INTIMA AMERICA BOWS WITH LATIN FLAVOR
Byline: Merri Grace McLeroy
MIAMI — The debut of the Intima America show at the Miami Beach Convention Center wasn’t exactly bustling, but it sparked interest among exhibitors and buyers, who said they would return to support the next show this fall.
Originally, the show’s premiere was scheduled for last Sept. 19, but canceled after the Sept. 11 events, costing German-based producer Messe Frankfurt over $750,000 in marketing, construction and exhibitor refunds.
The show, which ran March 17 to 19, featured 132 exhibitors and 200 brands from the U.S., France, Italy, Canada, Peru, Mexico, Spain, the U.K. and Ghana. Exhibitors from Colombia, Brazil and Argentina, showing for the first time in the U.S. Categories included lingerie, swimwear, sleepwear-loungewear, hosiery and accessories, as well as textiles, fabric, trim, lace and notions.
Messe Frankfurt targeted Latin American buyers through their South and Central American offices, along with U.S. retailers. Officials said around 1,400 people attended the show, including all visitors, buyers and exhibitors.
Roland Bleinroth, president of Intima America, said the Miami event met projections by drawing South American attendees, local regional buyers and U.S. specialty shops that don’t attend New York or European shows.
“Miami is more cost-effective than New York for European and U.S. exhibitors, plus exhibitors and buyers in Central and South America find Miami a much more appealing and convenient venue,” said Bleinroth.
Intima America offered strong representation among established European and U.S. brands, such as Chantelle, Lou, Aubade, Cristina, Bestform Intimates, Nina Ricci, Dreamgirl and Euro, as well as newcomers from Central and South America, such as Colombia’s Con Finezza, Grupo AG from Argentina, Brazil’s Vigas Beach & Lingerie, and accessories, fabrics and laces from around the world.
Exhibitor Arianne Lingerie, a lifestyle lingerie manufacturer from Montreal, with 75 percent of sales from the U.S., focused on building brand awareness and picking up smaller boutiques that don’t shop in New York.
“Other exhibitors and media coverage was good, and we made new contacts and saw South American buyers we don’t see at other shows,” said Isabelle Gauthier, the firm’s vice president of corporate sales. “But overall, this first-time show has yet to prove itself.”
Michael Rabinowitz, president of The French Room, which represents Nina Ricci, Millesia and its new line called Osore, and also manufactures the line Le Mystere, said, “We had appointments with existing clients, picked up quite a few high-end boutique accounts and had some department store buying managers in. Generally the show has not been busy, but we were consistently busy.”
Miami-based Cosabella picked up a dozen new walk-in accounts.
“For a new venue, this was one of our largest successes ever,” said Sergio Oxman, vice president of sales.
Nancy Bracken Garson, senior vice president, and husband Thomas Garson, president of Lovable International, a New York-based licensing firm for intimates, swimwear and legwear, searched Intima America for new licensing opportunities in South America. The company has licensees in Colombia and Venezuela, and Lovable Honduras maintains a 6 percent intimates market share in Central America, according to Bracken Garson.
“I think this show will do well for manufacturers who understand cultural, style and physical differences of the various South American markets,” said Garson. “Brazilian women, for example, prefer more color, sexier looks and need smaller tops and larger-sized bottoms, although thong styles are a leading trend. Argentine women prefer more European styles, subtle color and require larger tops with more proportional bottoms. Colombian and Venezuelan women are more closely aligned in fashion; there is not as much of a leap from the American market. However the padded shoulder bra, very strong in Venezuela, will not sell in Colombia.”
Buyer Maria Soledad Geisse, underwear product manager at D&S, a supermarket store similar to Wal-Mart, based in Santiago, Chile, said Miami is well located for Central and South American buyers. Geisse took notes for future orders on lines, including Anna Grant, Sweet Victoria and Moda, but would liked to have seen more men’s and children’s lines to order at the show.
Stella Lurie, co-owner of Corset Corner, a family-owned lingerie department store in Coral Gables, Fla., said she rarely attends trade shows, but shopped here because of the convenience.
“This show was great because I could see 30 to 40 lines in a day and buy notions,” Lurie said.
While she failed to find a new line of robes, she placed a few fall orders and bought new colors for spring-summer.
Rochell Green, owner of Illusions by Raquel, a lingerie specialty store at the Aventura Mall in Aventura, Fla., did not buy at this show. Green, who carries La Pearla, Aubade, Chantelle and other high-end French collections, shops both New York and Paris. She shopped Intima America for new upbeat, trendy European collections to add to her product mix, but was disappointed in not finding them, she said.
The intimate apparel industry has expanded into more new techno-fabrics and stretch laces with overall comfort, better fit and added flexibility in designing new silhouettes, making intimates more acceptable to a wider range of consumers. Brands are expanding into loungewear, activewear and day-or-eveningwear within intimate collections.
The lifestyle lingerie trend translated across the board for fall-winter moving into spring-summer 2003. “Moulin Rouge”-inspired stretch brocade corsets, cami-corsets, bustiers and seductive suede looks, chiffon and velvet were versatile enough to wear as sportswear pieces. Contrasting piping and colorful, exposed bra straps were prevalent in junior lines.
Reembroidered stretch laces and appliqued mesh contrast with sophisticated jacquards and florals in fresh colors of mint, gold, purple, red and black, reflected the ready-to-wear trend toward femininity. Seamless styles for day basics and lace for night are popular bra choices.
In panties, variations of the thong boy, a feminine thong silhouette with a boy brief lace facing for slightly more coverage were offered by many. Runway highlights included purple, rose and gold; the new rich colors evident in Chantelle Lingerie, sexy contrasting embroidery from Bolero, Lou’s seamless with lace, Mara Hosiery’s body stockings, Grupo AG’s colored embroidery on nude mesh or tone-on-tone, EuroJersey’s suede looks and Aubade’s appliqued and embroidered lingerie. In sleepwear, Kenan’s jacquard pajamas, Shadowline’s fleece sets and Underwriter’s satin coordinates, especially in red, signaled the return of pajama popularity.
Overall, the comprehensive sourcing trade show concept and single location of the event were well accepted. Twice-daily fashion shows featuring 200 pieces from exhibitor’s collections drew well, and the Lifestyle Trend Pavilion, designed by Monica Arndt, created from among exhibitors’ products in conjunction with the Messe Frankfurt trend report and Lifestyle Trends seminar by German trend researcher Gunner Frank, provided color and fabric trend forecasting.
Two seminars, including “Niche Retailing: A Lost Art,” by Susan and David Nethero, owners of Intimacy, an Atlanta lingerie store, emphasized the benefits of personal service. “Succeeding in the Global Marketplace” focused on recent import-export regulations and strategies, presented by Alvaro Leal, ceo of Blue Sentinel, a risk management and global trading company.
The Intima VIP lounge, showroom cafe, opening-night cocktail party by Nylstar and Intima America, and Cosabella’s fashion show and party on the sands of South Beach at Nikki Beach Club offered networking opportunities.