A SEAMLESS TRANSITION TO FASHION
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — The appetite for seamless products appears to be insatiable.
Now accepted as a basic commodity in intimate apparel departments at stores nationwide, the seamless classification is entering a new level: the fashion arena.
Anything that has a look of fashion, as well as a wide range of colors, is what’s fueling the demand for sleek, seamless undergarments — whether the products are allover seam-free and Santoni-made, or have the guise of appearing seamless through molding and padding.
The most popular classifications are daywear items such as camis, tank tops and bodysuits, as well as a wide assortment of bottoms from thongs and bikinis to boy-cut briefs and shapers. But the seamless statement is rapidly crossing over into swimwear and other apparel categories such as children’s wear, activewear and sportswear.
Texture and prints are beginning to play an increasingly important role, adding drama and dimension to what has generally been described by industry executives as looks that are aesthetically pleasing in a range of microfibers, but have been available primarily in two venues — matte and shine or allover shine.
There’s lots of innovation in surface treatments, many of which were previewed at the Lyon, Mode City trade fair in Lyon, France, last month. They include small and perforated looks in a variety of small and large shapes such as triangle, diamond, square and circle motifs; pebble, gravel and honeycomb effects; ruching and striping; burnout treatments; and lettuce edging and fringe — all of which have been engineered and knit into one totally seamless product that can feature several textured treatments alongside a flat ground.
A lot of the textured effects are executed to accentuate the body, such as striping or jacquard patterns that outline the derriere, or ruching at the center of a daywear bra and underneath the bustline. One idea in daywear is especially whimsical — a seamless bodysuit by Gerbe that features a knit-in faux zipper that’s half opened, thus giving the viewer trompe l’oeil cleavage.
Meanwhile, the horse race continues for what is being called the “Millennium Bra” — an allover seamless bra with no underwire, just knit-in engineered control that supports the breasts. However, Norma Flanagan, vice president of merchandising and design for the licensed Donna Karan Intimates and DKNY Underwear collections at Wacoal America, said the quest is over.
“Yes, we’ve engineered support into a seamless bra product,” said Flanagan. “I think it does what it’s supposed to — it holds you up because of the extra support of Lycra.”
Flanagan said the new bra style, which is available in the DKNY Underwear and Donna Karan Intimates lines, will be shipped for spring 2001. The bra size goes up to 38C.
Another big story is the variety of prints done in a rainbow of colors from earth tones and dusty pastels to neon brights and midtone sherbert hues.
Top ideas include:
Seventies-inspired tie-dyes as seen in little seamless tanks at Benetton.
Nature motifs such as twigs, feathers and leaves.
Delicate tattoo and lace patterns that underscore the return to feminine looks.
Prints that have the look of elaborate appliques and embroideries or fancy embroideries that are sewn on a finished seamless garment.
Special effects like active-inspired puffing.
Metallic prints reminiscent of hard rock bands of the Eighties.
Manette Scheininger, senior vice president of marketing at Maidenform Worldwide, said: “We started out last year with seamless in a subbrand called All The Time, a plain Tactel panty group of young silhouettes like thongs and string bikinis. We recently introduced a group called All The Time Accent, which features a double stripe on the waistband, and it’s doing very well.
“The consumer now wants a point of differentiation in seamless, so she’s looking for color, texture and prints. We are taking it to the next level because plain knit doesn’t distinguish itself on the selling floor. Price points are higher for seamless and you have to give a consumer a reason to buy.”
Scheininger said Maidenform was going forward this spring with seamless products that feature placed motifs and a jacquard pattern.
Tobie Garfinkle, vice president of merchandising for the Lily of France and licensed Natori and Josie foundations at VF Corp. unit Bestform Group, said, “We will generally be adding prints where we have simple or microfiber groups to make everything pop a little more on the floor.”
Garfinkle singled out the X2O Bra by Lily of France as an idea that is clicking for spring.
“It’s a water pad bra with a seamless cup,” Garfinkle said. “But we wanted to give it a real feeling associated with water, so we used a Lycra swimwear fabric that’s a little heavier, very supportive and makes for a great bra.”
She noted that The Millennium Wire Bra by Natori, which has seamless bra cups covered in microfiber, is a best-booker for spring.
Regarding seamless lace patterns, Garfinkle said: ‘I think that will absolutely be the way a lot of us will go after lace for fall 2001. Retailers have already responded to the idea because the lace lies flat. It may not have the same type of opulence of a European lace, but it achieves that lacy, feminine look and is still practical for the American woman.”
Niki Sachs, chief executive officer of Hanro USA, said, “Going forward for fall 2001 in Hanro, we will be doing seamless floral jacquards and lots of color. We will have a new group that’s basic and reorderable and will go on EDI [electronic data interchange].”
Styles will include an underwire bra, a crop top, a spaghetti-strap cami, a tank and three bottoms — a thong, a bikini and a brief. Colors will include silver, ice blue, rose and white.
For spring, Sachs said a secondary line called Skiny will feature solid seamless and seamless lace daywear items in Sixties-inspired colors such as hot pink and red, as well as black and white.
“We are doing a very exciting seamless striping story for spring,” said Pat Lager, vice president and general merchandise manager of the licensed Tommy Hilfiger Intimates collection at VF’s Bestform Group division. “It’s a lot of fun and will strike a chord with our consumer who likes color and fun.”
The seamless Hilfiger group will feature two color venues: a palette of citrus shades in pink, orange, yellow and white; and a red, white and blue format.
Flanagan of Donna Karan Intimates and DKNY Underwear, noted that selecting a special texture can be tricky.
“I think the look of a texture is what’s important,” she said. “Dimensional texture can take away from smooth and seamless looks. You don’t want bumps and lumps. In Santoni, it can be very flat and smooth.”
“Color and surface interest is where it’s at,” said Alan Fisher, vice president of merchandising at Wacoal America. “Seamless definitely is on the upswing, and it certainly will be a major part in anyone’s assortments going forward.
“We are adding color for existing matte and satin programs for spring and fall 2001. We’ll be introducing a new jacquard-pattern group for spring and an incredibly bold matte-and-shine jacquard group for fall.”
He further noted that Wacoal will introduce a light control group of Santoni-made shapers, which will highlight “visually beautiful” engineered patterns that will outline key body areas like the tush.
Regarding the general perception of seamless products by consumers, Kathy Smith, marketing manager for Lycra intimate apparel at DuPont, said, “We are not recognizing seamless as the key angle to promote, because it can be confusing as a word. It’s more important to market the benefits.”
Smith said DuPont recently conducted consumer focus groups in the U.S., Asia and Europe on “unaided positive perceptions of seamless.” The four common denominators were: Seamless products do not show under clothing; it’s smooth and sleek; it’s comfortable, and seamless garments fit well and closely.
Ida Coraggio, nylon marketing manager for intimate apparel and swimwear at DuPont, noted: “The combination of yarns is what is going to continue to create the interest. Color is definitely part of the newness. I really think it will pop on the retail floor because microfibers take color so well.”