NEW YORK — Intimate apparel specialist Wacoal is starting to seriously play outdoors.
Over the last two years, Wacoal Sport Science Corp., the activewear subsidiary of Wacoal Corp., has been building up performance apparel in the U.S., and for fall, this division is expanding its product offerings with a wider selection of women’s products and a range of new silhouettes and styles for both men and women.
Among the new looks for women are sport bras and tank tops designed to offer targeted support, said John L.A. Wilson, executive vice president for Wacoal Sport Science. Other new styles include insulated conditioningwear for outdoor activities such as skiing and snowshoeing as well as loose-fitting “Aquamove” performance tops that have mesh venting, flat-seam construction and moisture management.
Products in this division are sold under the brand name CW-X, which stands for Conditioning Wear Infinity, and is the name of the company’s proprietary technology.
With this business, Wacoal is tapping into the momentum for high-tech performance items that have been driving sales in the activewear and outdoor industries in recent years. Companies such as Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, Reebok and North Face are among those that now incorporate wicking and technical properties into their offerings. With its new line of insulated products, Wacoal also is competing against thermal underwear lines from brands such as Duofold and Patagonia.
“Athletes have become more aware of technical fibers and fabrics, and they are more demanding,” Wilson said. “They want products that fit well and help them with their performance.”
Most of its products range in wholesale price from about $22 for a sport bra to $47 for an insulator tight, although a few items wholesale for as high as $75, including bib cycling tights.
Wilson declined to break out sales of the division, but said its volume is now in the “low millions,” and that the division has aggressive sales goals.
Wacoal’s sports division launched in the U.S. two years ago with a small selection of tights with the CW-X technology, which was formulated at Wacoal’s Human Science Center in Kyoto, Japan, and is designed to provide targeted support with built-in compression panels that encapsulate and support certain muscles, such as knee joints and quadriceps. The products incorporate Lycra spandex and Coolmax fibers as well as Auto-Sensor, a fabric developed by Ventex Co. that has moisture management and temperature regulation. Most of the products are not geared for any specific sport, but were developed for high-impact activities such as running, hiking and cycling.
In the U.S., CW-X merchandise is now sold in about 450 stores, primarily specialty sporting goods and outdoor retailers, including Paragon in New York, and REI, as well as independent stores for skiing and running. The line is only sold now in Japan and the U.S., but there are plans to eventually sell it in Canada and Europe, Wilson said.
The Sports Science Corp. operates separately from Wacoal America but shares office space in Manhattan and some back-office functions, Wilson noted. Reflecting the growth of CW-X, the division has just moved into a larger showroom on the ninth floor at 136 Madison Avenue in the space that was formerly occupied by Wacoal’s Donna Karan Intimates division, Wilson noted.
The Wacoal Sports Science Corp. is part of Wacoal Corp.’s Wellness Division, which includes swimwear and other lifestyle products, although apart from CW-X, none of the Wellness categories are sold in the U.S. Last year, Wacoal Corp., one of the world’s largest makers of intimate apparel, had sales of $1.57 billion.