Byline: Marc Karimzadeh

If legwear vendors have their way, the high-flying fishnet won’t hit any snags this fall. The recent success of fishnets at retail has encouraged legwear executives in their belief that the market is increasingly driven by fashion items rather than basics, with women viewing the category as a way to accessorize their wardrobes rather than a necessity.
“The fishnet has brought quick attention to legs, and now the customer is back in the department looking for fashion,” said Deborah Boria, executive director of design and merchandising for Hanes Hosiery, which holds the licenses for the Donna Karan and DKNY hosiery lines.
With stores looking for a repeat of last fall’s unexpected boom, many vendors used the fall market this March to introduce a larger portion of fashion styles than ever before.
While the traditional fishnet, with its diamond-shape weave, continues to play a significant role in the overall assortment, vendors said that one way of keeping the momentum going through fall is to offer styles that move beyond the original pattern.”This fall, the fishnet has to be more exciting, more edgy, more interesting in its composition,” said Regina Littles, national sales manager at French hosiery brand Gerbe.
For fall, vendors offered a variety of interpretations of the fishnet, including:
New colors such as berry, chocolate brown and loden green.
A variety of net sizes, from small fishnets that give the appearance of a delicate pattern to large “whale” fishnets, like those in Christian Dior’s spring 2001 collection.
Three-dimensional fishnets, which start with the net as the base and add a texture such as florals or men’s-wear-inspired herringbones or houndstooths.
Sheer tights woven to resemble fishnet, eliminating the corded effect a regular fishnet may have.
Two-tone fishnets composed of yarns with contrasting colors.
Variations with different weave technologies, such as square nets rather than the diamond shape, or graphic crocheted fishnet.
“By adding new variations, more intricate styles and deeper shades for fall, we see the trend continuing,” said Karen Schneider, president at Wolford America. “People who never wore hosiery before put [fishnets] on, which is a great thing for business. And with the new colors, we are reaching a new generation.”
Schneider noted that part of the continuing success of fishnets is the availability of Lycra and improved technology. This, she said, lets fishnets retain their shape, regardless of the net’s size or added texture elements.
Wolford plans on stepping up its focus on fishnets, which it predicts will see double-digit increases, while taking a more conservative approach to sheers. Such strategy has not been uncommon in the past two seasons, and other vendors are now plotting a similar path. At Fogal of Switzerland, for example, fashion items have traditionally accounted for approximately 20 percent of the total business. For fall, this is projected to increase to 40 percent, according to Donna Waxman, Fogal’s president for the U.S. and South America.
“Everybody is asking for high-end fashion right now,” Waxman said. “The word is that it will sell for fall.”
Waxman based this projection in part on fishnets being the number-one seller in reports from department and specialty stores in Fogal’s upscale distribution.
Some attributed the growing importance of fashion items in hosiery to the uncertain economy, coupled with the volatile stock market.
“People are being more conservative with their money,” Waxman said. “They already have some basic opaques, but they will try to go with a high-fashion item to change the look of something they already haven — rather than buy a whole new wardrobe.”
Many viewed the success of fishnets, which they say will lead sales in both sheers and casual departments this fall, as an opportunity to rethink merchandising strategies.
“[Stores] have to careful not to over-assort departments, because then you get markdowns,” noted Pat McNellis, president of women’s brands at Royce Hosiery Mills, the maker of the Nine West and Dockers hosiery lines.
That said, many vendors noted that stores should think about the category in a new light and give customers clearer trend information to help them make what’s still considered to be a daring purchase.
“You have to make a statement to the customer,” said Molly Mott, Hue’s vice president of sales. “The more pattern there is [on the floor], the more the customer will see that you stand [behind] it and have the choices.”
“Some retailers mix brands on a fixture and just present fishnets, for example,” said Hanes Hoisery’s Boria. “Stores could also benefit with some point-of-sale visual aids. If customers see [an item] in a picture of a girl, it sends the message right home.”