DOUBLE-DUTY ITEMS PULL ORDERS
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — Dual-purpose innerwear items with a strong look of fashion — and lots of sex appeal — were what retailers wanted at last week’s transitional market.
Daywear items, such as teddys and camisoles that can be worn as ready-to-wear accessories, were spotlighted by a number of smaller fashion vendors and generated a positive reaction. Although major foundations makers showed the bulk of their fall programs at the November market, buyers were also on the hunt for fashion or daywear bra and panty sets.
Meanwhile, programs in sleepwear, robes and loungewear were being ordered, and the growing importance of updated at-homewear — and how to merchandise it — was one of the hot topics.
“It’s something to put on after work and wear before bed,” said Leslie Freytag, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Neiman Marcus, Dallas. “There’s a definite need for this product, and we have to give it a name. There definitely is an opportunity here, but you have just so much space in innerwear departments.”
Freytag, who was at the showroom of Donna Karan Intimates, a licensed division of Wacoal America, singled out at-homewear by Karan as a designer line that helps to fill the void for contemporary at-homewear. Late last year, Neiman’s phased out its traditional loungewear department and began featuring branded and private label at-homewear items in its activewear area.
At Kellwood Co.’s intimate apparel showroom, Cecelia Post, senior vice president of the intimates division, said mass merchandisers and department store retailers have been demanding more dual-purpose at-homewear items.
In response, Post said updated knits of textured solid and printed polyester and cotton have been added to the firm’s Time Line collection. The line, which is designed by Chris Lee, features lots of Empire dresses, oversized night shirts and boxers, and two-piece pants sets.
Lee also has designed a new line of contemporary at-homewear for fall called Post Wear. The line, which will have branded and private label items, consists mainly of oversized, textured fleece and ribbed cotton knit tops and leggings of cotton and Lycra spandex.
“Department stores are starting to fund at-homewear more, mainly because of the success of dual-purpose looks in the Victoria’s Secret catalog,” said Post. “Victoria’s Secret has been including a lot more at-homewear on its pages.”
One of the fans of daywear bra and pants was Angela Wiens, daywear and foundations buyer for Gottschalk’s, Fresno, Calif.
“I foresee 20-percent sales gains in daywear bra and pants sets this year,” she said. “Daywear bra and pants sets did very well for fourth-quarter selling. We also had a 16 percent increase in our fashion pants business during Christmas.”
Wiens, who attributed the sales increase to a greater appetite for fashion looks, said she was here this month to get an overview of directional trends for fall selling.
Christine Steinhauser, buyer of daywear and foundations at Strawbridge & Clothier, Philadelphia, noted, “We are looking for items that are different, especially different-looking fabrics and textures. Manufacturers are really coming forward and offering a lot of that for fall.
“What I’m looking for is new resources that will differentiate me from my competitors, and something that my customer wants,” she added.
As an example of a directional fashion look in bras and panties, Steinhauser singled out a group by Bamboo Lingerie that features a mix of textured stretch cottons in terry and waffle patterns. The Bamboo label was ordered by Strawbridge & Clothier for the first time in August.
Marie-Helene Miller, owner and designer of Bamboo Lingerie, a small, entrepreneurial daywear firm, said, “Even though a lot of department stores already ordered fall from major foundations companies, retailers came to order fashion items in January.”
“Attendance generally is small in January, but we were surprised by the number of major retailers who showed up,” said Norman Katz, chairman of I. Appel Corp. and the Intimate Apparel Council. “Even some May Department Stores Co. buyers came into town this time.” May Co. buyers had been missing from the New York markets since August, when they instituted buying sessions at its headquarters in St. Louis.
However, some vendors noted, getting markdown money appeared to be the main mission of many of the big-store buyers who showed up (see related story this page).