NEW YORK — When it comes to lingerie, lifestyle is in, while celebrity brands are expected to increasingly lose their luster in coming seasons.
That’s mainly because over the past year consolidation at retail, particularly the merger of Federated Department Stores and May Department Stores, has created a do-or-die environment among vendors and merchants that want brands that have a track record of performance, quality and value.
The demand for glamorous names from the motion picture, TV and music industries continues to skyrocket in the media, but industry executives generally believe star power doesn’t necessarily mean staying power. That’s where aspirational product, brand integrity and a rock-solid brand franchise come into play in a highly competitive marketplace where yesterday’s hot item can quickly be relegated to the markdown rack.
Now, the innerwear industry is setting its sights on strengthening a number of status brand franchises, such as Calvin Klein Underwear at the Warnaco Group, and the licensed DKNY Underwear and Donna Karan Intimates collections at Wacoal America, as well as well-established designer names that have strong consumer appeal, including Oscar de la Renta, Betsey Johnson Intimates and Lauren Ralph Lauren at the Hochman Design Firm. The presence of upscale names like the licensed Vera Wang Lingerie and Eileen West collections at The Komar Co., Hanro, and the Natori and Josie Natori brands at Natori Co., also are being bolstered, according to retail executives such as Francine Klein, vice president and general merchandise manager of intimate apparel, accessories, hosiery and cosmetics at Bloomingdale’s.
Those status and designer names in the new lingerie floor at the Bloomingdale’s flagship are part of the building block of anticipated sales gains of 10 percent against a year ago, said Michael Gould, chairman and chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s. Lingerie at Bloomingdale’s 31 units generates annual sales in excess of $60 million annually, according to industry estimates.
Regarding the longevity of celebrity lingerie brands, Carole Hochman, chairman and design director of the Hochman firm, said, “We still get calls and there’s still a long list of celebrities looking for lingerie licenses, but I’m not interested. I tell them, ‘Thank you, but I wouldn’t know what to do with your name because it doesn’t stand for anything in fashion.’ I think we work with fashion icons — the image of Oscar de la Renta, Betsey Johnson and Ralph Lauren is very clean, and it’s their image. If Oscar is available, he’ll come by and visit, and we have a mutual relationship where we go to his shows for inspiration.”
“There still are a lot of celebs looking for [lingerie] deals, but there have to be the right synergies,” said Victor Lee, president of NAP Inc.
Lee said the success of a celebrity name in an apparel license is often determined by the individual’s persona, as well as the level of her participation and input.
It’s only been two years since bling was the hottest thing in intimates, and deals between innerwear manufacturers and Tinseltown divas were commonplace. The frenzy for a licensed line of bras, undies, daywear, sleepwear, robes and at-homewear was initiated with great fanfare in 2004 with the launch of JLo Lingerie by Jennifer Lopez at the Warnaco Group, followed by the introduction of Pamela Anderson Intimates at Vandale Industries. But bestsellers of the high-octane JLo Lingerie turned out to be easy-to-wear sleepwear and at-homewear items, and the Pamela Anderson line was discontinued due to the namesake’s lack of involvement, according to the licensor’s officials.
The flirtation with Hollywood reached a fever pitch in 2005 when lots of intimate deals were being shopped around the U.S. involving Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, Christina Aguilera, Jaime Pressly and Rachel Hunter. But none of these celebrity pacts came to fruition. Hunter had a deal with Ultimo Lingerie in the U.K. that expired in 2005.
Two major names in entertainment are currently said to be lobbying for a lingerie pact: Jessica Simpson and Elizabeth Taylor, according to David Komar, vice president of marketing at The Komar Co., and Lee of NAP.