PUSHING FOR AN EARLY FALL
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — An early look at fall programs in sleepwear, robes and loungewear — a strategy makers say is becoming increasingly important — will be a highlight of the transitional innerwear market here this week.
While the market is often a time when smaller stores seek immediate fill-ins, vendors note that showing goods in January for June and July deliveries gives them the opportunity to plan sufficient production for items getting top reactions, with the lead time needed for prompt shipments. Followup discussion of Mother’s Day promotions — shown initially at the November market — is expected to be another activity.
The market also gives stores and vendors a chance to hash out the hits and bombs of 1994, and when a bigger store turns up at a showroom, vendors expect that, as usual, there’ll be talk about markdown dollars.
Foundations firms showed the bulk of transitional and early-fall merchandise in November, but some will be showing expanded assortments of best-booking items. Presentations for fall assortments of bras and panties will generally be conducted at the end of February for major buying groups.
Makers say top-selling ideas that are expected to continue to be hot in 1995 will include: novelty stretch laces; matte and shine combinations; textured treatments; cotton knits; lots of embellishments; cosmetic tones, and anything that highlights the bosom.
Items that are generally predicted to continue fueling innerwear business this year include:
l Bustiers and corset looks.
l Cleavage-enhancing bras.
l Sexy-looking teddies, chemises, camisoles and tap pants.
l Pretty, romantic-looking sleep gowns and coordinating robes.
l Novelty sleep shirts and matching boxers.
l Dual-purpose silhouettes, such as slips or two-piece pants sets that have a look of ready-to-wear.
l Softly tailored warmwear looks.
Retail turnout from major stores is expected to be sparse. That’s usually expected at the January market, and this year the big-store turnout could be even thinner, reflecting the continuing consolidation in the retail ranks. Nevertheless, makers say they anticipate brisk traffic from smaller specialty stores looking for immediate merchandise.
Josie Natori, president of Natori Co., said, “A lot of major retailers are not coming, but it’s a good market nevertheless, because it’s like reviewing fall in advance. We can also discuss what bombed, and what was a hit.”
Natori noted that it’s also a strategic time to expand assortments of hot items. She said a program of polyester satin slips under the Natori label will be shown for April deliveries, because it’s a “growing trend.” The slips will come with coordinating camisole tops that have an rtw flavor.
“We also are finding that two-piece camis and tap pants and boxer looks in sleepwear have had incredible sell-throughs this winter, and we are also expanding those looks,” she said.
Natori further noted that she expects a projected sales gain of 15 percent for the January market over a year ago. She attributed the projected gain in part to pinpointing “a sharper opening price point” for sleepwear and daywear.
Norman Katz, who is chairman of I. Appel Corp., as well as the Intimate Apparel Council, acknowledged that “a lot of buyers are not coming in compared to a year ago.”
He added, though, that “newness, newness, and more newness is why we expect our business to continue to be good at this market.”
Greg Stephenson, director of product development for sleepwear, daywear and panties at Vanity Fair Mills, said he expects reaction to be good to warmwear items under the Barbizon label.
“We feel very strongly about our position in warmwear with Barbizon,” said Stephenson. “We’ve kept the traditional styling for the consumer who has long been familiar with the Barbizon name.’
Vanity Fair acquired the Barbizon name and other assets in 1990, and later developed a line of sleepwear under the Vanity Fair label that had the look of Barbizon in trademark fabrics it was known for — Blendaire and Cuddlskin. In 1994, Stephenson noted, Vanity Fair reintroduced the Barbizon brand to department and specialty stores.
“Reaction has been very favorable,” said Stephenson, noting that he expects the sleepwear division to have “healthy gains” this year because of the relaunch of Barbizon sleepwear.
Mel Knigin, president of the Cinéma Etoile division of Movie Star, commented, “We predicted that stretch lace would be fabulous, and it was. We’ll be showing expanded assortments of stretch lace bodysuits and teddies with molded cups and push-up cups.”
Two new additions for the early fall season will include a line of at-homewear in thermals and sweatshirting by Tom Bezduda for Cinéma Etoile, and a group of highly embellished sleepwear of polyester charmeuse by Pam Esteves for Cinéma Etoile. The sleepwear will feature soutache treatments on reembroidered lace and will come in tone-on-tone ivory, and black and pastel pink on an ivory charmeuse ground.
Knigin added that a daywear and sleepwear program for Mother’s Day of textured polyester and cotton pointelle, will be offered for March and April deliveries. The suggested retail price for daywear will start under $15 for camisoles; the suggested retail price for chemises will be under $20, he said.
“We will be expanding our misses’ business to appeal to a more contemporary customer,” said Rick Horwitch, executive vice president of marketing at Deena Inc., Los Angeles.
Horwitch noted that a key idea will be an updated group of winter-weight cotton-knit union suits in long and short styles. The union suits, under the LA II label, will come in prints and solid fashion colors and will also feature appliqués.
Sheila Solomon, national sales manager for Priamo Designs, noted, “We will be showing more very embellished, romantic-looking sleepwear of polyester charmeuse because of retail demand.”
Solomon further noted that a “richly textured” group of basketweave-pattern woven cotton will be shown this week, following up on the positive reaction to cotton chambray and oxford for spring and summer selling. The new group will feature long and short sleep gowns and matching robes, and will be trimmed in Venice lace.
Mina Koo, designer and an owner of Mina Koo Inc., said she is basing a projected sales gain of between 20 and 30 percent for the market on the demand for textured looks.
“I’ll be mixing a lot of looks that combine texture with shine, and texture with sheers,” said Koo. “I believe natural colors will continue to be very strong, especially the skin tones.”
Koo added that she will use washable rayon in her line of sleepwear and daywear for transition and early fall. There also will be a lot of pointelle knits and a cotton and rayon blend knit that has a “buttery hand.”
Summing up the views of foundations vendors, Jim Mogan, senior vice president of sales and merchandising at Maidenform Inc., observed, “We will be showing very little at this market, because we did it all in November. But we will be showing a new matte-and-shine group of unlined underwire bras for the accounts who do come in.”
The bras will wholesale for $10 and $11, and the coordinating briefs will wholesale for $5 and $6. Colors will be beige, white, lavender and blue.
“We’ll be sitting down with the steering committees of May [Department Stores] Co. and Federated [Department Stores] at the end of February to preview our fall line,” said Mogan. “We’ll officially show our fall line at the March market, and we’ll have a major new collection.”