FALL HOPES PINNED TO COLORS, MEN’S WEAR LOOKS

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Buyers and vendors are counting on shots of color, men’s wear looks and Nordic styles to boost legwear sales for fall.
Those trends, said retailers and manufacturers at last week’s market, should compensate for slower business in boot socks, which unexpectedly leveled off last fall.
At showrooms such as DML Marketing, Gold Toe and Paul Lavitt Mills — where several buyers said they were planning for seasonal gains of as much as 10 percent — traffic and bookings were brisk.
Sid Smith, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers, who were doing some business here last week, said even he had a difficult time scheduling showroom visits.
At the Hanes Hosiery showroom, buyers were greeted by the sounds and sights of Tina Turner, the firm’s new spokeswoman, who will be appearing in ads this fall for Smooth Illusions, Silk Reflections and Resilience. Pictures of her decorated the showroom, while her songs provided a counterpoint to sales pitches.
Generally, buyers said they were optimistic about fall. Unlike last fall, when retailers struggled to match unprecedented gains in 1994 generated by sales of thigh-highs and over-the-knee socks, growth should be easier to attain this fall, they said.
For fall, Macy’s East is planning socks and tights “pretty aggressively” and should see a double-digit percentage increase, she said. Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Calvin Klein and Jones New York are among the top resources being counted on for fall.
Engle, who is planning for a slight rise in sheers sales this fall, described that market as “pretty quiet.” Calvin Klein sheer pantyhose was a standout, she said.
Shopping at the ETC showroom, Sue Perkowski, buyer for Elder-Beerman, said her budget was heftier than last year’s.
Gold Toe, Mystique by Ben Berger, Kenneth Cole, Hot Sox and Jones New York are among her resources. Nordic looks, luxury yarns and status looks such as equestrian prints should be important, Perkowski said.
Arthur Lavitt, president of Paul Lavitt Mills, which produces socks under the In Step, Round the Clock and Nicole Miller labels, said fall business should increase by at least 10 percent. The Nicole Miller brand, sales of which are expected to double for fall, is the fastest growing aspect of the business, and additional growth is planned.
For fall, six styles of trouser socks and six styles of tights are being introduced under the designer’s label and could generate $250,000 in wholesale volume in the next year. Designed with whimsical prints and patterns, the new items will wholesale from $5.50 for trouser socks to $6.50 for tights.
Marty Kramer, president of Trimfit, said retailers visiting his firm’s showroom were looking for new designer names in legwear and were reacting well to the company’s newly licensed Anna Sui and Cynthia Rowley lines.
Tights, anklets and knee-highs are offered in Rowley’s 36-piece line. In addition to classic cables, there are such antic touches as anklets with images of Lucky, the designer’s cat.
Twelve styles of tights in solids such as Sui’s signature purple are being offered under her label.
Brights are also key at the Giorgio Armani Calze showroom, where executives are planning a 27 percent gain for fall. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that most accounts said they plan to roll out the brand to an additional two to five doors.
With wholesale prices ranging from $3.60 for cotton and nylon athletic socks to $17 for Italian wool-blend tights, heather wool-blend socks at $7.50 were highlights of the 93-piece collection, according to Maria Kellar, national sales manager.
Having cut its fall offerings by 15 percent to make shopping easier for buyers, The Hot Sox Co. said that for the first time retailers were using planograms and figuring out orders in the showroom. “I think in the past we were overpowering the retailer by offering five themes,” said Gary Wolkowitz, president and director of design. “Now we’ve pulled in the reins a little, but we’re still offering a wide selection.” At the Calvin Klein hosiery showroom, buyers liked the looks of a “booster shaper” at $7.25 in the collection hosiery line, according to Betsy Petroski, hosiery designer. Designed with extra control from the waist through the mid-thigh, the pantyhose features a U-shaped knit around the bottom to boost the derriere.
At the American Essentials showroom, bestsellers in the firm’s 50-piece sock line included viscose and Lycra spandex textured crew socks at $3.15, lightweight viscose and nylon crew socks at $2.70 and cotton and wool mini-argyle socks at $3.15.

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