CALVIN KLEIN’S SWEET DREAMS
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — The new Calvin Klein sleepwear — the latest chapter in the designer’s intimate apparel saga — is aiming at a broad audience, ranging from juniors on a limited budget to women who buy Klein’s upscale sportswear.
The sleepwear, introduced last week by The Warnaco Group, bears the Calvin Klein logo on its more sophisticated renditions, such as those in silk velvet, and the CK logo on its casual looks, such as cotton fleece nightshirts.
The line, which begins shipping May 25, is expected to rack up wholesale sales of $25 million to $30 million in its first year, said John Kourakos, president of Calvin Klein Underwear and Sleepwear at Warnaco. Linda J. Wachner, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Warnaco, forecast the sleepwear would be a $70 million to $100 million annual business “in the next few years.”
Retailers showed similar enthusiasm.
Robin Suvoy, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Macy’s East, described Calvin Klein sleepwear this way: “I think it’s the single biggest story at the fall market.
“I was very impressed with the line. It is extremely well thought out, priced and merchandised and it appeals to a broad market. It just might be the momentum we need to get people interested in sleepwear again…to get juniors into department stores [for sleepwear], and women who have been sleeping in T-shirts or wearing sweatpants to lounge in.”
The Macy’s flagship store at Herald Square features the world’s largest Calvin Klein Underwear boutique — 2,400 square feet.
Wholesale prices for the sleepwear run from $6.50 for novelty cotton flannel boxers and $14.50 for coordinating baseball tops to $325 for a long, wrap robe of silk velvet. Shiny, 19-momme silk items wholesale from $44 for a long slipgown and $47.50 for a long pajama set, to $60 for an easy, long robe.
Other fabrics are solid and floral-printed polyester georgette, 420-gram cotton loop french terry, velours of cotton and polyester and a fabric called Modal, a trademarked blend of tree bark and cotton by Lenzing, an Austrian mill, which has a semiopaque finish and a dry hand. There also are items such as short slipgowns with built-in underwire bras in blends of Tactel nylon and Lycra spandex.
Colors are black, white, red, midnight navy and gray.
While Kourakos said the innerwear was “based on lifestyle, not price,” he did acknowledge the prices have popular appeal.
“Consumers can buy a product that’s reasonably priced with a designer name,” he said. “They go home having made a purchase of significance without going broke.”
Wachner commented, “The wonderful thing is that all the groups, the silks as well as the cottons, are [ordering] well. I think consumers have gone through the day of private label. They are searching for quality and known names.”
Wachner noted GJM — a $110 million maker of private label silk sleepwear, based in Hong Kong — was purchased in February specifically to manufacture silk sleepwear under the Calvin Klein label. This will enable Warnaco to take control of GJM’s lucrative private label accounts, which include Intimate Brands and the Victoria’s Secret division of The Limited.
Overall, Warnaco’s intimate apparel businesses had sales of $689.2 million in the year ended Jan. 6, and the Calvin Klein label — powered by a $10 million annual marketing and advertising budget — has been a key weapon in Warnaco’s arsenal of brands. The designer launched an underwear line in men’s styles in 1984. Warnaco acquired the men’s and women’s underwear businesses in March 1994 in a deal worth $62.5 million ($38.5 million in cash and $24 million in Warnaco common stock) plus ongoing fees. Warnaco relaunched the men’s almost immediately and the women’s at the start of 1995. In the process, distribution of the underwear lines in U.S. department stores has more than doubled to 1,200 doors over the past year.
“Historically, the women’s underwear never did more than $10 million to $12 million a year,” said Kourakos. “We had budgeted to distribute $17 million the first full year, and we ended up shipping $44 million.” About $38 million was sold in the U.S., he said.
Under Warnaco’s aegis, sales of Calvin Klein men’s underwear the first full year of distribution jumped to $103 million from $61 million, said Kourakos.
Kourakos estimated sales of Warnaco’s Calvin Klein women’s business, buoyed by the addition of sleepwear, will almost double to $80 million in 1996.
“The whole premise of the sleepwear,” continued Kourakos, “is that it grew out of a few sleepwear pieces, which were just extensions of the underwear collection. It came to represent huge successes at retail.
“By year’s end, the sleepwear will be distributed to 1,200 doors,” he said, noting overall distribution of the women’s underwear line is expected to total 1,700 doors by the end of 1996.
Kourakos added that the Bloomingdale’s flagship here will “double its space for Calvin Klein sleepwear and underwear in the next few months from 800 square feet to about 1,700 square feet to accommodate the collection’s expansion.”
As a sidelight, Kourakos noted some items in the underwear lines have unisex appeal.
“We’ve shipped 1.2 million men’s boxers in a season — a good portion of which are bought by women for men, and for themselves,” he said.
He added that several retailers last week said they thought the french terry robes in the new women’s sleepwear line could be merchandised and sold as men’s robes, as well.
The men’s line also helps build interest in the label for innerwear, “especially since 70 percent of men’s underwear purchases are made by women,” he said.
In May, Warnaco plans to keep the momentum going with another line introduction: molded-cup sports bras, bike shorts and unitards, all bearing the Calvin Klein label. The Warner’s division of Warnaco, which produces sports bras by Speedo, will manufacture the Calvin Klein sports bras.
Wachner said she expects retail sales of the Calvin Klein men’s underwear and women’s innerwear businesses to grow “well in excess of half a billion dollars in 1997.”
Regarding competition from the newly licensed Ralph Lauren Underwear line to be launched by Sara Lee Corp. in early 1997, Kourakos said, “Certainly, it’s competition. But we have an established business, and our intent is to protect our house.”