IN THE MARKETS: HOT ITEMS
ITEMS ARE HOT THIS SEASON, PROVING THAT NICHE MARKETING IS OFTEN THE BEST WAY TO MOVE EVERYTHING FROM PANTIES TO GOWNS. HERE, WWD LOOKS AT FOUR YOUNG COMPANIES WHO ARE FOCUSED ON ONE IDEA AND GOING FORWARD WITH IT.
Byline: DANA DAVIDSON
ATLANTA — When Christine and Susana Airala were growing up in Argentina, Caro Cuore was one of the hottest innerwear lines around. Today, it’s the number one lingerie line in Argentina and South America and the Airala sisters have brought it to the United States. They run the U.S. sales operations for Caro Cuore, which is distributed by North South International, a Miami-based company.
Caro Cuore, which means ‘dear heart’ in Italian, targets young women aged 15 to 35. “We brought the company here because we saw a need for lingerie marketed to the young consumer in America,” Christine Airala said. “We’re focusing on comfort, durability and creative designs, all of which are important to the young consumer.”
Caro Cuore focuses primarily on bras and panties, including some sleepwear pieces, as well. The innerwear comes mainly in cotton and Lycra spandex blends, which were chosen for their easy care, comfort and durability. All items come packaged in round metal collectible tins, as part of a marketing strategy aimed at teenagers.
The year-old line is sold in stores such as Enelra Lingerie, New York; Laina Jane, New York, and Lover’s Lane, Detroit. Wholesale price points for panties begin at $7, and bras begin at $18.
For fall 1995, best-selling styles were sporty navy bras and boy-cut panties with white racing stripes. Nylon and Lycra spandex foundations are shaping up as a strong look for spring 1996, especially in pastels and aquamarines, Christine Airala said.
“The girls like our styles so much that we’ve heard they are starting to wear them as swimwear on the beach,” she said. “That’s why we think we understand what they are looking for.”
The line is shown at Premiere Lingerie, 9N300B in that Atlanta Apparel Mart.
In the early Nineties, Barbara Lesser and her husband, Mark, launched Wearable Integrity, a line which offered “environmentally responsible” clothing made from organic cotton. But they found the market lukewarm.
“Consumers were not ready to support this effort because the clothing was rather pricy,” Barbara Lesser said.
The line is still called Wearable Integrity for corporate purposes, but sells under the Barbara Lesser label. And today, it has a whole new focus: dresses. Many have tops that are cut close to the body and flowing skirts.
For spring 1996, linens are an important look. Vivid colors are the latest trend, Lesser said. Price points range from $39 to $89 wholesale.
“This season we are using fabrics with a softer hand,” Lesser said. “We are also using one-of-a-kind handdyed treatments, new printing techniques and fabric blocking.”
Wearable Integrity’s move toward dresses didn’t happen overnight. The line initially branched out into casual contemporary sportswear in cotton and rayon. It was later on, when the couple began offering some dresses, that sales really picked up.
“My husband and I then realized that we should focus solely on the dress market,” Lesser said. “Dresses are easier to produce and can be marketed like T-shirts.”
Today, the line targets women on the go, Lesser said. It offers vests, jackets and coats to accessorize the dresses.
Jacobson’s, Parisian and Saks Fifth Avenue carry the line, Lesser said. At the Atlanta Apparel Mart, it’s shown by David Byrne, mart #11N-104.
Jovani Fashions Ltd.
Jovani Fashions opened its doors in 1979, but it was just three years ago that the company determined its focus.
Now it specializes in “sophisticated, elegant social occasion dresses,” according to owner and head designer Jacob Maslavi.
Maslavi runs the New York-based company with the help of his two sons, Saul, who is in charge of production, and Abraham, who heads up the sales operations.
Saul Maslavi explained that the company originally specialized in mother-of-the-bride looks, but found that the cocktail/social occasion part of the business was growing and was more lucrative. Now the company is 50 percent social occasion and 50 percent mother of the bride, projecting sales of over $7 million for 1996.
The Maslavis don’t feel their collection appeals to any specific age group, but rather suits a variety of ages with styles ranging from a simple satin sheath to a fully beaded ballgown.
Price points range from $130 to $350 wholesale and sell mainly in bridal and specialty shops in the U.S. and abroad. Southeastern accounts include Heritage Bridal, Albany, Ga.; Round Robin, Columbia, S.C., and Sparkles, Orlando, Fla.
The company is known for its quick delivery capabilities, which it makes possible by keeping a warehouse stock of over 10,000 dresses on hand. It also carries large-size gowns.
Currently, long gowns are outselling short ones for spring. Saul Maslavi also pointed to crepe, satin and chiffon as the most popular fabrics for the season. The spring line includes everything from long pink chiffon gowns and champagne satin fortuni pleated long-skirted suits to short-skirted pastel suits with lace and bead detailing.
The line is shown at Putnam Enterprises in room 10S-117 in the Atlanta Apparel Mart.
Shayna Apparel may manufacture updated misses’ clothing, but owner Abe Kleinman says his business is run the old-fashioned way. “I’m nice to everybody. I don’t believe in making demands. I still go by the rule that the customer and the salespeople are the most important commodity for my success,” Kleinman said.
Kleinman’s attitude is working for his three-year-old company, where he expects sales to approach $3 million in 1996.
Kleinman started the company after he took an early retirement from the apparel industry, where he’d worked for 28 years. “My wife told me she married me for better or for worse, but definitely not for lunch,” he laughed.
Based in North Hollywood, Calif., the company focuses on casual and relaxed career apparel for a 35-plus customer. “I picked a niche and I’m focusing on it,” he said. I’ve learned you can’t really please everyone.”
This older customer, says Kleinman, is looking for fashion-forward, but not “crazy,” clothing. “We use unusual, but not unacceptable, fabrications and colors,” he explained. “And everything is full cut, because no matter what, everyone gets wider as they grow older.”
“The 45-year-old lady of 1996 is not the same one as the 45-year-old 20 years ago,” he said. “She isn’t satisfied with polyester pants, but she is not looking for tank tops either, she’s looking for short sleeves. She’s also looking for collars to hide her neck.”
The Shayna line mixes blouses, pants, jackets and vests in fabrics such as linen and rayon. For spring, the “sophisticated lady” group in neutral colors such as tan, ecru and gray is selling well. There is also a pastel grouping and a nautical grouping in the line.
Price points for the line are in the moderate range from $18 to $34 wholesale for individual pieces. Because of the fabrics, their account base is strongest in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest. Some accounts include Maxco, Marco Island, Fla.; Courtyard Petites, Punta Gorda, Fla., and Sam Ellis, Calexico, Calif.
Kleinman says he prefers working with small, well-run specialty shops that focus on their customers. “I don’t deal with animals or cannibals. I deal with merchants. To me, there are store owners and there are merchants. Merchants figure out a way to keep going in bad times, they look for solutions. That’s the difference.”
The line is shown in room 12E-319 in the Atlanta Apparel Mart.