Byline: Karyn Monget

Seamless is the way to go, according to a series of workshops sponsored by DuPont on the advances of seamless technology with Tactel nylon and Lycra spandex.
Entitled “Smooth Solutions,” the two-week workshop at DuPont’s offices here tracked consumer reaction to seamless products. The workshop, the second in a series, ended last Friday and provided information for DuPont’s partnerships with retailers, manufacturers and mills.
One message was dominant: there is an insatiable appetite for allover seamless garments, particularly innerwear. DuPont officials believe the potential for profit and growth in the seamless classification is boundless, considering how fast it’s growing in ready-to-wear, sportswear, children’s wear and activewear.
The presentation was made by what DuPont insiders call their “seamless secret weapon team” — Kathy Smith, intimate apparel segment manager; Cathy Hamilton, senior research associate; Linda Morin, intimate apparel business manager; Jim Bishop, seamless market development manager, and Iris LeBron, marketing fashion director. “We learned a lot at last year’s workshop,” said Smith. “At the time, consumers found the word ‘seamless’ confusing. If they saw elastics on underwear they would say ‘well, there’s a seam.’
“It was an overpromise. We learned a lot of positive stuff, but on the other hand, consumers thought the products looked too small and some felt the styling was too basic.”
Smith said retailers were primarily interested in the visual and counter appeal as well as the sizing of seamless products, and more than anything else, wanted to learn how to educate consumers on the benefits of comfort and stretch.
“This year, our researchers told us to go on the streets of Manhattan with a camera, a mike and underwear and ask consumers what they thought about seamless underwear,” continued Smith. “I thought, ‘this is nuts. Nobody is going to want to talk about their underwear on the streets of New York’ — Wrong!”
Smith showed footage of video interviews with women ranging in ages 16 to 64 on busy city streets. The big surprise was many were eager to share their thoughts and had such comments as “I like the fact they’re stretchy,” “seams really bother me,” “feels really nice — no seams is a really cool idea,” and “is this Candid Camera?”
Presented with a choice of five underwear styles of Tactel, consumers were asked which seamless panty they preferred. The number-one pick was a bright red tie-dye style by Banana Republic; followed by a yellow number with a knit-in print by the Gap; Sears came in third place with a basic white brief; a lavender-striped style by Victoria’s Secret held fourth place, and a navy brief by Lane Bryant claimed the fifth spot.
Another video shown at the workshop was originally used as a conferencing tool for sales associates at J.C. Penney. Hosted by Nancy Spence, a DuPont retail specialist, it supported Penney’s successful relaunch this month of its year-old Seamless Body Touches innerwear program, conveying Penney’s message of “comfortable,” durable” and “touchable.”
The Penney’s program has been edited to five styles of seamless tops and bottoms, and is similar in presentation to Victoria’s Secret with table displays, information on hangtags and point-of-sale materials.
Smith further noted that over the past year, mainsteam consumers have come to better understand seamless products through exposure to catalogs and window displays of Victoria’s Secret, a TV ad campaign for Barely There, a spin-off brand of Sara Lee’s Bali Co., and word of mouth. “Word of mouth is still the most powerful factor,” said Smith.
Regarding what every bra manufacturer has been chasing — a truly allover seam-free bra that gives support with no underwire — Smith said: “It’s being kept under wraps. But we’ll be seeing the results very soon.”
Also bolstering the seamless message at retail is Lane Bryant, which currently has a seamless panty program with signage saying “Not a line in sight,” and the tag line “Sexy…Sensual…Cacique.”
Added Smith, “We also have some big seamless development programs at Nike and Champion.”
DuPont’s Jim Bishop said retailers had been asking for new seamless yarns in metallics that would not have a harsh metal-like hand. As an example, he displayed two allover seamless concept bodysuits, each of which featured cut-out treatments and pleating.
Cathy Hamilton noted that a new generation of Tactel and polyester has been developed for a range of iridescents and tone-on-tone heathers that would be ideal for many apparel categories.
“We’ve also had many requests to develop core spun cotton and Lycra products,” said Hamilton, showing prototype swatches.
Meanwhile, Iris LeBron presented a seasonless workshop with various groups representing ideas and concepts that are popular in four regions of the world — Europe, Asia Pacific, and North and South America — which are in different seasons at any given time, she said.
The presentation was entitled “As the World Turns,” with three themes based on daytime soap operas: “The Bold and the Beautiful,” which featured ornate laces and bold colors from such labels as Marvel by La Perla, Chantal Thomass and Christian Dior; “Days of Our Lives,” which highlighted smooth, modern looks by Natori, Gap, and Anti-Gel, and “The Young and the Restless,” whose focus was swimwear-influenced looks by Victoria’s Secret, Fila, Dolce & Gabbana, and Tommy Hilfiger Intimates at VF Corp.