BUILDING PATTERNS FOR SUCCESS

Byline: Marc Karimzadeh

NEW YORK — Fall is in step for legwear vendors, even if the season was launched with some weather-related hiccups during last week’s market.
The recent success of fishnets at retail has encouraged legwear executives in their belief that women will continue accessorizing their legs this fall. With stores looking to anniversary last fall’s unexpected boom, vendors stepped up their fashion offerings to give retailers as many opportunities as possible to repeat the fishnet craze.
“There is a lot of excitement in legwear, with people seeing tremendous sell-through on novelty styles,” said Wayne Lederman, president at Leg Resource.
Many vendors noted that during market, stores looked for novelty styles and generally took more risks when it came to fashion looks than in previous fall buying.
“Buyers expect higher interest for fall and they don’t even blink an eye with higher price point items because many customers want those special items,” said Gary Wolkowitz, president at The Hot Sox Co.
For fall, legwear trends included:
Preppy: socks and tights featuring patterns such as houndstooth, herringbone, stripes, argyles, chevrons and plaids.
Fishnets: in all shapes and sizes, from two-tone yarns to delicate fishnets with a textured feel, large-whale nets and even sheer tights woven to appear like a fishnet. In many instances, the fishnet has given way to lacier, more feminine looks.
Graphic Prints: a continuation of cubism with large color blocks, and vintage looks, including 1960s black and white harlequin or hexagon prints.
Luxe: increased focus on luxury feel, with fibers such as cashmere, cashmere blends, chenille and angoras, as well as shine and sparkle with lurex. Also, a resurgence of heavy-gauge socks in a hand-knitted look.
Knee Highs: The silhouette has become a popular way to appeal to a younger customer.
Color/Print: a move towards deeper, warmer winter tones, such as chocolate brown, loden green, camel, burgundy and gold. Patterns included florals, paisleys and leaves.
The early week over-hyped snowstorm did result in some cancelled appointments. Vendors noted this delayed some of the major orders, but they were still pleased with the overall action.
“There has been a spark in hosiery with the success of the fishnet and people are looking to move the category forward with fashion,” said Barry Tartarkin, vice president and general manager at Pennaco, Danskin’s legwear division, which includes the licensed Givenchy and Ellen Tracy lines.
Tartarkin said Givenchy’s jewelled, rhinestone looks, and Givenchy’s and Ellen Tracy’s lace and fishnet tights have led fall bookings. “Fishnets will continue,” he noted. “Middle America is still not buying fishnets, but by fall, they will be ready.”
However, some vendors noted the style is in danger of being overexposed with retailers. They said that while they were still an important fall item, the interest in them is on the decline.
“[Fishnet] sales, as we speak, are softening,” said Pat McNellis, president of women’s brands at Royce Hosiery Mills, the maker of the Nine West and Dockers hosiery lines. “No one has abandoned them for fall, but we don’t know what percentage of the business they will be.”
For fall, McNellis said more feminine looks, such as lace, prevailed in the sheers area, and she noted overall increases in casual fashion legwear, with floral patterns and colors, such as loden and camel, driving sales. “The influence of brown in ready-to-wear at the higher end is starting to filter down,” she said.
In some cases, the fishnet has opened up opportunities for other mesh styles.
“The net lace was received very well, because it’s a continuation of the feel of fishnet with the open weave,” said Maria Basquil, sales manager for Wolford America. “The fishnets are still going strong, although every manufacturer is stocking shelves with them. Fishnets are almost becoming classics now.”
At Wolford, sales were driven by the assortment of textures and colors.
“The classic hosiery people want more fashion,” she said. “This fall, the trend business is becoming as important as the classics.”
During market, Wolford introduced a line of tights, including an unusual toe-and-heel-free style called Fuseau, and bodysuits designed in collaboration with Jean Paul Gaultier. Each features a woven Eiffel Tower motif. The tights, for example, showcase the Eiffel Tower as a decorative seam extending from the ankle to the mid-calf, its base embracing the heel. The Fuseau tights feature the Eiffel Tower running down the back of the leg, with the base embracing the cut-out heel.
The line will be marketed as a collaboration, with Wolford and Jean Paul Gaultier on the packaging. Its suggested retail prices are $215 for the bodysuits, $100 for the Fuseau tights and $65 for regular tights, with the retail launch planned in Wolford boutiques and select specialty stores in April.
At Tommy Hilfiger, Russel J. Klein, president of women’s legwear, said, “The collection business is not happening, it is really about items. Retailers were looking for a greater depth of items, which also sell through better.”
Classic fashion looks such as houndstooth, chalk-stripe and argyle had been received well in Hilfiger’s signature red, navy and white, as well as maple leaf and currant, according to Klein. Also leading sales were opaque thigh highs, fishnets, and open-mesh tights in a variety of colors.
Lederman, at Leg Resource, said novelty looks peaked interest, and noted that much of the action was led by luxury fiber treatments, in particular pima cotton and cashmere, in basics and novelty items, such as men’s wear-inspired patterns using blends of precious fibers, such as cashmere, angora blends and pima cotton.
Lederman said one of the challenges with novelty items is that, unlike basic hosiery, novelty constantly needs to be updated to keep the departments exciting. This, he said, will put more pressure on vendors to deliver more frequently.
“Fashion is what keeps [women] shopping on the floor. It brings color and life to it, even if she ends up buying basics,” Royce’s McNellis said.