Fresh air and sunshine was just what the intimate apparel sector needed – and they got this at Interfilière Hong Kong (March 27-28).
The fair made a bold move and relocated to Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Cruise Terminal (the former site of old Kai Tak airport). With a sea view, floor to ceiling windows and open terraces, the venue offers a welcome break from Hong Kong’s intense, densely packed business districts. On the downside, in a compact city where a 15 minute journey causes people to consider whether it’s “really worth making the trip,” the location – a mere 7 minute bus ride from Kowloon Bay station – was off putting to some.
Nonetheless, from what we could see, people made the trip – and those who did were very happy with the venue, as well as the well-researched trend forum.
Function Starts to Fade Out
Not surprisingly, business remains challenging in the intimate apparel and swimwear sectors. Most fabric suppliers told Inside Fashion that they were banking on functional fabrics to drive sales. However that sector is now oversupplied after several years of everyone jumping on the performance bandwagon. What once offered newness has now become a standard feature: moisture management, easy-care, quick dry, stretch and so on are available at all price points and in a wide range of fabrics.
With function no longer a differentiator, suppliers have jumped on the sustainability train. To some extent this is being driven by brands that feel it is important to include a sustainable touch point as part of their collection. For most, it’s more an ‘eye catcher’ than a sales driver.
“We’ve developed fabrics that are made from recycled polyester and nylon. Many customers are interested in this but most are not buying recycled fabrics,” said Lin Pei Wen at Essence Textile Co (Taiwan). “Right now price is more important than anything else. All brands are very price sensitive now.”
New Strategies for New Times
“We changed our strategy to include more categories,” said Alex Marsal, International Sales Director at Liberty Fabrics. The company is well known for its lovely floral prints that brands like Paul Smith and J. Crew feature in shirting. Now Liberty has expanded into lingerie and homewear.
“We’re seeing a lot of mid-size brands using our fabrics to elevate their collections,” said Mr. Marsal, noting the key role that fabric makes in winning on the retail selling floor.
For most suppliers, the strategy remained trying to introduce new product developments – at very competitive prices.
Prints remain very important for intimate apparel and swimwear, with florals topping the charts.
“Big florals and English home textiles inspired florals are selling very well. Geometrics are also very strong,” said Floriana Franzi, Product Manager at Liberty London.
However, just as in ready-to-wear where solids and monotone dressing is becoming a new trend, prints are likely to lose some popularity in intimate apparel and swimwear in the coming seasons.
Replacing them is a new direction that focuses on monotone palettes with the interest coming from jacquards and other interesting weave constructions.
A perforated fabric for lingerie was selling well at Shantou Jinchao Co (China). At Horuriki Star Cooperative (Japan) a new weave construction created a 3D effect, while another construction created a fabric that combined two constructions in one fabric. The result was a solid fabric with a lace selvedge.
Trims remain a key differentiator in intimate apparel and swimwear collections. At Anyway Fashion Co (China) handmade trims were selling well to mid-to-high end brands, said Regal Su, General Manager. Tassels were very popular this season as they add movement to the garment.
Digital printing remains popular, especially since it enables greater customization and more flexibility. Still, even here suppliers were feeling the pressure to keep serving up something new.
This season Kunshan Caidu Digital Printing (China) introduced ‘position printing’ where the print design is only one place on the fabric. “This is actually quite difficult to do,” said Mandy Kan at Kunshan Caidu.
“Customers keep asking for something new. It is not always easy to come up with another new idea,” said Ms. Kan.