The 1996 underwear market predicts good sales of baby-doll nightgowns and bras, including full-figure brassieres in shiny high-performance fabrics and lace. Warnaco Group Inc.’s acquisition of GJM, a maker of sleepwear, may spark competition between Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren licensed brand-name products. Firmware makers such as Bestform Foundations Inc. and Maidenform Inc.’s True Form Foundations plan to show new light-weight, more attractive garments, including a half-slip with a waist cincher.
March is expected to be one of this year’s biggest markets in every innerwear category, say vendors.
A main reason, they say, is the demand for more fashion and newness to continue fueling a business that has consistently been a high-performing category at stores through tough times.
Among the classifications expected to continue as star performers at retail are full-figure bras, control items such as top rated waist trainers and derriere boosters and updated, pretty-looking sleep gowns, especially baby dolls and chemises.
Gearing up for next week’s market, many manufacturers are expanding assortments in various areas to keep fueling the excitement for fall. Ideas range from highly embellished bridal sleepwear looks and allover sheer sexy daywear items, to a cornucopia of shapewear products.
Bras in every classification — from push-up to seamless and sports bras — are expected to continue pushing ahead. Among the important developments will be more performance fabrics such as Tactel nylon and Lycra spandex, as well as a wide variety of special treatments such as cross-dyed laces.
In addition to new product, there will be a lot to talk about regarding several major developments in designer name business that are expected to shake things up a bit. Most notably, many are asking how much of a market share for sleepwear will The Warnaco Group gobble up following its acquisition in February of GJM, a $110 million sleepwear maker. GJM, which is a big supplier to Victoria’s Secret, also will help position the Calvin Klein underwear label — which Warnaco owns — in the sleepwear market.
Industry executives also say they’re bracing for a big rumble expected to take place between Warnaco with its Calvin Klein innerwear label and the licensed Ralph Lauren name in underwear, which Sara Lee says it will launch at retail in early 1997.
Looking back at the market reaction from January, manufacturers say basic looks were generally booked.
Based on orders in January — and strong innerwear sales at stores during Christmas — vendors generally are projecting gains in the single-digit range in fall bookings.
Norman Katz, president of I. Appel Corp., said, “March is a very important market for all of our product lines, especially fashion offerings.”
Katz noted that “a lot of new fabrics and trims in opulent, glamorous looks” will be featured in sleepwear of polyester satin and charmeuse. A key idea will be multi-ribbon trims with embroideries, he said.
Robes, he noted, are expected to be strong in plush-looking cotton and polyester blend velours.
“Anything shiny and rich-looking will be important for fall,” continued Katz. “It just can’t be a dumb-looking robe hanging on a rack.”
Katz said he feels so bullish about the call for newness and fashion looks — especially after good sell-through at stores during Christmas — that he’s projecting sales gains of 6 percent in total fall bookings.
“Basic and opening-price merchandise got good reaction in January, when we previewed early fall,” he said.
Howard Radziminsky, national sales manager for the Cinema Etoile brand of sleepwear and daywear at Movie Star, said, “A leopard print was very strong in satin sleepwear in January. We plan to expand animal prints to include a zebra print in sleepwear, and a snakeskin print in stretch velvet daywear.”
Sex also is a big selling idea, said Radziminsky.
“We discovered there’s a lot of sexy business out there in sheer and lacy sleepwear items like baby dolls,” he said. “It became a year-round business in our daywear line, when we introduced what we call seduction wear 1 1/2 years ago.”
“We finally bit the bullet and will be coming out with an entire collection of woven sleepwear by Carole Hochman,” said Kathy Weir, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Carole Hochman Designs.
“We had been doing some styles in satins for the past few seasons, but we’ll be launching an entire collection of wovens for fall.”
Fabrics will include polyester charmeuse, georgette and printed jacquards. Wholesale prices will be $18 to $28.
In the niche area of special occasion, Flora Nikrooz, designer of upscale sleepwear which bears her name, said she’s planning to give her bridal lingerie a wider palette.
“Color — especially champagne, mint and blue — will play an important role for fall, more so than in the past,” she said.
She noted the demand for more color is apparent throughout the bridal market, in wedding gowns as well as innerwear, and it’s creating an overall enthusiasm.
Nikrooz added there also will be a “tremendous amount of embroideries and netting” in her fall sleepwear.
Chellie Henkin, a vice president of I. Appel and general manager of its Myonne panties division, said, “We’ll have a very big line of panties for fall, and we’ll be showing a lot of texture, as well as more color.”
Textured treatments will include embellished cotton and Lyera spandex and nylon that has a look of cotton pique. New colors. will include “richer, rosiero” skin tones.
Henkin further noted that a group of light control bottoms, called Tummy Tamers, also will be introduced. The panties will include styles that give “very light” tummy panel control styles that offer allover and moderate control. Fabries will be a smooth nylon microdenier and an allover stretch lace of nylon and Lycra.
“Our [panties] designer Kathy Perman also has come up with two great styles that push the tush up,” said Henkin. The two styles will be a full-cut brief and a boy-cut brief. Each style will be merchandised with hangtags that say “Tush Up.”
In the foundations arena, Nancy Brennick director of merchandising for the Bali brand at Bali Co., singled out two “major launches” for fall: an average figure group of seamless, molded, underwire bras called Day 2 Day, and a minimizer called Satin Tracings Minimizer.
“Bali has been specializing in full-figure bras for some 66 years,” said Brennick. “As we look to grow our business, we have to reach categories where we are underdeveloped.”
Sizes in the Day 2 Day group are 32A to 38C. Suggested retail is $19.50. Sizes in the Satin Tracings Minimizer are 34C to 42DDD. Suggested retail is $26.50.
Brennick said the new minimizer will reduce projection of a D cup by 1 1/4 inches; a DD cup by 1 1/2 inches and a DDD cup by 1 3/4 inches.
At Bestform Foundations, Tobie Garfinkle, vice president of sales and merchandising for the Lily of France and licensed Christian Dior, Natori and Josie foundations, said, “Fashion and newness is our overall message for fall. ‘I don’t know what else will excite the customer right now.”
Garfinkle said the firm has ventured into new blends with Tactel nylon in its Lily of France line and will be featuring some nylon micro deniers in its licensed designer lines.
Jay Greenblatt, senior vice president of True Form Foundations, a unit of Maidenform Worldwide, said a “very light, user-friendly” group of control briefs called Firm Advantage by Flexees will be shown this month.
“It will probably be our most important introduction,” said Greenblatt, noting it will be positioned for the contemporary, bridge customer.
“We’ll be introducing more new product than in the past couple of seasons,” said Joyce Baran, vice president of merchandising and design at Strouse, Adler Co.
Among the new shapewear entries will be Shlipps by Smoothie — a group of three control items: a full slip, a strapless full slip and a waist cinching half-slip. “We plan on having a lot of fun with the name,” said Baran.