Lingerie manufacturers are looking for creative solutions in a challenging business climate as the May market gets under way this week.
Although vendors are trying to stay positive, some acknowledged that the uncertain economy and sluggish retail sales are weighing on them.
Commodity-type merchandise such as underwear, novelty T-shirts and pajamas, and bras and panties that offer comfort, function and fashion are among the top-selling categories at retail this spring, vendors said. Bridal has become a year-round business, and bridal trousseau items such as baby dolls, contemporary peignoir sets and embellished undies also have been strong.
Initiatives that are expected to generate interest in the market, which includes a mix of fall-holiday and spring, include:
– Dual-purpose items such as camis, chemises, slips, tap pants, HotPants and a variety of tops ranging from tunics to Empire-waist peasant looks.
– Soft, unconstructed loungewear items that have a sportswear flavor.
– Vintage-inspired daywear, bras and corsetry, along with detachable garters, seaming and power mesh.
– A palette of colors covering a range of pinks and antique white and ivory, to pale greens and blues. Also big are romantic-looking watercolor florals and patterned laces.
– Fabric that has a feel-good hand, such as Modal, Lycra Xtra Fine Fiber, pima cotton and eco-friendly blends of bamboo and soy.
“We have great expectations, even though the economy has been so frightfully horrible,” said Eileen West, designer of the sleepwear brand that bears her name at The Komar Co. “Retail selling for us has really been pretty good and we are encouraged going into market…our spring collection…has a very fresh look. Sage is a key color and we’ll be showing a lot more key items in Modal.”
Greg Holland, executive vice president of sales at Komar, said, “Wovens and knits are driving business in classic silhouettes by Eileen West, and loungewear-type items by Donna Nadeau in luxury fabrics like organic cotton, bamboo and blends of Modal and cotton are very strong. Polyester charmeuse prints such as fern and leaf motifs also have been strong. Department store business for Vera Wang [sleepwear] has been good in Modals and poly satins.”
To succeed, items must be “new and fresh,” said Carole Hochman, chairman and design director of the Carole Hochman Design Group.
“I think the customer is out there, but they don’t want same old, same old,” she said. “That’s not what retailers are looking for. Both the Oscar Pink and Oscar Signature [sleepwear] lines are…very focused.”
Hochman said merchandise that has a fresh spin and a “totally different look” compared with holiday goods will be delivered after Christmas markdowns.
“We do a lot of analysis and all of our January through March deliveries are very focused collections,” she said. “It’s so well thought out that the collections will definitely not look like something shipped in the last quarter.”
Hochman noted that sell-throughs at retail of two collections that hit stores in April have been strong: Midnight by Carole Hochman and the licensed Lilly Pulitzer sleepwear brand.
Susan Demusis, executive vice president and general merchandise manager of the Hochman firm, said, “Some people feel in recessions you can’t stand out, you have to be in the middle. But our take is not to be in the middle. People are spending more time at home right now and might be willing to buy something for themselves that’s wonderful.”
Guido Campello, vice president of marketing and innovation at Cosabella, said, “Business for us has been consistently good, even though business at department stores has been up and down. But we are still confident because we’ll be expanding doors with our two new licensees, Carmen Marc Valvo and Sex and the City by Cosabella.”
Campello said the “hottest new item” for May market will be marketed as The First Seamless Lace Thong.
“It’s elastic-free, so it leaves no skin marks and has no seams on the gusset,” he said. “It’s made of custom Italian lace of Lycra [spandex] and nylon, and is available in one-size-fits-all with a stretch capacity of 136 percent. There’s a high-rise style we call ‘the booty,’ a low-style called ‘the cutie,’ and HotPants.”
Meanwhile, Victoria Vandagriff, president of Bendon USA, said the Fayreform line of full-busted bras will feature more fashion styles for spring.
“May is a preview of spring ’09,” Vandagriff said. “We’ll be showing eight new bra styes by Fayreform, will be introducing a boyshort and will introduce the first deep-cleavage bra in the collection.”
She added that the company will show the entire spring season in August, along with the launch of two groups by Elle Macpherson Intimates: a Bamboo Basic program of bras and undies, and Elle Macpherson Afterwear, a collection of daywear and sleepwear items.
PHOTOS BY KYLE ERICKSEN: model: marie salter/major; makeup: joe simon/artistsbytimothypriano.com; hair: jacqueline bush/artistsbytimothypriano.com; fashion assistants: christina roperti and nick axelrod