.
Retailers and vendors generally said that sleepwear, robes and at-homewear gained in importance last spring. They mainly credit a demand from consumers for more dual-purpose items that are comfortable and aimed at different lifestyles.
Top ideas include long caftans and long and short zip-front robes that can double as beach coverups; tunics, oversized shirts and crop tops with coordinating pull-on pants a woman can lounge around in or wear to bed, and long and short leisure dresses that can be worn out. A broader range of colors and fabrics from the sportswear and ready-to-wear fields makes the difference for spring: linens, jerseys, Lycra blends with silk knit, active-inspired cotton knits that are softly brushed and a number of options in printed and solid silks.
Assessing the overall mood of vendors, Peter Keyloun, president of Ariel, a division of John David Associates, said, “Retailers were absolutely ravenous for fashion and color. It was wonderful.”
Keyloun said three at-homewear groups were “hits” — a group of tops and coordinating pants of linen and rayon with a subtle leaf embroidery in sage and dusty pink; washable separates of crinkle cotton with an embroidered fleur-de-lys on a jade or periwinkle ground, and lightweight, zip-front robes of ripple-pattern polyester in sky blue, baby pink and orchid.
Carole Hochman, president and design director of Carole Hochman Designs, said, “The hot thing for us was caftans, which were universally loved by big stores and small stores. At first, the staff was unsure about the idea of caftans, but I believed it would be a success from the start.”
Hochman further noted that, “Long, tanky dresses in woven cotton with spaghetti straps, dresses you would wear in the house, but not necessarily sleep in.”
Susan Reid, national sales manager at Nautica Sleepwear for women, said one print in particular has generated “bookings across the board” — a floral print in chambray blue and white inspired by British Liberty prints. A short leisure dress is a key item, she said.
“We’ve also had strong response to active-inspired items that can double as streetwear,” said Reid, showing as examples tops and bottoms in lightweight baby-rib cotton knit. Top colors are sea foam and chambray.
“Cotton knits trimmed with an understated daisy lace pattern by Priamo have been terrific. Retailers especially liked the kimonos, short and long T-shirts, and dresses with a built-up bra treatment at the bodice,” said Sheila Solomon, national sales manager at Priamo Designs.
Regarding foundations, Tobie Garfinkle, vice president of merchandising for the Lily of France and licensed Natori, Josie and Oscar de la Renta labels at Bestform Group, said: “The X Bra was very, very strong and will probably be one of the biggest launches by Lily of France.” As reported, The X Bra has a flexible adjuster at the center of the bra that gives the bosom maximum lift, or a softer, gentler silhouette.
Garfinkle added that response was “tremendous” to a new molded, seamless bra of Micro Tactel by Natori, as well as a “very romantic-looking antique rose-pattern lace group” of bras.
“We’ve also had amazing response to Josie bras. I think it’s because of the success of the new, contemporary look of Josie sleepwear. We are featuring many of the same colors, fabrics and treatments on the bras, and retailers liked that idea,” said Garfinkle.
Carola Di Iorio, managing director of Lingerie de France, a unit of VF Corp., said, “My hottest seller is a convertible, strapless bra by Lou of Micro Tactel called Cristalle. I believe it’s had 100 percent bookings because it’s simple, tailored, seamless and is invisible under clothing.”
Di Iorio noted that bras and coordinating panties of printed double mesh by Bolero have been “extremely strong.” Top style: a demi-cup bra and brief that has a trompe l’oeil effect in a soft ivory and maize floral print.
Fred Olson, president of Vogue Dessous International, said, “Our Sheer Swirl group is on fire. The leader of the [bra] pack is the whisper-thin fiberfill-lined demi-cup.”
Olson noted that the Sheer Swirl group of nylon and Lycra features seven colors for spring, compared with two shades — black and white — this year.
He further noted that “response has been so dynamic” to a group called Mesh & Lace that the a demi-cup style will be featured in a national print advertising campaign beginning in October. The group is aimed at younger consumers, he said.
Helen Burns, national sales manager of Felina, said “A seamless, molded sheer group we call the Judy Garland collection has been excellent. The bras feature a hidden underwire and simple rose embroidery at the center of each cup.”
Colors are a white rose on a bright “mint julep” ground and a pale yellow rose on a muted green and yellow ground.

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