FALL’S FASHION EDGE
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — Whetting women’s appetites for fashion merchandise will be a major key in capturing third- and fourth-quarter innerwear business, according to retailers and vendors.
While basics, especially allover seamless undergarments, continue to generate the bulk of intimate apparel action at stores, industry executives believe fashion merchandise will push sales gains for the holiday selling season.
Shine and color will continue to be key — from corals and metallics to rich hues of burgundy, purple and basic midnight navy.
Key classifications expected to headline holiday business include:
Contemporary looks, whether it’s novelty printed thongs; boy-cut pants; little camis and playful baby dolls and chemises, or a wide assortment of long and short pajama sets.
Cleavage-enhancing bras are making a comeback in softer-looking silhouettes. Many of these styles are swimwear-inspired and are rendered in ready-to-wear colors.
Bustiers, corselets and garters — from ultrasmooth renditions to lace-embellished looks.
Luxe items such as sleek velvet robes, silk sleepgowns and embellished peignoirs.
Kathy Nedorostek, president and chief operating officer of Natori Co., said: “Both the Natori and Josie labels in sleepwear and daywear had an excellent first half. All of our customers have beat their sales expectations. Based on this great [contemporary] trend, we will overachieve our aggressive sales plan for the third and fourth quarter.”
Nedorostek contributed the success to being on target with key trends and items, teamed with fashion-right colors and prints.
“As far as the soft retail environment, we have not been affected. But we are paranoid that our great [contemporary] trend could be taken away,” Nedorostek said. “Therefore, we are constantly challenging ourselves to deliver the best Natori designer and Josie contemporary products on a timely basis.”
The Natori firm has developed marketing catalogs for both labels encompassing sleepwear, daywear, accessories, handbags and foundations, the latter being produced under license by the Bestform unit of VF Corp.
Richard Leeds, chief executive officer of Richard Leeds International, said: “Creating a connection between the customer and the product through humor and whimsy is what will make department-store registers ring this fall.”
Leeds cited several successful ideas that have been updated in the French Jenny sleepwear collection: a “rubber-ducky” print that shows a duck half submerged with feet sticking up in the air, and a “bubble cat” motif of cats sporting shower caps and floating in a vintage-looking bath tub.
“We took old-time favorites like leopard and polkadot prints and added some zing with fake-fur collars and pom-poms on drawstrings,” said Leeds. “We are trying to increase our overseas bookings with these concepts, as well as three-dimensional touches on T-shirts like one style that says ‘Got Sleep?’ It depicts an insomniac wooly sheep with droopy eyes.”
Carole Hochman, president and design director of Carole Hochman Designs, said: “We will have a lot of new ideas to offer, such as a new label, Carole Hochman Vintage, which is a step up from our traditional brand.”
Hochman said the Carole Hochman Bridal label also would be introduced in August, explaining that “it’s a classification within a brand, a marketing angle with which we won’t have to grow a new line and classify it.”
“We also will be doing Carole Hochman Anytime, stuff to wear at home or walk around in during the day,” Hochman said. “It’s all part of declassification and you need some of that in today’s wardrobe. We are trying to address it in small, concise capsules. You don’t need 300 styles of a certain category.”
Charles Nesbit, president and ceo of Sara Lee Intimate Apparel, said: “Developing meaningful new product concepts is even more critical in an economic slowdown. Consumers won’t buy product just because it is new. It has to be different and it has to add other value. This makes the designer’s challenge greater and the editing process more important as we develop new styles.”
Nesbit noted that Sara Lee has several “significant” product and marketing initiatives for fall: new Santoni technology to market with Barely There seamless bras by Bali, and additional Only You seamless bras by Playtex, which uses proprietary hot-melt technology.
“Wonderbra just shipped the Air Wonder bra with an adjustable air bladder, which provides multiple levels of cleavage enhancement,” Nesbit said. “And Hanes Her Way has come up with a new stretch foam bra.”
Niki Sachs, president and ceo of Hanro USA, said: “We will continue to support our fall-winter advertising campaign and we have stepped up in-store marketing activities, such as Hanro Week at Neiman Marcus the week of Sept. 10.”
Sachs said daywear pieces combined with loungewear is attractive to the consumer looking for casual spa and loungewear looks — comfort for weekend wear, entertaining and travel.
Sachs added that the upscale licensee, Escada has booked well.
“The collection ships in August and will be found in 10 Neiman Marcus doors, five Saks doors and five Escada boutiques,” she added.
Maurice Reznik, president of Maidenform Worldwide, said the company just shipped a new Air Curves bra, but noted: “The big story for the fourth quarter will be the relaunch of our Customize It bra, to include all new in-store marketing.”
There will be three new Customize It styles: an embroidered convertible bra that can be worn five ways — strapless, demi, halter, one strap and criss-cross silhouette — and an underwire and softly padded style of microfiber nylon and cotton, each of which converts three ways.
Victor Lee, chief operating officer of NAP Inc., noted: “The biggest challenge will be to give customers something different for the floor that will still look pretty, soft and feminine.”
As for the trend of declassification among innerwear categories, Lee said: “Based on what we’re seeing, there will be a lot of crossover looks in our licensed Princess Tam Tam [foundations and swimwear lines] in which swimwear definitely has a lot of lingerie looks and vice versa.”
Lisa Leigh, director of merchandising and sales at August Silk Intimates, said: “Our third- and fourth-quarter projections range from 10 to 50 percent increases over last year. The key issue going forward is inventory — clean, fresh merchandise and new receipts in proper proportion.”
Leigh said the fashion business will be driven by luxe items, such as velvet robes with rhinestone trims and cowlneck gowns with chenille robes, which will stand out and make good holiday gift items.
“The main ingredient to a successful fall season will be a balanced assortment of basics and fashion merchandise that affords the consumer true value at regular price,” Leigh said. “Silk provides both quality and price, and therefore is still very much in demand.”
Howard Radziminsky, senior vice president of sales at Movie Star Inc., said: “The key issues for us are clear. We are creating product geared to a customer who is underserved in our market. She is not a junior and not traditional. The opportunity for growth in this product category is immense.”
Radziminsky cited new fabrics such as a peach microfiber, stretch chiffons, printed stretch laces, an expansion of woven cottons and chambray as top ideas for fall and holiday.