Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Victoria’s Secret got an early start on spring fever last week with its annual fashion show at the Plaza Hotel here, where peekaboo sheers and allover stretch laces heated up the runway.
“The [lingerie] looks are definitely glamorous, and a lot sexier looking this year,” said Grace Nichols, president of the Victoria’s Secret Stores division of Intimate Brands Inc.
Indeed, the push toward sexier-looking items — especially gift-giving ideas for Valentine’s Day — included a lot of dominatrix-looking corsets, full slips and baby dolls with plunging necklines, richly embroidered push-up bras and barely there bikinis, and boy-cut briefs that exposed a good deal of derriere.
There were also crossover ideas for spring: models walked down the runway wearing swimwear that often looked like intimate apparel, and activewear-inspired bras and panties underneath sheer long robes and tunics that could be worn on the beach. It was the first time swimwear was featured in the show.
In line with the overall theme of sheer looks, Nichols said the chain is expanding its presentations for spring in sheer hosiery — a lot of which was modeled in the show in bold hues of red and orange. The specialty chain introduced sheer black control-top hosiery, as well as shapewear items, in 1996.
Cynthia Fedus, president of Victoria’s Secret Catalog, also noted in an interview before the show that these formal presentations “create a significant surge in business. We are looking forward to that again.” The event, which was first staged in 1995, pulled in over 400 members of the media, Wall Street executives, and the entertainment industry, including rock star Bon Jovi, and James Brown, the “godfather of soul,” who performed after the fashion show.
On another point, Fedus noted that Victoria’s Secret Catalog is looking to heighten its business in Japan. A telephone center for mail-order business will be set up in Tokyo by this summer, she said.
“We were doing so much business in Japan without really trying,” Fedus continued, saying mail-order sales to Japanese consumers in 1996 “increased tenfold. We expect sales will more than double this year.”
She added that styles will be merchandised specifically for the Japanese market as expansion continues.