Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — With his new legwear line, Tommy Hilfiger aims to show young women — many of whom now favor bare legs as a fashion statement — how to dress up their legs without looking like their mothers.
His message: Forget the basic sheers. Hilfiger is leaning on updated looks — tights with a vertical side stripe, thigh-highs with animal prints, striped knee-highs with contrasting back seams, rainbow-colored fishnets and layered looks.
“We’re sort of at the beginning of a new era where women are going to dress up more. Women want to complete their look. They want legwear to complement their wardrobe,” Hilfiger said. “For a while, women were not really interested in wearing sheers or legwear. They were wearing a lot of pants and other things.”
Getting into the legwear business was part of the designer’s plan to round out the expansion of his women’s wear, he said. The introduction of legwear is an important component of that strategy, due in part to his increased offerings for skirts, he said.
“It’s also an up-and-coming trend that complements a lot of looks on the runway and at retail,” he said. “We wanted to bring a whole new breath of fresh air in innovation and have some fun with prints. We wanted to add a different element that expands the possibilities of putting a look together.”
Some of the designer’s signature looks are evident in the new collection — the red, white and blue flag knit in waistbands, tartan plaid tights and the TH logo in a jacquard print.
The 40-style line also serves up plenty of color. Red, hot pink, purple and even tie-dye are offered.
Through a long-term licensing deal, the designer’s sheers, tights, thigh-highs, trouser socks, knee-highs and leggings are being produced by Holt Hosiery Burlington, N.C. Mountain High Hosiery, a San Diego-based manufacturer, will continue to develop Hilfiger’s licensed socks for women, men and children.
Holt’s new legwear for Hilfiger will be distributed in about 450 doors.
“We’re trying to make what has traditionally been an older product category younger,” said Karen Martin, vice president of licensing design for women’s hosiery. “We’re trying to draw younger customers into the hosiery departments.”
The fall collection, which wholesales from $2.50 for knee-highs to $10 for tights, is aimed at women between the ages of 16 and 35. But executives said the age range should extend beyond that.
“Different parts of the line should appeal to different ages,” said Russ Klein, president of Tommy Hilfiger’s women’s legwear. “A 13-year-old might buy the tie-dye trouser socks, and women in their 40s and 50s would wear the nudes.”
In addition to the fashion-forward styles, the new legwear collection includes a sampling of sheers. There are 10-denier nude-colored sheers available with a thong panty, control-top sheers, sheers with a shaper, thigh-highs and knee-highs.
There is also another group of 20-denier everyday sheers with a control top, sheers with a shaper and footless tights with a control top.
“This is exciting because it allows us to create a range and add a lot of texture, color and prints to our line,” Hilfiger said.
“It’s good for the consumer, and it makes consumers know Tommy is in the business,” Martin said.
“We wanted to allow the sheer category to have some newness and freshness that wasn’t there,” Klein added.
To promote multiple purchases, Tommy Hilfiger sales staff will encourage retailers to simplify shopping for customers by merchandising layered looks on leg forms in their hosiery departments, said Klein.
The designer’s new legwear will be featured in a fall advertising campaign that breaks in August.
Hilfiger’s New York showroom has been dressed accordingly to show off his latest license. A row of leg forms with crossed legs hangs along the walls, and mannequins are decked out in Hilfiger’s new legwear with coordinating sportswear.
First-year projected wholesale volume is $10 million, with department stores accounting for the bulk of the sales, Klein said.
Looking strategically at the category, Hilfiger said he was not overly concerned about what his competitors were doing.
Martin, who had no prior experience in legwear design, also made a point of not taking a close look at the competition. Unfamiliar with the limitations of knitting hosiery, Martin said her design work was thus not dictated by technology.
Klein said Martin’s influence also helped him to look at the category in a nontraditional way.
“We’re launching at a time when the legwear business has been dead, but is now having a revival,” Martin said. “I’m most excited about all the fashion. There are opaques, sheers and dressier styles. But what makes the line exciting is the array of interesting young designs.”

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