Shaping up for gains

Shapewear will firm up its status as a hot category for 1995 with new lingerie styles and a focus on spot control. The trend toward more structured silhouettes, more cleavage, and a focus on comfort are being combined with new cotton and lycra spandex blends. There is even a men’s market, being filled by the Belly Band by Bodyslimmers Inc. The medium-control category is growing the fastest, especially in sculpted, seamless waist trainers and bodysuits.

Shapewear appears to be headed for a boom next year, according to vendors who have been putting a lot of work into new items and looks.

Innovations in spot control and styling, they say, are increasingly giving the category its own identity, apart from the bras and panties that are the bread and butter of the foundations business. This has already helped push figures for some firms into strong double-digit percentage gains this year.

And as the makers look to the next couple of seasons they say shapewear has a lot going for it:

* The growing emphasis on shape and structured silhouettes in ready-to-wear.

* The lust for cleavage, with shapewear supplementing the work of the new cleavage-enhancing bras.

* Pretty lingerie treatments providing shapewear for those who want a softer or more embellished look.

* The growing use of cotton and Lycra spandex blends as an alternative to the prevailing nylon and Lycra blends.

* A new focus on comfort, being rendered in items that offer moderate control.

Vendors predict fashion looks in textured treatments and a broader assortment of fashion colors, including a new range of nude tones, will also build a bigger consumer base with women who have traditionally worn non-control panties for everyday use. Vendors also believe the influx of fashion will continue to drive shapewear business.

Along with the softer-looking lace-embellished items that are adding more fashion to the scene, the sculpted, seamless looks that provide a smooth line continue to be important.

Each trend is being presented in innerwear-outerwear ideas, a direction that has been evolving over the past five years.

Among the items expected to fuel the category are a variety of waist trainers; briefs that tuck in the tummy and lift the derriere, and a lot more all-in-one bodysuits with padded, push-up underwire bras.

Also hot are allover lace and sleek-looking bustiers and corsets — which are traditionally part of foundations but now are gaining a new edge as fashion and control items.

The idea of control is even crossing over into the men’s area. Bodyslimmers Inc. began shipping its Belly Band to catalogs and for selling on two-minute infomercials aimed at male consumers last week.

The fastest growing segment of the shapewear business is in medium control, primarily because it combines comfort with a moderate amount of support, say makers.

Over the past year, vendors also note the shapewear concept has evolved from all over control — which can be uncomfortable and constricting — to spot control in problem areas such as the rummy and thighs.

Key fabrics include shiny satin and matte-luster finishes in nylon and Lycra spandex, along with more assortments of cotton and Lycra blends.

Gwen Widell, senior vice president of merchandising and design worldwide for The Warnaco Group, said shapewear business continues to build because of the growing interest in controlling problem areas, whether it be the waist, tummy or derriere.

Widell noted that two items by Warner’s are a hit: a high-waisted control brief of nylon and Lycra with reinforced tummy control panel that has a wide lace band that doesn’t roll down, and a control brief called The End, which was introduced 20 years ago.

“All of the emphasis on the waist and the derriere in fashion has made The End popular again,” said Widell.

Andrea Jeannet, senior marketing manager for shapewear and Wonderbra at Sara Lee Intimates, said, “Shapewear business has been growing tremendously, and would have even grown more if we hadn’t had production problems.”

Jeannet noted that Sara Lee introduced a group trolled Illusions Body by Bali Shapewear, inspired by the success of spot control in Playtex Secrets, made by Playtex Apparel, another unit of Sara Lee Corp. The Secrets line of control bras and briefs was introduced to department and specialty stores in the U.S. in March 1993, and is expected to generate wholesale sales adding up to $100 million by 1995′ – The Illusions line of shapewear features two bras that give spot control at each side, and two control briefs. Wholesale prices are $11.04 and $12 for the bras, and $8.88 and $9.36 for the briefs. Colors for April deliveries are white, a mauve tone called tea rose and a skin tone called rosewood. Black will be shipped in July.

“Making comfortable control garments that look good under apparel, as well as fashion looks, will bring new users into the market,” said Jeannet. “In our research last year, 33 percent of the women we surveyed said they would wear control panties all of the time or some of the time. This year, we believe the number is a lot higher.”

Bob Niddrie, vice president of merchandising at Playtex Apparel, noted, “Playtex Secrets continues to be a big factor in the shapewear marketplace.”

He said one group in particular by Secrets has received “great reaction” for spring: a moderate control group of bras and briefs of textured cotton and Lycra, trimmed with scallop-pattern nylon and Lycra satin. They provide spot contouring of the tummy and on each side of the bosom.

“There’s a lot of shine and nylon and Lycra out there, and only a limited amount of control items in cotton and Lycra,” said Niddrie. “The American consumer’s appetite is whetted when you present these items in a cotton blend.”

Niddrie noted that while the general trend in shapewear still is dominated by shine and tailored looks, “the next phase will move to more embellishment.”

“We were already seeing these more embellished looks at the trade shows in Europe this fall,” he said.

Cathy Anesi, product manager for foundations and marketing at NCC Industries, maker of Lilyette foundations, noted that an all-in-one control bodysuit with a built-in minimizer bra will be introduced for fall selling. The bodysuit will feature four-way convertible straps and will come in C, D and DD cup sizes. The wholesale price has not been set.

Zerbe said two bodysuits that have a ready-to-wear look and give spot tummy control were “ordered like crazy” for spring. One style features a padded, push-up bra and the other style has an allover stretch lace bra. The bodysuits of nylon and Lycra each wholesales for $16.10.

“Bottoms are really key right now,” said Nancy Ganz, president of Bodyslimmers. “We know there’s a lot going on with the bust, but rears need to be rising, too,”

Ganz noted that a lot of the HotPants looks worn under slit skirts and sheer skirts on the ready-to-wear runways, could fuel the demand for control bottoms.

“We need to focus on separate body parts and spot control,” she said, citing thighs, the belly and the waist as major problems for many women, along with derrieres.

Bodyslimmers began shipping its group of three control shapers of nylon and Lycra called Beautiful Bottoms last week to department and specialty stores. The group will be done in cotton and Lycra for fall. Three styles include a Butt Booster, which lifts the derriere and wholesales for $14.50; a Belly Band, which tucks the tummy and sells for $7.50, and a waist corset, for $10.50. Colors are black, white and nude.

With the growing emphasis on this kind of control, Ganz noted that sales at her firm are nearly double those of a year ago.

In one unusual marketing development, Carol Green, president of Laracris Corp., Chicago, maker of Aubergine shapewear, is introducing her first direct mailer of control items to 10,000 consumers this month. The foldout mailer is called Carol Green’s Inner Circle.

“Consumers have been calling me and asking where they could find a control garment that gives spot control in specific problem areas, such as the tummy or waist,” said Green.

“This is a vehicle to show consumers that we have 31 styles, not just four items, which department stores generally tend to feature.”

Green said she will be adding plus sizes to a number of control styles in the near future. Sizes will be 1X to 3X.

She further noted that a group of lace-trimmed, lingerie — looking shapewear of nylon and Lycra that gives moderate control, called Cami Solutions, has been introduced for spring.

“It’s for the woman who wants just a little smoothness under her clothes,” said Green.

“Bustiers are just exploding for us, and we are making a major commitment to bustiers,” said Richard Gimbel, president and chief executive of Va Bien, a foundations firm.

“Retailers are looking at this classification as shapewear, and executives at the management level are telling their buyers to seek out this merchandise,” said Gimbel, who noted that sales at his company this year are up 45 percent against a year ago.

The top-booking bustier by Va Bien is an allover lace number with galloon-trimmed bra cups, wholesaling for $24.48. It has detachable straps and garters, and has a coordinating bikini panty for $8, and a thong panty for $7. Colors are pink, peach, mink, ivory, navy and black.

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