Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Texture, shine and a variety of blends of cotton and Lycra spandex were among the best-booking ideas at this month’s fall-holiday activewear market.
Almost anything with the look of silk and the hand of a microfiber in nylon or polyester also got good reaction. So did authentic microfibers. This season, said many manufacturers, marks their first test of activewear items in microfibers.
Also in big demand were high-performance fabrics, such as a blend of Supplex nylon and Lycra spandex, and blends of CoolMax with either polyester or Lycra. Those fabrics can help wick moisture away from the body, say vendors.
Although orders are not expected to be completed for another four to six weeks, manufacturers are generally projecting sales increases at up to 30 percent over a year ago.
They attributed their optimistic outlook to a demand for more dual-purpose looks such as two-piece pant sets with tunics or zip-front jackets, oversized tops and a variety of coverups, from anoraks to slouchy cardigans.
There also was lots of talk about major programs for spring 1996, especially all-American motifs such as stars and stripes, team logos — often in red, white and blue — and Olympic-inspired themes, also in red, white and blue.
“The all-American theme has been very strong at Speedo,” said Linda J. Wachner, chairman and chief executive officer of parent company Authentic Fitness Corp. “I think it’s almost a national trend that’s happening in America this year, especially with the new election campaigns and the 1996 Olympics coming up.”
Regarding microfibers, Wachner said the color range in Speedo’s men’s and women’s activewear jackets has almost doubled to nine colors for fall. Speedo also has several styles of warm-up suits in polyester microfiber for men and women.
“We’ve been doing microfibers for several years, and this year microfibers are sensational for us,” said Wachner.
Mary Anne Domuracki, president of Danskin Inc., said, “We will be taking a very serious approach to the Olympics next spring, and we will be incorporating many Olympic-inspired ideas in styling and silhouette. We also will be focusing lots of attention on our Team Danskin athletes.
Domuracki noted that the firm is planning “many projects” with the new Danskin spokeswoman, Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci.
She said the Dance France group, made of a sueded Tactel nylon and Lycra with the look and feel of a microfiber, got a good reaction for fall selling.
“Market week was very strong,” she said, noting that open-to-buy for activewear at department stores generally was 20 percent higher than it was a year ago. At sporting goods outlets, activewear budgets were higher. Domuracki said they were up in “double-digits,” but wouldn’t elaborate.
“Shine was really hot for us,” said Norm Zwail, president of Weekend Exercise Co., San Diego.
Zwail singled out two top groups for fall and holiday: the Power Lifter Bra by Marika in shiny nylon and Lycra, in black, silver and wine, and a blend of shiny polyester and Lycra in black with white overstitching by Aerodynamics.
“The polyester and Lycra fabric has a lot of wicking qualities,” said Zwail. “Our spokeswoman, Paula Newby-Frazier, won her seventh Ironman Triathalon wearing the polyester blend.”
As for overall business, Zwail projected sales gains at 15 percent over last year. He attributed that to a “huge” 13-ounce fleece program in Marika and more updated styling in Aerodynamics.
Rita Cinque, vice president of Active Apparel Group, stated, “Our fall market was outrageous, and we booked $2 million in business.” She expects sales gains of 30 percent over 1994 figures.
“Our future bookings are very strong, and again it’s in the cotton knits,” said Cinque, singling out a one-by-one rib knit group in the licensed Everlast line.
“Cotton knits coordinated with bodywear are what retailers want right now,” she said.
Looking at spring ’96, Cinque said there will be several Olympic-inspired groups of T-shirts, bra tops, bike shorts and unitards in the licensed Converse and Everlast lines.
Barbara Kling, president of the licensed J.G. Hook activewear and swimwear division of Abstrom N.Y. Inc., said a micro-fleece group of polyester has met with “phenomenal” reaction.
The group comes in solid colors: black, red, royal blue and gunmetal gray. Styles are a sweatshirt, a mock turtleneck crop top, a turtleneck tunic and drawstring shorts and pants.
“This micro-fleece is often used as linings of bike pants,” said Kling. “People love it the minute they touch it.”
“The enthusiasm of the market really was geared to fabrics that give comfort and function, such as CoolMax and Transpor,” said Nick De Marco president of Nautilus Wear, a division of Delta Woodside Inc., Greenville, S.C. Both fabrics help wick moisture away.
De Marco noted that textured cotton and Lycra knits such as rib-patterns and waffle weaves were the “hottest” items for spring and fall. He said there was also a “strong movement” towards cotton loop terry, especially with items like T-shirts, sweatshirts and shorts.
Natalie Rousso, chairman of Rousso Apparel Group, said, “Anything that has a textured look in silks and a look of microfiber was very strong for fall.”
She singled out several top-booking ideas in the Mureli line of casualwear: silk plaid and plaid flannel looks; embroidered French terry sets, and printed jacquard silks.
“We are 30 percent ahead in bookings over a year ago,” said Rousso.
Gilda Marx, a chairman of Gilda Marx Industries, Los Angeles, said a group of polyester and CoolMax items for early fall under the Gilda Marx label has been “excellent.”
In addition to function, Marx said the CoolMax group is “very soft to the touch, holds prints well and takes color beautifully.”
Key silhouettes, she said, include little crop tops, bra tops and five-inch HotPants.