Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — The fall innerwear market doesn’t officially begin until today, but it got a jump start last week as steering committees of major buying groups began previewing lines for fall and early holiday selling.
Retail executives were here to review lines in “team sessions,” before fine-tuning buys over the next several weeks at their corporate headquarters, many of which are outside New York.
The March 13-17 market has become increasingly important for several reasons:
It can give manufacturers a competitive edge over offshore resources because it allows them to show earlier than usual. Some even start showing holiday merchandise at this time.
It can generate commitments by retailers for Christmas catalogs and in-store programs.
It can provide an early read on key trends.
Among the big buying groups getting a fast start for fall and holiday last week were May Merchandising Co., Federated Merchandising Group, Mercantile Merchandise Group, Belk Stores Services, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Fields.
Vendors noted that May Co. began the first of several reviews two weeks ago at its St. Louis headquarters. The review by Dillard’s Department Stores is scheduled for the first week of April in Dallas. Vendors say they are relieved because Dillard’s date — which in past seasons coincided with May Co. reviews — poses no scheduling conflict this time.
“March has become the most important market of the year, and a lot more money is spent when the buying is for fall,” said Norman Katz, chairman of I. Appel Corp.
Katz added that the early turnout of retail management reflects the highly competitive race between the various buying groups for key items.
Among the ideas retailers want for fall and holiday:
Exclusive product.
More key brands, primarily in bras and shapewear.
More private label, especially in the upper moderate range, in key items such as panties, boxers, camisoles, pajamas and chemises.
More fashion looks in full-figure bras.
“Frankly feminine,” or sexy, lingerie embellished with lace.
Lifestyle items of textured cotton knit, flannels, thermals or fleece, such as tops and pants and little Empire dresses that can be worn out.
Programs and point-of-sale campaigns that have a different spin.
Linda J. Wachner, president, chairman and chief executive officer of The Warnaco Group, revealed that a padded, push-up bra is being featured for the first time in the Amore group of the licensed Valentino Intimo line.
“It’s a very pretty group, and the push-up bra is an extension of the best-selling group by Valentino over the past two years,” said Wachner.
Lisa Hagler, product development manager for daywear, panties, sleepwear and robes under the Vanity Fair label at Vanity Fair Mills, said, “We’ve been getting great reaction to our first bridal line of peignoir sets. We’ve also been getting a very positive response to frankly feminine lingerie items, because of the cleavage craze.”
Shari Lehrer, a sales representative for the newly launched Nap foundations, said, “We are very interested in developing the fashion exclusives and private label items that retailers are asking for right now.”
Lehrer said fashion ideas for bras and panties include plaid flannel with corduroy trim, striped satin with printed mock-sequin trim and stretch nylon lace overlays and brocade jacquard.
Susan Colman, president of Jezebel, said, “We are getting very good reaction to merry widows in basics and looks that can be worn out.”
The merry widows of stretch satin, all-over lace and combinations of satin and chiffon, are hot items because they also provide hip control. Cup sizes start at 34B and go to 42DD.