Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Retailers and consumers have been satiated with a smorgasbord of color and fashion in innerwear the last few seasons, and they keep coming back for more.
That recipe of newness and femininity proved successful once again at this month’s fall-holiday market. It also follows the menu of what’s been checking well for spring at stores so far this season, according to retailers, who generally said they would be giving a bigger chunk of open-to-buy dollars to brands that may not have the clout of a big megabrand, but have the right stuff to excite consumers.
While fall-holiday orders are not expected to be finalized until mid-April, it was evident that lines specializing in products that fill a niche, such as young, contemporary daywear and underwear, sexy looking foundations with a European edge, or romantic-looking sleepwear with an heirloom quality, were among the top ideas.
Other key ideas included:
A new twist on seamless microfiber — detailed with minimal lace trim or embroideries for a softer, more feminine look.
Embroideries, prints and treatments such as Mandarin collars and Chinese knot buttons that have an Asian influence. Key colors: lacquer red, turquoise and cinnabar.
A return to romance, as in beautiful peignoirs.
At-homewear items in opulent cashmere, satin and layered semisheer georgette.
Silk in any medium — from basic washable silk to blends with Lycra spandex and luxe velvet.
Norma Flanagan, director of design and merchandising for the licensed Donna Karan Intimates and DKNY Underwear lines at Wacoal America, said, “We had a very strong market based on current [retail] selling of our merchandise, which has been excellent. This has prompted more activity at the fall market.
“Seamless was the constant topic of conversation, and it was first and foremost on retailers’ minds,” said Flanagan, noting that orders for seamless undergarments were “bigger” compared with fall 1999.
“Color is more important than ever, and stores are even strategizing how to place more color in their assortments,” said Flanagan.
“Sheer has been a very strong classification for us,” said Carola Di Iorio, managing director of Lingerie de France, a unit of Bestform Group at VF Corp. “One item in particular by Lou has been excellent: a full-figure bra called Mutine of sheer tulle that’s very sexy looking. And it gives lots of support.”
Thongs, bikinis and briefs of nylon spandex are available in coordinating colors of ivory and black for fall, and pastel blue for resort.
Di Iorio further noted that a bra style of tulle by Gemma that is “contemporary and sleek looking, but at the same time looks feminine with a little embroidery on the lower cup,” has been strong. The style features a half-pad inside each cup which gives a gentle lift, she said.
Fred Olsen, president of the U.S. division of Vogue Dessous, a Canadian bra brand, said, “Core groups continue to build momentum and additional distribution because of the strengths of the silhouettes and the addition of lots of fashion colors and prints.”
Olsen said two groups were particularly strong: one called Sheer Swirl in sapphire, amethyst and garnet, and Soft Perfection, which is offered in basic and fashion colors, as well as an animal print.
Robyn Beebe, merchandise manager at Vogue Dessous, said a sheer, ruffle-trimmed group of heather microfiber called Ruffles in the Vie line received “terrific reaction.” Vie, a secondary line introduced in 1999, is aimed at consumers in the 16-to-25 age range.
“This consumer is trending towards more feminine styling, looks with different surface interests. That’s a main reason Ruffles was so appealing,” said Beebe.
Sonja Whinter, managing director at Chantelle, an upscale French bra firm, said, “All of the buyers loved our rich jewel-tone color palette, which is right on trend and very wearable for fall. Key colors are raspberry, sapphire, plum and silver. Retailers wanted more fashion than we’ve ever seen before.”
Whinter said three new collections were unveiled, but “the most impressive was Comtesse, an all-lace, subtle two-tone [bra] collection in two fashion colors — silver gray and sapphire.” The line, which features a padded, push-up bra and coordinating bottoms, is also available in ivory.
She further noted that two groups called Hedona and Divine, which were well received for spring, have been expanded for fall.
“These two collections just hit the selling floor, and sell-throughs are very good. We are already adding cup sizes up to 42F in the Hedona group, and D cups in a strapless style in the Divine group. Shipments are slated for July,” said Whinter.
“Retailers were definitely looking for fashion — that’s all they wanted,” said Helen Burns, East Coast sales manager at Felina Lingerie, a Los Angeles-based bra specialist. “For fall, we put out 20 colors.”
Top-booking ideas include a group of bras called Harlow, which feature a red ground layered with black Chantilly lace, and Hayworth, an ornate group of embroideries on tulle. She added that velvet was a key classification for fall, especially in demi-bra styles trimmed with a hint of lace.
Cecelia Allen, vice president of sales for Tocca Lingerie, noted, “Buyers were excited about our first lingerie collection because it’s a natural extension of our ready-to-wear. Important items included an underwire bra and matching thong in white or pink cotton and silk with lollipop embroidery. Our stretch lace Art Nouveau group was particularly strong because of its functional, yet feminine feeling, especially the bandeau bra, cami and boy-cut briefs.”
Victor Lee, chief financial officer of NAP Inc., noted, “Silk has really been the big hit in our licensed Crabtree & Evelyn collection. We wanted to integrate silk into the entire collection and make a lifestyle statement. Persimmon is a key color.”
Generally, Lee said, “Higher-priced items have been checking very well at retail. Buyers’ orders are definitely reflecting their optimism for fall and holiday.”
Greg Holland, vice president of sales at Charles Komar & Sons, said reaction was “very strong” to the first collection of at-homewear by Eileen West and sleepwear by Queen Anne’s Lace by Eileen West. Both labels are licensees.
“Queen Anne’s Lace is very focused,” Holland said. “A capsule collection was what retailers wanted. It fills a niche for that customer who wants beautifully embellished heirloom product. Eileen West has been retailing well because it’s a real sleepwear brand, as opposed to megabrands that have to mirror their total brand image.”
Lisa Leigh, director of sales and merchandising at August Silk Intimates, said several classifications were hits: feminine floral prints detailed with lace trim or pin-tucks; animal-printed stretch silk and Lycra spandex with minimal lace trim, and luxury lounge items of stretch velvet and silk and cashmere.
“We had a very successful market,” said Leigh, noting that “even polyester sleepwear in tapestry florals and animal prints did very well.”
“Anything that had a look of opulence and featured embroidery or fringe was key,” said Gina Guida, design director of Industrie B., an at-homewear and sportswear division of John David Associates. “Strong color has also been important, and there’s been a lot of interest in Asian-influenced looks.”
Top-booking ideas included Pucci-inspired prints in rich jewel tones and stretch velvets of rayon and silk, said Guida.

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