LYON: A GLOBAL MELTING POT
Byline: Karyn Monget
LYON, France — It’s no longer just a French affair.
The Lyon, Mode City trade show has become an international powerhouse.
The Spring-Summer 2000 Lingerie and Swimwear Fair and Fall-Winter 2000-2001 Fabrics Expo here was not only bigger and better organized than a year ago, it was bustling with 17,298 visitors, a 4 percent increase. The total number of international attendees surged 8 percent to 8,246.
The burgeoning importance of the 15-year-old Lyon fair is not surprising. Once considered the regional stepchild of its bigger sister, the Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris, the Lyon edition pulled in top executives from around the world.
The turnout of corporate leaders from several Fortune 500 companies included Linda J. Wachner, chairman and chief executive officer of The Warnaco Group; Charles L. Nesbit, president and ceo of Sara Lee Intimates at Sara Lee Corp.; Daniel G. MacFarlan, vice president and chairman of VF Corp.’s intimate apparel, knitwear and playwear coalitions; Ellen Rohde, president of VF’s Vanity Fair Intimates division, and Maurice Reznik, president of Maidenform Worldwide.
In addition to the 35 American innerwear and bodywear exhibitors — 14 of whom were ensconced in an American Pavilion — the turnout of American retailers, manufacturers and suppliers reflected an impressive 10 percent increase to 393.
The number of innerwear and swimwear brands exhibited at the Sept. 4-6 edition also soared, to 590 — 362 of which included women’s foundations, daywear, sleepwear and at-homewear, and men’s underwear. Last year, 325 innerwear brands were showcased.
Among the countries that ranked highest in attendance, in order, were Italy, Spain, Germany, the U.K., the U.S., Belgium, Japan, Switzerland, Hong Kong and The Netherlands.
A majority of the retailers and exhibitors said they were pleased with the layout and organization of the sprawling 50,000-square-foot fair. They generally described it as workable, informative and pleasant. The event was staged at the Euroexpo Center on the outskirts of Lyon.
As usual, a big draw was the fact that Lyon — known for centuries as “The City of Silk” — is a culinary treasure of France. Even the highly critical French are said to be reverential of Lyonnaise cuisine.
At least equally as important, however, was the clear and concise manner in which the show’s director, Jehan Quettier, organized and showcased a multitude of new ideas and directional trends for the lingerie, swimwear and textile markets. In addition to formal runway shows, intimate apparel and swimwear were highlighted in trend board presentations and seminars. The textile segment was situated in its own mammoth section, where there was enough elbow room to review new product and directional ideas from over 450 vendors in an unpressured environment.
A big change this year was the presence of runway shows dedicated exclusively to women’s lingerie and men’s underwear, and men’s and women’s swimwear. The shows focused on two concepts: specific brands and themes selected by La Federation de la Maille, such as “Siesta in Linen,” which featured sleepwear and at-homewear in a variety of semi-sheer and semi-opaque linens, and “Intimate Vibrations,” which highlighted intense shades of red, burgundy, fuchsia and orange. Last year, lingerie and swimwear were showcased together on catwalks.
Retailers and manufacturers — many of whom were spying on competitors’ appointment schedules and product presentations — said they gleaned a number of fresh ideas for mid-2000 and beyond.
From a cultural level, it was interesting to observe the scores of models who have apparently been influenced by a number of American TV shows that air in France, such as reruns of “Baywatch.” Many, who were coiffed and made up a la Pamela Anderson Lee, spoke French in a Valley Girl-like fashion of broken syllables.
Key intimate apparel trends included:
An evolution of seamless products in a variety of finer, lightweight microdeniers, as well as a new 30-denier Micromattique polyester and Lycra spandex blend for bra cups that’s economically printable. Roseann Beutell, manager of DuPont’s CoolMax and Micromattique/intimate apparel segment, said the new technique “offers a really serious opportunity worldwide, and a different vehicle to approach the swimwear industry.”
Beautiful multicolored or black and white embroideries that had an airspun quality on sheer grounds such as mesh, tulle and French net. This idea was rampant in various categories, including bras and panties, daywear items such as bodysuits, camis and tank tops, and sleepwear pieces like long sheer tanks with spaced embroideries over seamless undergarments. Kenzo lingerie made a major statement of spaced embroideries on sheer grounds.
At-homewear: At last, Europeans are getting the laid-back message, and many Euro resources including Neyret, Bain Plus, Kinnaird, Pilus and Pluto showed easy, dual-purpose items that can be worn at home or out buying a baguette at the boulangerie.
Lots of crossover looks in lingerie and swimwear, particularly prints, shine and anything that had an allover sleek, seamless look. At times, it was difficult to discern the difference. One example was Lise Charmel’s microfiber plissee bra and panty set called Collection Bain 2000.
Color: There was a kaleidoscope of colors reminiscent of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” era. A key color shown by Givenchy, Foemina, Vannina Vesperina, Leonisa, Sandra Maretti and Soir Originale was a bright lollipop shade called Lolita orange.
Baby dolls still rule: There was a strong preoccupation with Barbie-inspired baby dolls — or poupees de tulle — in micro tulle and a variety of printed and embroidered sheers, mainly in baby pales or pink, blue, green — and lots of pristine white.
Seamless was without a doubt the hottest classification at the show, said retailers and vendors, many of whom were aggressively networking for access — though contracting or acquisition — to the most sought-after technology at the show: Italian Santoni circular knitting machines. Among the U.S. companies who have invested in Santoni hardware are Sara Lee Intimates, Alba-Waldensian, Jockey International, Wundies Industries and Warnaco, with its recent acquisition of Izka, a French specialist.
The cost reportedly is $100,000 per unit, and the price is expected to get steeper as demand builds for a limited number of Santoni machines, which are geared exclusively to nylon dyeing and are said to be stirring a lot of interest in the swimwear market. The minimum wait for purchasing the knitting units is one year or more.
Charles Nesbit of Sara Lee Intimates, stated, “Seamless clearly was the single biggest big story in Lyon.”
Ellen Rohde of Vanity Fair Intimates said, “I saw a lot of new developments in lighter-weight microfibers. There’s a brand new microfiber out of Europe that everybody is describing as a ‘paper’ fabric, because it’s very lightweight, feels like paper, but it’s very strong. Everybody is trying to knock it off for the U.S. market.”
From a retailer’s perspective, Terri Meichner, vice president of intimate apparel at Federated Merchandising Corp., said, “Seamless is our number-one objective. That’s why we’re here. Everything that’s selling right now is seamless.
“Seamless already is impacting our bra business. We no longer sell cut-and-sewn bras. But the area that’s really been impacted in a big way by seamless is the panties business,” said Meichner.
John Caleo, design director of foundations for Victoria’s Secret, acknowledged the seamless classification has been “huge” for the lingerie chain and catalogs, particularly a line launched this spring called Body By Victoria.
Caleo said, “It’s all become much more interesting now, because it’s all about a mix of different fabrics, especially microfibers.
“A couple of years ago, it all looked different, as if it didn’t fit in. Now, it [microfibers and seamless looks] falls into the mix as if it’s always been there,” said Caleo.
Ann O’Connor, the newly appointed divisional vice president of intimate apparel at Neiman Marcus, noted, “I come from the couture eveningwear area. What was exciting and interesting for me to see were all of the trends showcased under one roof, especially the forecasting and color direction of textiles.
“The booths were not overcrowded, and it was a very easy way to see the entire European market in a glance,” said O’Connor.
Amanda Diaz, a Frederick’s of Hollywood historian who is also a spokeswoman for the firm, said, “The Lyon show has a very pleasant atmosphere. They are very, very organized. I love working this show. There really was something for everyone. I saw a lot of beautiful embroideries on sheers and wonderful, bumpy laces, as well as loads of seamless looks.”
Regarding the issue of seamless versus cut-and-sewn bras, Diaz noted, “Breasts, especially breasts of American women, are getting bigger and heavier by the moment. The support factor will continue to be very important. I’ve never seen as many padded, push-up bras as I did in Lyon. I think it’s because they’ve now become a staple at retail.”
Addressing the at-homewear category — an area that Frederick’s is exploring — Diaz observed, “There definitely were lots of loungy looks this year. I even saw it in the streets of Paris. It was wonderful when Parisians used to be so formal. If I saw another NBA sweat shirt on a French person, I was going to scream. This proves the casualization of America has come to France.”
A spokeswoman for Kmart, which sent several buyers and merchandisers to the show, said: “It has always been a good source of direction and inspiration in developing product and assortments for both intimates and sleepwear. We felt the themes for winter 2000 and the use of color were excellent.
“Our customer has been reacting to fashion, particularly in panties and daywear,” the spokeswoman said. “The reaction and sales to date have been fantastic, particularly on seamless and microfiber. Seamless has taken off, and we plan to expand throughout the balance of 1999 and 2000. Microfiber has been a huge success, and we are expanding this area as well.”
She further noted: “The Best of Swim in Lyon was excellent. We use the swimwear area as a source of direction for details, colors and print direction.”
Sylvia Weber, an owner of The Dessous Co., a lingerie boutique in Dusseldorf, Germany, noted, “We are here because we are always looking for something new. Germans travel an awful lot, and they see wonderful merchandise in the United States that we don’t have, like the Water Bra and control items by Bodyslimmers. We were extremely happy to see so many American vendors in Lyon.”
A big issue being discussed by suppliers and manufacturers at the show was the future of seamless products in the traditional bra business, which some believe could eventually be impacted. Still in its infancy, several U.S. bra firms reportedly are working on ways to encase underwires with allover Santoni knit treatments.
Over the past year, the seamless classification in daywear and underwear has skyrocketed into a huge business, according to retailers and manufacturers. In some cases, retailers such as Federated Merchandising said molded bras that have a seamless look and seam-free daywear items have begun to replace the backbone of the intimate apparel trade — rigid, cut-and-sewn bras.
Bill Scott, business director of textiles and automotive products at BASF, cited “the huge acceptance” of Santoni-made seamless undergarments, noting, “The growing demand for seamless products will likely change the traditional bra business as we know it. The bra makers are scared.”
Josie Natori, chairman of Natori Co., noted, “There has to be an evolution of the tailored, seamless statement. I think it’s just a matter of time before sheer and seamless will become part of the lace story. It will most likely come from the technology of the hosiery manufacturers who are doing a lot of lace patterns.”
Kathy Smith, brand manager for Lycra/intimate apparel at DuPont, said: “The big question going forward is how [bra] manufacturers will be able to take this to the next level of support for consumers, from daywear and underwear products to bras.”
“I think traditional bras will still have a place, and there will still be a need for structure” said Iris LeBron, fashion director for intimate apparel, swimwear and activewear at DuPont. “But soft structure and in modern interpretations like new, lightweight foam cups. Textronic laces are now going into bras. It’s soft and patterned without being too over the top.”
Ida Coraggio, DuPont’s marketing manager for intimate apparel and swimwear, said, “Reaction has been terrific to our new Tactel introductions, including a 90-denier Tactel Diablo, a soft black-spun nylon Tactel that will open up a lot of fashion options, and a matte Tactel Strata knit on Santoni machines. People love the Tactel Strata because it can be used in at-homewear, sleepwear, daywear and ready-to-wear. We even have different weights for intimates and swimwear.”
In the DuPont Tactel booth, Coraggio displayed three seamless Santoni-made daywear tops and panties that have “created a lot of excitement at retail”: a seamless Strata group by Calvin Klein Underwear in bottle green, a Tactel Micro group in shadow-striped burgundy by DKNY Intimates and a buff-colored bandeau and French-cut brief by Wacoal.
Noted John Bowman, president of the licensed Donna Karan Intimates and DKNY Intimates at Wacoal America, “This is the first time we showed in Lyon and we were thrilled. Reaction from the French and European specialty stores has been fantastic. We were very pleasantly surprised with a lot of orders from the German market, as well as established accounts and new accounts in the U.K.”
“This has become much more of an international fair than a European fair, and we’ve seen a lot more buyers from different parts of the world like Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Korea and Japan,” said David Deutchman, senior vice president of international sales for Maidenform Worldwide.
Marianne Gimbel, an owner of Va Bien, an American shapewear firm, said, “We were very pleased because we were very busy. We also came here to meet our distributors, and we found new ones for Italy, Spain, Jordan and Lebanon.”
Victor Lee, chief financial officer of NAP, said, “I can’t complain. It’s our first time here, and business has been brisk. But we came here mainly to find distributors for several of our sleepwear lines, including Anne Lewin and the licensed Crabtree & Evelyn name.”
Judy Sell, a marketing and sales representative from Van Nuys, Calif., who was foraging for trends for the Canadian foundations market, said, “I was thrilled with the abundance of new fabrications and treatments. I was pleased with all of the crinkle textures and delicate ruching and ruffle trims, embroideries on beading and all that shine — wow!”
Jennifer Buckley, vice president and director of design for Ariela-Alpha International, a New York-based innerwear firm, said, “I’ve seen tremendous innovation in terms of embroideries and different yarns in combination with fabrics. A good example is a variegated chenille yarn with metallic threads. There are lots of ethnic batiks like Indian and Asian, and a lot of it is coming from the hippie influence in sportswear.”
Regarding the American Pavilion, Justin Chernoff, president of Rago Foundations, said, “The American Pavilion gave us the drama we needed to make it more successful and attract the attention we wanted to get here. We are getting a lot out of these trade shows, and we plan to be part of the Intimare show in Bologna after we show at the Salon International in Paris. We also intend to show at an intimate apparel trade show in Shanghai in March.” The Salon International de la Lingerie at the Porte de Versailles in Paris is scheduled for Jan. 29-31; the Intimare edition at the Bologna Fairgrounds in Bologna, Italy, runs Feb. 5-8.
Meanwhile, the show’s director, Jehan Quettier, made sure there was never a dull moment after-hours for retailers and the media. A champagne reception was held at Lyon’s Hotel de Ville, the mayor’s offices, where guests ate petit fours in a drawing room, circa 1600s, while listening to a violin concerto. A gala dinner was hosted by Quettier at La Terrasse Saint Claire, a restaurant frequented by locals who play the French game of boule. Quettier explained that the paintings in the restaurant — which depicted an assortment of bare derrieres — told the story of “an old tradition in Lyon.”
“The loser of boule must kiss le fanny of the winner,” Quettier said.
Paris Show Growing
PARIS — The Jan. 28-31 edition of the Salon International de la Lingerie for fall-winter 2000-2001 and the Interfiliere textile fair for summer 2001 are expected to draw 700 international exhibitors and more than 18,000 visitors.
Jehan Quettier, the show’s director, said, “The space will be much larger this year — 50,000 square meters — because we’ll be taking over an additional hall which had formerly been the setting for the Salon International de Mode Homme. We are very pleased with this new development, as it will bring greater importance to our lingerie and textile shows, and will give us the means to insure our global leadership.”
Hall 1 will be added to Halls 4, 5 and 6, where the lingerie and textile fairs have traditionally been staged at la Porte de Versailles Exhibition Center.