Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — A lot of action is expected at next week’s late spring and transitional innerwear market, where makers will be showing line expansions, as well as an abundance of fashion goods.
A good number of manufacturers — especially sleepwear and robe firms — will be showing previews of fall merchandise earlier than usual. The main reason, according to vendors, is that major department and specialty stores are setting plans further in advance. Another factor was the earlier-than-usual timing of regional trade shows around the country, they said.
The importance of the November market, though, continues to get mixed signals from foundations manufacturers, most of whom continue to show their entire spring collections in August. Exceptions to the rule include Playtex at Sara Lee intimates, which will introduce several new products in November for the first time.
“This is certainly not typical for us. We’ll be extending our spring season into November for the first time with new style introductions,” said Cheryl Vitali, vice president of marketing for Playtex Apparel.
The introductions are being made to meet a demand for some specific products.
Playtex’s two major introductions next week will be: a new Eighteen Hour Posture Bra with Back Support and a Cross Your Heart with Side Shaping cotton bra. Suggested retail for the seamless posture bra of nylon and Lycra spandex with a cotton-cushion comfort band will be $26; the new side-shaping style will be tagged at $18.
“Retailers and consumers have been asking for posture bras like this for some time — not just for older women, but for younger women, as well, who want to look and feel great,” Vitali said. “They look like an athletic sports bra. It’s comfortable and features great esthetics.”
Lingerie de France, a part of VF Corp. which has the Lou, Bolero and Gemma European bra labels, has moved its schedule ahead for the first time to coincide with the U.S. market, said Carola Bernota, managing director of the VF unit.
“We knew it was time to pay more attention to the American schedule,” Bernota said, noting that the firm typically had run a season behind the American market.
New products for spring selling will include bras and coordinating panties by Lou of embroidered Meryl microfiber of polyester, cotton and nylon, and a group of cotton and microfiber Modal by Bolero. Suggested retails for both labels will be $65 for bras, $29 for thongs and $35 for bikinis and briefs.
“More and more, microfibers are becoming important,” Bernota said. “It’s a big underwear trend on both sides of the Atlantic.”
For smaller stores, the buying is still, for many, hand to mouth. Bubbles Smolev, owner and designer of On Gossamer, a Miami-based daywear and bra maker, said, “A lot of smaller stores will be coming to leave orders closer to the season. We will be showing spring at the Intimate Apparel Salon and fall at our New York showroom.”
On Gossamer’s “hot new item ” to be shown for Jan. 15 deliveries: an opaque, long and short full slip of microfiber Tactel nylon and Lycra with a built-in molded cup bra.
Among sleepwear and daywear resources, Jeff Bob, president of the Cinema Etoile division at Movie Star Inc., said, “Allover stretch lace has had excellent sell-throughs at retail, and we will expand assortments for November. Pastels will be strong for spring, and we will be doing transitional versions in deeper colors.”
In sleepwear, Bob said baby dolls will continue to be strong, and dual-purpose camis are expected to be consistently strong items in daywear.
Peter Lee, vice president of marketing at Fernando Sanchez, singled out as its top at-homewear offerings for late spring a group of tailored kimonos and jumpsuits of a monochromatic pinstriped Italian polyester in lavender, coral or gold. The at-homewear’s men’s wear-inspired look is softened with pleated chiffon treatments.
Kathy Weir, vice president of marketing and sales at Carole Hochman Designs, said satin sleepwear will be expanded, noting, “It’s retailed very well for us because of pretty styling and a collection concept. Buyers have bought it as a collection, not as items, and it’s had a real presence on the selling floor.”
Peter Keyloun, president of Ariel Designs, an at-homewear resource for catalogs, said: “Trapeze-shaped tunics — very much an ‘I Love Lucy’ look — will be a key idea for us for spring-summer.”
The one-button tunics of crinkle cotton will be merchandised with tank tops and pull-on pants that can be mixed and matched in royal blue, cherry pink and turquoise. Special detailing will include contrasting embroideries and Mandarin collar.
Kathy Reynolds, president of the Jockey for Her division at Jockey International, noted the big news for this company will be its new packaging program, which will be in stores for first-quarter selling. “This is a serious update. The whole structure of the new packaging will be clearer, more upscale and user-friendly for in-store personnel and customers,” she said.
Jockey for Her’s new packaging will be a clear polyester that’s lighter in weight with updated graphics and information, she said. The old packaging is a heavier poly bag that has a “filmy” texture.

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