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NEW YORK — Best-booking items at the May market made up a potpourri of seasonal merchandise that ranged from fall-holiday assortments to spring 2007.

The market also showed diversifying taste for key items and separates that represent three lifestyle classifications: fun and sexy, pretty and fashion-forward and classic and comfortable.

Among the top ideas that had strong appeal were a variety of baby dolls in sheer chiffon, stretch lace and sleek satins, many of which were trimmed with embroideries and marabou or rendered in exotic animal prints.

Feminine-looking items with a fashion twist featured bras and coordinating bikinis and low-rise thongs that were dressed up with flirtatious lace trims, especially in full-figure bras and plus-size panties.

Traditional and comfy fare included lounge separates in feel-good fabrics like micro Modal and fabrics with antimoisture applications, as well as Victorian-inspired, ballet-length nighties of Swiss dot cotton trimmed with dressmaker touches such as satin and chiffon tucking.

Vendors generally said they were pleased with the strong turnout of retailers from major department and specialty stores in search of product and brands that would differentiate them in a shrinking marketplace, as well as a contingent of smaller boutiques that were on the hunt for immediate deliveries.

“It was a really great market, and the more fitted and bias-cut silhouettes we’ve been shipping have been selling very well,” said designer Eileen West. “However, the big surprise for us was how well everyone responded to the new darker colors I introduced in Modal, such as a black ground with a dusty rose and pink floral print for Valentine’s Day. That was picked up by a lot of catalogues. But my ballet-length … styles, including a Swiss dot nightie with silk chiffon tucking, continued to be very strong because any height can wear them and they are so easy to wear.”

Nancy Stone, senior vice president of sales and merchandising for the SFN/KN The Karen Neuburger Brand, said, “The bottom line is loungewear has become part of our core customer’s lifestyle. It’s a success because the customer can have her coffee while wearing it or run out to the mailbox. Based on strong fall sales at retail, we’ve intensified the category for spring for the first time.”

This story first appeared in the June 12, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Howard Radziminsky, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Movie Star Inc., said, “May market was all about Valentine’s Day and it was a strong market. We have already received about 80 percent of the orders we were anticipating. Our biggest item has been a satin baby doll and a chiffon coat set. We are making it in four colors — ivory with black, bonbon pink with black, red with black and black with bonbon pink.”

He added that two other baby dolls were hits: a stretch lace number with an allover rose lace pattern in pinks, reds and black, and a heart-printed satin and chiffon style with marabou trim.

“We have done this body in solids for the past two years and achieved 30 to 40 percent weekly sell-throughs in many of the top department and specialty stores we sell to,” he said.

Bob Vitale, executive vice president of sales and marketing of the Wacoal and licensed Donna Karan Intimates and DKNY Underwear lines at Wacoal America, said, “Stores felt we could continue to dramatically grow with the Wacoal brand, especially for full-figure customers with a new line of bras that go to 43GG cups. We are also experiencing over 20 percent growth with DKNY bras at most of our retailers.”

Hayley Denman, vice president for Miami-based On Gossamer, said the top-booking item was an antique-looking gold satin bustier for fall and holiday selling.

“Mesh lace bralets with Lurex treatments in our Mademoiselle group also were strong, as well as two bra styles in chocolate brown with embroidered pink flowers: a contour cup and an unlined demi cup,” Denman said. “Both go up to a D cup and have a coordinating bikini or thong. We saw a need for designer panties in larger sizes and are considering doing XXL sizes.”

Brenda Berger, vice president of sales at Hanky Panky, singled out the number-one bestseller: a tiger print baby doll in exclusive signature lace for holiday and resort selling done in grape, ruby and ivory.

“Signature lace thongs in peacock blue and grape have also been strong,” she said.

“For May market, we continued to have strong reaction to junior novelty styles,” said Chris Lee, vice president and director of design and merchandising at St. Eve International. “Hipster bodies and cheeky panty looks still maintain their popularity. In addition, we have begun to refocus on addressing the needs of the contemporary misses’ customer, who is reacting to the current fashion trends, but still needs the trends to be updated for her lifestyle.”

One key trend is a new low-rise brief that has more of a square cut for fuller coverage that is styled in clean, tailored lines in sleek fabrics or laces and sheers for a “more sensual and alluring appeal,” Lee said.

“Modal is still prominent as a basic fabric for sleepwear due to its softness, drapability and good breathability,” Lee added. “We find this to be a favored fabric for spring-summer styling.”

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