Byline: Suzanne Lynch

LYON — In spite of the ailing European economy, spirits were high at the Lyon, Mode City show, as 322 international intimate apparel manufacturers displayed the latest ultrafeminine looks for spring-summer 1998.
Attendance at the three-day show, which closed Sept. 8, was at a record high, totaling more than 14,605 visitors, show officials said. The trade fair also featured adjoining swimwear and fabric areas.
Europeans accounted for 80 percent of the total turnout, while 6 percent of the attendance came from the Far East, primarily Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan. The American head count hit 299, a 26 percent increase over last year’s figures.
There was a major focus on fabric blends that maximize comfort, including buttery-soft microfibers like Tactel nylon by DuPont; Dorlastan polyester by Bayer, and Modal, a rayon by Lenzing.
Microfiber was featured prominently in displays of daywear, bras and panties, shapewear and sleepwear.
Commented Clair Johnathan, product manager and fashion coordinator for the trade fair: “Lingerie has become a question of body cosmetology, of comfort. People are looking for a second-skin effect.”
Regarding color, she noted that cosmetic body tones were top ideas.
An overview of trends included:
Pale shades of green, coral, lavender blue, violet, mauve, mocha, cocoa, caramel, chocolate and rusty brown.
Anything that has a junior look — from little sheer baby dolls to daywear bras in juvenile-looking florals.
Lots of layering of sheers and laces.
Floral patterns in both fabric and embroideries.
More retro looks like halter bandeaux and boy-cut briefs. Princess Tam-Tam showed lots of retro looks in white cotton and romantic mauve.
Tattoo-look patterns.
Bottoms with interesting treatments, including wrapped effects and crescendo seaming.
Meanwhile, buyers and exhibitors alike praised the show’s international dimension.
“The Lyon show is growing fast and is becoming truly international. All the continents are present — North America, South America, Europe and Asia,” said Nicholas Reidler, a representative for the French bra company Aubade. The French company’s lines featured elaborate Oriental embroidery.
Catherine LeForban of Rien, a French foundations brand acquired in January by Sara Lee Corp. and part of Sara Lee’s Dim operation, noted, “We’ve seen a lot of Germans and Asian buyers so far.”
“Lyon has become a major exhibition hub,” said Dieter P. Kemp, president of G22 Worldwide, a New York-based marketer of daywear and bodywear by Keiko One For Stay Young line. The line uses fibers treated with Naturexx, a moisture-eliminating treatment used by athletes. G22 was one of five U.S. innerwear firms showing at an American Pavilion, sponsored by the Commerce Department, a first-time effort at Lyon. Several other U.S. firms showed independently.
Valeri Massoudie, export director for Warner’s, a unit of The Warnaco Group, said she had appointments with buyers from Turkey, Albania and Indonesia. Three Russian specialty store chains were interested in the upscale Lejaby collection of foundations, another Warnaco label, she said.
Dual-purpose items that offer more perceived value to consumers were a key attraction at the show.
Katherine Harestad, designer and an owner of White Rose, a California firm that specializes in Victorian-inspired sleepwear, noted that she received strong reaction to “lace pieces, which can be layered over a sheer piece.”
“That’s double economic value. The store or the customer can mix and match as they please,” Harestad said. “People here understand the value of quality.”
Like several of her fellow designers, Harestad said she came to the show in hopes of expanding her export business to Spain and Italy.
Susan Dunn — owner and designer of the company carrying her name, which makes robes and loungewear bearing the Spawear label — observed, “Europeans have a totally different mentality towards lingerie. They care most about what the body looks like in lingerie. Americans, however, are most interested in comfort.”
Dunn, though, noted that price remains an issue, adding that she observed “some disgruntled reactions” to the dollar’s recent rise.
“There was some price sensitivity here. It really adds on 10 percent, and I sensed conservatism from the French,” Dunn said.
Richard Gimble, president of Va Bien, New York, a shapewear firm — whose export business represents 30 to 35 percent of overall sales — noted, “Business is going well. We are seeing success with our zip-front corsets, which are worn under dresses. I think anyone will pay the price for an unusual product like this that works.” Va Bien was another American Pavilion exhibitor.
Regarding the overall mood of exhibitors and retailers at the show, Roselyn Richardson, organizer of Interfiliere, the textile segment, said: “Economically, I can’t say this year has been a good one for anybody, but the manufacturers are hardly desperate. Things have definitely picked up since summer.”
Tamiko Ryu, a buyer for a two-unit specialty operation in Tokyo and Osaka called Rue de Ryu, observed: “The show has become more and more clear in its concept. In the future, though, they need to promote new, young designers. That will bring in lots of buyers.”
Ryu said she stocks several European foundations brands, including Simone Perel, Scandale and Rien.

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