Byline: Alessandra Ilari / With contributions from Gabriella Carrubba
BOLOGNA — The lethargic pace at the Intimare fair, featuring innerwear and swimwear for spring-summer 2001, was the top gripe of exhibitors, who cited a lack of foreign buyers and the absence of bigger firms such as La Perla at the 11th edition of the Bologna show.
However, there were firms that thought the exhibit was worth the effort despite the slow pace and cited generally strong ordering from those stores that did attend, especially where detail-oriented and innovative collections piqued their interest.
“Until two years ago, it was a profitable and lively fair with great feedback from the buyers attending,” said Michela Pellegrino, export manager at Rosapois. “Now, it’s very slow. It seems that people prefer going to the beach.”
Luca Bazoni, commercial manager at Imec, voiced a similar complaint about the four-day show, which closed July 3.
“When it debuted, Intimare took off immediately,” Bazoni said. “Then the flow slackened, which is too bad because Bologna needs a good fair of this type, considering that the best underwear producers are in this area. The fair in Lyon, for example, is the perfect panorama for the industry. So everybody attends.”
Francesco Scudier, sales and marketing manager at Ritratti, noted that while spring-summer isn’t the strongest season for innerwear, it’s still important to be at Intimare.
“It’s important to support the Made in Italy label,” Scudier said. “We invested in a bigger stand, and the feedback was quite positive, not so much in terms of orders — because those are written in our headquarters — but for potential clients.”
For others, the absence of high-profile manufacturers wasn’t so penalizing.
“There weren’t many visitors,” said Antonio Lazetera, sales manager at Sofia Mare. “But the ones who attended spent more time checking out the smaller companies, as in our case.”
Show organizers said they expect rosier times in for the January 2001 edition. A spokeswoman said that it was premature to discuss details, but said priorities will include pumping up international awareness and a redesign of the fair’s format, which they hope will lure more exhibitors. This year’s attendance figures were not released.
“Women are eager to spend for something that’s new,” Scudier said. “It’s not even a question of age. There are 20-year-olds who need a well-made bra that is also trendy, and they won’t blink at the price tag if they find the right one. It’s the same as a young-looking 60-year-old woman who may want something funky and young.”
Overall, the focus was on luxe looks and embellishments in Intimare booths.
“If you stimulate the market, you’ll get a good response because women are very receptive to new trends,” said Imec’s Bazoni.
Cases in point were push-up bras with oil-filled bust pads, transparent silicon or latex straps, and a carnival of embellishments: feathers, sequins, embroideries, scalloped trimmings, beads and ruffles, especially in the swimwear range.
The booths were also awash with colors: robin’s-egg blue, raspberry red, canary yellow, baby pink and ocean green, to name a few.
As an example, designers at Demy let their creative whim run loose with enough details to fill a theater. There were sequined pink bikinis, turquoise versions with matching appliqued feathers, and styles with plastic insets filled with colored plastic beads.
“We try to translate fashion trends into swimwear,” said Umberto Baroni, sales manager at Demy.
Ritratti was banking on Soft Up, a trademark name for a seamless demi-bra of cotton and microfiber that adds one size, gives a natural effect and purports to have a perfect fit. The bra features small, removable pads filled with baby oil.
“We were astounded by the success of this bra,” Scudier said. “We sold 30,000 pieces only in Italy in two months. It seems women appreciate it in place of breast implants, because it has a similar effect, but no side effects.”
The company, which changed management a year ago, is on the upswing, said Scudier, noting that he expects to tack on a 20 percent sales increase this year of $15 million. Sales for the first half of 2000 were up 32 percent compared with a year ago, he said .
The Soft Up bra, which has matching panties and retails for $65, is available in basic black, white and tan, as well as embroidered versions. The concept was translated into the swimwear arena, with polkadot bikinis in sherbet tones and floral-embroidered styles.
A similar concept was developed at Rosapois, where air replaced the oil in the bust pads.
“We used this technique with demi bras in cotton jersey,” Pellegrino said. “Air is extremely light and it molds to the shape of the breasts.”
For younger women, there were matching panties and bras in reversible cotton jersey in white and pink, as well as matching tank tops with ruched hems.
Former model Anna Morra, who launched her own swimwear line two seasons ago called A, said the Fifties and Sixties inspired her. She crafted cream-colored crocheted bikinis and matching tops, and bikinis that can be mixed-and-matched in purple, turquoise, olive green and cobalt blue.
“I use top quality materials that won’t wear out so that my clients can mix a bikini top from last season with a bottom from the new collection,” said Morra.
The mix-and-match concept was also popular at Peach Tree, Imec’s younger line of swimwear and lingerie.
“We sell the tops and bottoms of the same style separately to allow clients to create their own look with color,” Bazoni said. “There are also matching spaghetti-strap dresses and tank tops.”
The pieces are available in 11 colors, including orange, yellow and turquoise. Other swimwear looks included bikinis with scalloped plastic straps, floral embroideries or contrasting top stitching.
“We also foresee a comeback of prints because they are so big in apparel right now,” Bazoni added. “However, because we work with small pieces, we have to find the right patterns.”
For underwear, the gamut included a bra, panties and tank top set in pale blue cotton tulle and Lycra spandex, with appliqued floral embroideries and cotton jersey lavender underwear with a matching knitted dress for the home.