KEEPING IT COMFORTABLE
Byline: Karyn Monget
Talk about surprises. It used to be all about sex and money. Now, it’s all about mom and apple pie. Since Sept. 11, there’s been a major return to traditional values among American consumers.
Over the past two years, the rules of engagement have changed in the battle of innerwear brands, where war games covertly took place in corporate board rooms of huge, publicly held apparel giants, including VF Corp., Sara Lee Corp., Kellwood Co. and even the beleaguered Warnaco Group, which last month abruptly dismissed its chief executive officer, Linda Wachner, after a series of mishaps.
Apparently, the appetite for products with a feel-good, grass-roots image was recognized by Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, who brought the bankrupt Fruit of the Loom back to life. It holds first place in the category. The $835 million Buffett deal should be sealed by spring. Fruit displaced another American brand — Hanes Her Way — which moved to second.
It’s still OK to buy sexy lingerie, but brand recognition — especially names that connect with family values — now appears to be at the top of the consumer preference list. Case in point: The steamy Victoria’s Secret brand has slipped down from third to fourth spot in this year’s top 10 roundup, while the 124-year-old Jockey name has edged up to fifth place from seventh.
Observers said they believe Victoria’s Secret may have gone too far with its sex-charged Ringling Bros.-esque fashion shows, mainly the latest sex fest on ABC during the prime-time family hour. But companies such as family-owned Jockey in Kenosha, Wis., with the true-blue formula of sticking to a product that offers more value and comfort — and less sizzle — is what keeps the Jockey brand on top.
Interestingly enough, the Wonderbra name has held at ninth place.The brand evolved from one pushing maximum cleavage to a softer, more natural silhouette — described by industry insiders as “less threatening.”
Meanwhile, Frederick’s of Hollywood — the American symbol of no-apology sex appeal — climbed two to eighth place.
Innerwear Top 10
1. Fruit of the Loom
2. Hanes Her Way
4. Victoria’s Secret
6. Vanity Fair
8. Frederick’s of Hollywood
10. Calvin Klein Underwear