PARIS — The sense of a renewal was tangible at the recent Salon International de la Lingerie and Interfilière trade shows here, with heritage brands visibly shifting to a more consumer-oriented discourse and a strong focus on offering solutions for retailers seeking to boost their business in what remains a difficult market.
The events, which ran from Jan. 20-22 at Porte de Versailles, both saw slight upticks in visitor numbers, according to show organizer Eurovet, which no longer discloses traffic data. Premium and VIP visitors were up 12 percent at SIL and 5 percent at Interfilière, Eurovet said.
“The energy is incredible,” said first-time visitor Gloria Barrigan, owner of Alberta, Canada-based Night Owl Lingerie. “We’re seeing the high-end collections we are looking for, which we don’t see in North America anymore,” she commented.
French lingerie and hosiery sales fell 2.5 percent to 2.95 billion euros last year, according to IFM data sourced from Kantar Worldpanel, a decline principally attributed to changing consumption patterns and the growth of online, with department stores, mass distribution, independent and multibrand retailers all losing market share. According to estimates, meanwhile, the global lingerie market was flat in 2017.
In such a context, communicating a strong brand identity and offering differentiation are key, observers said. “Brands are making more of a statement and affirming their identity, even if that means they won’t appeal to everyone,” summed up Olivier Piquet, managing director of Lise Charmel.
“If something is really good, [the price] doesn’t matter, if the product is right, I buy it,” affirmed Saara Salmenkallio, owner of Finland-based retailer Funky Lady, which has eight stores. She praised the growing crossover between loungewear, ath-leisure and intimates combining comfort and glamour on show at SIL.
Among the brands breaking with decades of seduction-based marketing, Simone Pérèle debuted a new type of ad campaign featuring real women in everyday situations. “We are thinking more and more about the final consumer,” explained Stéphanie Pérèle, the granddaughter of the brand’s founder. “For example our ‘Les Simones’ ad campaign features real women in their everyday life, with clothes on. It is easier to project when you see the product without it being displayed on a perfect body,” she continued.
Groupe Chantelle also presented its new identity to the market, with visuals focusing on lifestyle and fashion rather than seduction for Chantelle and Passionata, the first stages of a revamp implemented by image director Renaud Cambuzat, who joined the firm a year ago. Chantal Thomass will be re-branded in the near future, but its new identity was already visible in the product lineup for fall, less focused on boudoir references than in the past.
“We’re trying to move away from a marketing-driven approach, it’s pull rather than push,” Cambuzat explained. “Lingerie is a very complex product, but it touches on femininity and what that means. We can’t speak for women. We’re trying not to patronize.”
In the U.S., Chantelle launched a new web site at the beginning of January, and is focusing more on interacting with consumers, said Sonja Winther, president of the company’s North American arm, Chantelle Lingerie Inc. This year’s focus for Chantelle Stateside will be on one-size-fits-all invisible panty line Soft Stretch. “We’re planning to more than double our distribution for the line in 2018,” Winther said. The seamless briefs retail for $18 per pair or $45 for a set of three.
In terms of trends, the bralette continued to gain ground, while Fifties-inspired high-waisted briefs featured in many collections, as did body suits that doubled up as daywear. Elaborate back details on bras were strong, and in terms of fabrics, stretch silk and eyelash lace were very visible. Velvet also continued to be a strong trend-driven proposition for many labels. Several brands played on adding sporty details like elastic bands, contrasting this with more traditional fabrics like lace. Many, like Simone Pérèle and Lou, integrated elements of shine with Lurex details. In terms of the color proposition, khaki, various shades of yellow, forest green and peacock blue were dominant.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of embellished laces, novelty yarns and chenille yarns that were really interesting, and there’s more Lurex than usual,” said a designer from one major U.S. mass-market retailer. “There’s more crossover than ever between ath-leisure, intimates and swim,” she continued.
At Lise Charmel, high waists and bralettes were a growing focus. The desire to target younger consumers was particularly visible in its growing Antigel line, which featured mix-and-match elements like a broderie anglaise top and black-and-white gingham floral-printed briefs. At core brand Lise Charmel, two-tone designs in silk and lace in rich colors were among the highlights.
Among Lise Charmel’s ongoing projects is helping its retailers to improve their offer and merchandising with turnkey concepts that drive traffic, Piquet said. “We are working with customers to address the problems they face and help them to optimize sales,” he said. “We can help drive sales in a store up 10 or 15 percent. We have been a pioneer in focusing on sell-out, rather than sell-in. When a retailer pays attention to the shopping experience, it pays off in terms of sales.”
At the show, the retail focus was visible in the trend forum, staged like a flagship store with merchandising ideas intended to inspire retailers. “We’ve really tried to re-create the idea of a flagship to help dynamize independent stores and help retailers face the changes the market is undergoing,” said Eurovet lingerie and swimwear division director Taya de Reyniès. “We want to valorize the lingerie retail profession,” she continued, adding that helping retailers target Millennial consumers was a particular area of focus.
“There is a dramatic shift to digital, to pure players,” agreed Martina Brown, deputy managing director of Aubade, another brand moving to talk to consumers directly with its “Parlez-Vous Aubade” campaign. “That begs the question, what do we do with the stores? It’s not easy for the multibrands, they can only do well with excellent service. But lingerie is still a very personal and technical product, that’s why these small stores still have this loyal customer base. There is still so much you can do.”
The Exposed section, which groups together creative brands with the aim of offering a curated proposition for retailers seeking differentiation, housed 44 brands this session, up from 25 a year ago. Curated by Matthieu Pinet, founder of online shopping guide The Shape of the Season, the space runs concurrently with a pop-up store at Galeries Lafayette’s Boulevard Haussmann flagship. “Buyers were looking for a smaller space with an edited assortment,” Pinet said. “We’re really trying to help them with their choices. The major department stores in particular have been very excited by the offer,” he said.
Highlights within the area included Simone Wild’s Velvet Socks, which had seen interest from several major department stores for its brightly colored hosiery, priced between 35 and 65 euros at retail. For its part, Swedish Stockings claims to be the only sustainable hosiery brand worldwide, making its pantyhose from recycled nylon in a zero waste facility. Domestique, meanwhile, is at the cusp of leather goods, jewelry and sex toys with its collection of playful accessories made of vegetable-tanned leather. Its designer Bastien Beny also works with Hermès’ Petit h. U.K.-based Marieyat, which offers seamless cotton intimates with quirky openwork and suspender details, was another highlight, with prices ranging from 34 to 120 pounds.
Interfilière’s area of focus this session was embellishment, with its The Exception space working with surface effects and texture to provide designers with inspiration. Sustainability was another area the show chose to highlight, with 15 specialist suppliers, a focus that resonated with many designers present.
At a press conference held during the shows, Eurovet announced the launch of the-lingerie-place.com, an online platform to facilitate contact between retailers, brands and suppliers. “Beyond being an agent for our industry, we want to become a global business intelligence hub,” said Eurovet chief executive officer Marie-Laure Bellon. “Our brands and suppliers are small companies compared with those in other segments. When we work together, we can reach further, at lower costs than if we were working alone.”
For swimwear show Mode City, Eurovet said it would reveal a new format next year that will include a separate public event. “Our brands want to be able to express themselves directly to consumers,” Bellon said. “We want to bring consumers, retailers and brands together.” While the full staging of the new concept will take place in July 2019, a teaser will be presented this summer.