NEXT GENERATION OF LYCRA TARGETS BABY BOOMERS
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — DuPont has big expectations for its next generation of Lycra spandex, known as Lycra Soft, which it will start marketing to consumers this fall.
Company executives say the new fiber, introduced Sunday at the Salon International de la Lingerie trade show in Paris, presents a major growth opportunity on an international scale.
The product is said by DuPont to offer greater stretch and a more comfortable feel than current Lycra products. DuPont hopes it will be exactly what aging baby boomers will be seeking in innerwear.
While DuPont executives would not give figures, they noted that the new fiber will have a “multimillion-dollar” annual advertising and marketing budget. It will be an “integral part of our global marketing communications budget for Lycra, which is in excess of tens of millions of dollars,” said a DuPont spokeswoman.
Moreover, the new product is “just one in a series of new products planned” for the Lycra brand, said Salim Ibrahim, vice president and general manager, Lycra worldwide.
Prices have not yet been established, said the company.
According to DuPont, two major factors distinguish Lycra Soft — known in-house as Type 902C — from its 35-year-old sister: the new elastic fiber has higher elongation that almost doubles the stretch qualities, and it gives a consistent level of pressure for allover control. DuPont said garments are more comfortable when the wearer is moving, and the fit is better, especially at the upper limits of sizes.
As with established Lycra, the new fiber retains a “significant recovery force,” said Jon Penrice, intimate apparel manager for Lycra in Europe.
“We think this will have a significant impact on intimate apparel business worldwide,” said Penrice. “There’s a very significant shift taking place in the developed markets of North America and Europe. The under 24s will decline dramatically, while the aging baby boomers in the 35-to-54 age range increase dramatically.”
Those baby boomers, he said, will want to maintain a younger, firmer-looking figure under apparel, and this demographic shift is expected to be important over the next 10 years, creating a “major opportunity” for intimate apparel business, mainly shapers.
Over the last several years, the foundations industry itself has developed a number of shaper products, designed to cinch waists, pull in tummies, tame thighs and lift derrieres, and shapers have been one of the fastest-growing categories in innerwear.
The shift is expected by DuPont to have a significant impact on other targeted areas as well: hosiery, bodywear and activewear.
The new fiber, said Elizabeth A. Browning, global director of marketing strategy for Lycra, is “a softer product for a more relaxed period in clothing.”
In exploring the attitudes of women, Penrice noted that DuPont began conducting consumer focus groups last November in France, Germany and the UK.
“Typically, we heard a lot of stories of failed diets and exercise regimens,” said Penrice. “The attitude was ‘I am how I am,’ and support underwear was their number one solution.”
Penrice said plans for a marketing campaign haven’t been completed, but noted that Lycra Soft will be available to mills and manufacturers through licensing partnerships for 1996 and 1997. He said licensed partners will be supported with a range of technical and fabric services as well as promotional programs to increase consumer awareness and product sell-throughs.
Penrice would not identify companies participating in the fall launch at stores in the U.S. and Europe, but described them as “major players.” He did say, though, that Wacoal Japan, the Kyoto-based innerwear giant, began testing Lycra Soft in the Far East last fall with a control brief called Magic Pants.
“It’s a premium fiber, that’s for sure,” said Alan Fisher, vice president of merchandising at the Wacoal America unit here.
“It certainly has the stretch advantages of allover fit and function, and less yardage is used. Prettier, more feminine-looking shapewear items can be made.”
Paul Heron, vice president of merchandising at Trueform Foundations, a shapewear division of Maidenform Worldwide Inc., said, “We’re about to go into wear-test trials with it.”
However, Heron said commitments haven’t yet been made.
“We still don’t know enough about the price it will be marketed at in the U.S., and we don’t know how it will work with stretch laces and tricots,” he said.
Robin Suvoy, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Macy’s East, said: “I hear it has a great hand. We are in initial conversations. It’s being coordinated with Federated Merchandising.”