WRAPPING UP SPRING

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — The November market that starts Nov. 6-10 is expected to represent two schools of thought: For many, it will be a time to wrap up spring orders and push more summer and transition goods, while the more forward-thinking firms will take the opportunity to preview ideas for fall 2001.
One thing is sure, though: Fashion, more than basics, will be the main catalyst for third-quarter selling.
The classifications expected to drive business include:
Merchandise that has an ultrafeminine look, whether it’s a romantic floral print, a lavish lace treatment or a layered sheer silhouette.
True lingerie looks, like satin full slips with placed embroideries and appliques, playful camis and thongs, and chemises and baby dolls that have a Barbie Doll look.
Allover seamless underwear and daywear items in a broad spectrum of colors and textured effects.
New versions of animal prints like zebra and giraffe.
Charles Nesbit, president and chief executive officer of Sara Lee Intimate Apparel, said, “While we have a number of product introductions at the November market, the biggest markets for us now are August and March. Sara Lee companies are frequently previewing product ideas with retailers. It is highly likely that some of the groups will preview some fall 2001 concepts, but it most likely won’t be fully evolved product.”
Regarding the store climate, Nesbit observed, “The retail environment for department stores is very sluggish. In general, mass retail sales have been slowed down over the past few months, but our mass business is doing extremely well, particularly the new Lovable program.”
Helen McCluskey, president of the Playtex Apparel division of Sara Lee, noted, “Our main focus will be the launch plans behind our seamfree-stitchfree invisible bra. This will be launched as part of the Playtex Collection.
“It is revolutionary in that there is virtually no stitching and no use of elastics. This bra brings new meaning to the word seamless. It is the ultimate combination of no show-through and lightweight comfort with a feminine look and a very sensual feel.”
Jennifer Armstrong, vice president of marketing for department and specialty stores at Sara Lee’s Bali unit, said the division will focus on product innovations for late spring.
“The Barelythere brand takes its leadership in seamless technology to a whole new dimension with the introduction of a revolutionary bra that is seamlessly knit into one single piece of incredibly soft microfiber,” Armstrong said.
She noted that the Barelythere bra ships with a coordinating panty in three basic fashion colors for “full fixture merchandising opportunities.” She said a new group of seamless microfiber daywear bottoms and matching crop tops called Safari by Bareythere will feature a sheer and opaque zebra-like pattern. Styles will include a square-neck crop top and three panties — a thong, a high-cut brief and a classic brief.
Armstrong further noted that Bali’s Wonderbra brand will introduce a new “third-degree push-up” bra called Air Wonder for “va-va-voom cleavage.” The bra, which will be available in five colors, is inflatable. The Bali brand will also feature a new two-ply seamless bra called Cotton Craze, she said.
Kathy Reynolds, vice president and general manager of the Vanity Fair brand at the Vanity Fair Intimates unit of VF Corp., said: “November will be as active as the August market because we will be previewing our fall 2001 line.”
New launches for next year will include Vanity Air, a new bra with removable air pillows. It will retail for $29 and will ship March 25, Reynolds noted.
“For fall, we are introducing a new graduated pad that gives a natural uplift,” she said. “The working name for this product is American Beauty, and it will also retail for $29. Deliveries are slated for June 25.”
Reynolds noted that Vanity Fair’s most recent launch, Body Sculpting, is selling “very well” at major stores, crediting the brand’s current print campaign for much of its success. The ad shows a topless woman with her arms folded in front of her breasts with a tag line, “I Love Underwire. I Hate Underwire.”
“For us, it will be as big and important a market as August. All of the retailers are expected to attend,” said Alan Fisher, vice president of merchandising at Wacoal America, the U.S. arm of Wacoal Japan. “We plan to firm up spring and preview fall styles and colors in this market. We have longer lead times than most manufacturers because we end up forecasting after market.
“We preview with all of the major stores, and then we decide what we are going to do. However, we already know that lots of seamless color will be important.”
Sonja Winther, managing director of Chantelle Lingerie, based in French, said November means “solidifying spring buys and finalizing marketing plans for spring 2001.”
She said spring product launches include a seamless lace minimizer and a lightweight tulle group in soft colors like lilac, pink, smoke gray and ivory.
Winther said a best-selling style at stores this season is a seamless microfiber T-shirt bra with spaghetti straps, which “has more of a demi cup cut” and is aimed at younger consumers.
Robyn Beebe, merchandise manager for the U.S. division of Vogue Dessous, a Canadian bra concern, said expectations are high for the upcoming selling period.
Beebe said Vogue Dessous hopes to continue to build on strong launches for two labels launched in August. They are Crystalle, a romantic offering with an English stretch lace that uses new chine yarns to give a feeling of luxurious embroideries, and Ingenue, a sleek collection in a new pearlized stretch fabric with Italian floating trim.
“I think August is most important because of catalog commitments. However, the November market is important for transitional deliveries,” said Niki Sachs, president and ceo of Hanro USA. “Stores start thinking of markdowns in June. Full-price newness is important for an upscale label like Hanro. The consumer who is planning her summer wardrobe for the Hamptons or the Isle of Capri — is willing to spend if you present her something new.”
For summer, Hanro will focus on luxurious loungewear, as well as seamless daywear items in a group called Avant Garde. A daywear group that is done in Tactel and Lycra spandex on the exterior and cotton on the inside, called Modern Classics, will feature a new color: candy pink.
Regarding sleepwear, Carole Hochman, president and design director of Carole Hochman Designs Inc., said, “Intensified feminine looks with a lot more trimming, edges and laces” will underscore summer deliveries for the signature sleepwear.
“There’s going to be a lot more glamour, and I’ll be creating a lot more bareness. It will be very much a product for the woman who wants to sleep in lingerie,” said Hochman. “I’ll also be featuring a lot of glamour in our [licensed] Oscar de la Renta navy and pink label collections with barely-there nighties.”
Assessing current sleepwear business at stores, Kathy Weir, executive vice president of sales at the Hochman firm, said, “Generally, sleepwear business has been good. Anything that has a very feminine look is selling. I think [megabrand] space has been kept the same. Retailers are just scaling them down and reducing doors. The pie hasn’t gotten any bigger. The issue now is how much bigger a piece of the pie you’re given.”
Victor Lee, chief operating officer of NAP, noted that clear, midtone watercolors in shades like lavender, yellow and teal will be important in the firm’s Anne Lewin sleepwear collection. In addition, 3-D lace trims and placed floral prints that resemble pressed flowers will be important.
“The [licensed] Evelyn & Crabtree collection will have lots of plaid, real shell buttons, laser-etched designs and border prints on hemlines and shoulder placements,” Lee said. “There will also be a new silhouette — an-off-the-shoulder sleep gown that has the look of a christening gown.”
Lisa Leigh, director of merchandising and sales at August Silk Intimates, said, “Animal prints have been such a strong trend at retail, and so has silk. Patterns such as zebra and leopard grounded in neutral colors and some pastels have been very strong, and I think the trend will continue into summer.
“The consumer is reacting to anything that makes her feel pretty and feminine,” continued Leigh. “Ruffles on chemises and pajamas have been terrific, and baby dolls are the number-one selling item.”
She added that a top idea for November will be black slips layered with organza silk appliques, embroideries and touches of Lurex.
David Komar, vice president of marketing at Charles Komar & Sons, said, “We are continuing to do very well with Eileen West sleepwear. Business has been sensational, so we will be presenting a larger collection for November.”
Deborah McKinstry, vice president of merchandising for the Eileen West and Lanz sleepwear lines at Komar, said mixes of knits and woven fabrics that can be merchandised together will be a major statement for Eileen West. Fabrics will include cotton sateen, cotton lawn and jersey knits.
She said floral prints will be the most important story for Eileen West, including an August delivery of an antique-looking ivory, peach and green floral with touches of brown.
“The upstairs sleepwear market has been good this year, and I think we’ll have the same big attendance we had in March and August,” said Sheila Solomon, national sales manager for Priamo Designs, an upscale sleepwear firm. “Our retailers know we have new product deliveries every month. If they want to maintain a continuation of fashion product in the stores, they have to come to each market. Otherwise, they’ll miss several del.

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