Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — The adrenaline is rising, as this week’s fall-holiday market is expected to open with a bang.
One key reason is the upcoming demise of Ralph Lauren Intimates by Sara Lee, which is causing a number of vendors from small-to-mid-sized innerwear firms to see extra open-to-buy dollars up for grabs.
At the same time, makers of fashion and specialty brands who already have a foot in the door — especially national bra brands that have been squashed into back corners and sleepwear and robe resources that lost square footage to megabrand collection shops — are aspiring to grow market share and space.
The factors that have driven first-quarter business in intimate apparel departments include a renaissance of color and prints — particularly in foundations and daywear — textured items such as novelty robes, loungers and pajamas, and anything with a pretty, romantic look in the sleepwear arena. Lace embellishments and sheers have also been strong, according to retailers and vendors.
Jeanette Cantone, senior vice president of merchandising and design at Natori Co., said, “We had a terrific early fall market in January and we expect March to be very strong for us because we will be showing fall, holiday and resort.”
Cantone said color will be “extremely important” for three labels: key fall colors in the Natori black label collection of sleepwear will be a rich shade of blue-purple, iris, and a color that looks gray or ivory depending on the light; holiday will feature deep red and mink brown, black and white, matte and metallic gold; pale pastels will highlight resort. Fabrics include both solid and printed silks, cashmere with silk lining, and trims of Chantilly lace, rabbit or mink.
She noted that prints continue to be “very important” in the Natori white label collection for fall, which includes lots of antique kimono-inspired looks featuring geometric and floral motifs, while holiday will focus on shades of solid lacquer red, metallics, and loads of lace and embroidered embellishments. Shades of coral, pink and white will underscore resort.
Cantone further noted, “The Josie line for fall and holiday continues to be very contemporary with hip, fun colors like red, hot pink, jade, iris, violet and a palette that stretches from a light peony pink to luscious raspberry. Resort will have lots of pinks, corals, blues, turquoise, green and white.”
Carole Hochman, president and design director of Carole Hochman Designs, noted, “We’ll be showing November and December in-store for the Carole Hochman and Oscar de la Renta collections. November deliveries will have very soft, beautiful colors — no harsh colors. Both lines will have a very sweet, bedroomy look, because I want my statement to stay romantic. That’s really been the benchmark of what’s selling in stores.”
Fabrics in the Carole Hochman line will be predominantly cotton knits, with a smattering of brushed-back satins and panne velvets in “light spring-like colors.” The licensed Oscar de la Renta navy label collection of sleepwear will focus on woven and knit cottons and polyester satins in a color range of vanilla and porcelain peach and beige, she said.
Hochman added that the secondary Oscar de la Renta pink label line will be merchandised in “deep, rich colors like sapphire and ruby.”
“We’ll also be doing daywear for the first time, with soft bras, lace-trimmed petticoats and silk camis to wear under suits,” she said.
“March market for Anne Lewin will be all about texture and new fabrics, like heavyweight brushed rib fabrics and cotton and rayon blends,” said Victor Lee, chief financial officer of NAP Inc. “In our [licensed] Crabtree & Evelyn line, new silhouettes are strong. A key item is a robe that features a removable center button-on hood that lies flat on the back when unbuttoned.”
Top colors in the Crabtree & Evelyn line are pale orange, navy, pink and red. NAP also is the new distributor in the U.S. for French label Princesse Tam Tam.
Lee said, “The foundations will have a little of everything, including luxury laces and printed meshes, as well as very soft microfibers in corsetry. Colors are very rich, like deep burgundy and lavender, and there’s a beautiful updated paisley print. The sleepwear looks amusing, with little details like pajamas and sleepshirts that have side ties or back ties that give a little contour and shape.”
Sheila Solomon, national sales manager for Priamo Designs, said, “I’m really pumped up about fall and holiday. We’ve brought back thermal as a classification, but this time it’s very young and perky looking with crochet and Venice lace trims. We’ll also be showing a group of 20 cotton terry robes in lively colors, like lavender, golden yellow, apple green and cornflower blue, all trimmed with contrasting white braid.”
Regarding foundations, Tobie Garfinkle, vice president of merchandising for the Lily of France and licensed Natori and Josie foundations at the Bestform unit of VF Corp., said, “Our mantra at Lily of France has become young, fun and sexy. This consumer likes to be her own designer and she’s less inhibited.
“That’s why we are keeping the momentum going with AKA The Reversible Bra,” Garfinkle said. “The reversible trend is happening in everything from apparel to handbags. The concept of value also comes into play because the consumer thinks she’s getting the value of two for one. All you have to do is flip the bra and you’ve got a solid fashion color on one side and a print on the other.”
She further noted that Slick It, another group by Lily of France, is expected to generate “lots of interest.” The group of coated nylon and Lycra spandex bras is inspired by the influence in ready-to-wear.
“It’s got real attitude about it,” said Garfinkle.