Creative, high quality, and targeting specific consumer needs has been the ticket to success for a growing number of small brands.
New products that address specific consumer needs, unique designs, and better quality were the ‘asks’ at Curve NY (August 4-6, 2019).
It was a big order to fulfill, however an increasing number of brands are meeting these new requirements.
The rise of niche brands – and their importance in the market - can’t be overlooked. Everywhere you turn the story is all about small-to-boutique size brands that grabbing more market share, and doing so while still maintaining healthy margins.
Curve NY was proof of concept. The fair featured a wide range of international and domestic brands where the product design and quality spoke louder than the brand name. And they told Inside Fashion that “business was very good … we are getting orders … we’ve gotten many large orders.” Each brand is small, in terms of market share. But as an aggregate, they are quietly accounting for an increasing share of the total intimate apparel market.
Specialized Products are the Key in a Crowded Market
“The show has been very good. We’ve been busy…we’ve talked to some very important accounts. We’re pretty confident we’ll have some good orders,” said Anny-Claudel Lapierre of Claudel Lingerie (Canada).
Her collection of sleep/loungewear featured print gowns and robes in poly viscose that retail from $35-90.
“Our prices are already very good in terms of the quality we deliver. We don't rely on promotions or discounting to sell our products,” she told Inside Fashion.
Claudel is Hudson Bay’s #1 vendor, taking up 30 percent of selling floor in all stores. In addition, the brand has 50 of their own stores.
Claudel also has a line of hospital gowns that feature their bestselling prints. The gowns look just like their consumer collection, except that they are designed with clever closures to be accessible for people with disabilities.
Quality is Essential
At Lavender Dreams (Peru) the focus was on high quality, Peruvian pima cotton.
“100% cotton offers the best hand feel,” said Lucia Rivera. “In the US people care a lot about the fiber, workmanship, and where the garment is made. There’s also more demand on design.”
“The American customer likes natural fibers so we also have a cotton collection (in addition to the polyester garments),” said Jowita Przepadlo at Boho Moss (Poland).
Buyers were reacting to Lavender Dreams’ versatile pieces that crossover from sleepwear to loungewear and can even be worn as casualwear, such as their oversized cotton Tshirts or cotton camisoles. The fabric quality, workmanship and design details elevate these garments from traditional sleepwear.
“Buyers are very receptive to Peruvian pima cotton because of the price points. Also pima cotton is very durable and people appreciate the hand feel,” said Ms. Rivera.
100% pima cotton Tshirts retail from $40-50 and are primarily sold through traditional retail stores.
Lougewear is a Hot Category
“The loungewear sector is really growing. The ability to take a garment from loungewear to casualwear is helping grow the category,” said Isabella Montoya, designer and owner at Lavender Dreams.
Ms. Przepadlo agreed. Her collection was designed as sleepwear/homewear but was dressed up enough that you could certainly wear it if, for example, you had friends over to your house for a relaxed afternoon at home.
At Boho Moss, dressing gowns in vivid floral prints were getting the most attention from buyers. The satin fabric (poly spandex) offered an elegant drape, while little details such as bows on the cuffs of robes add even more appeal to the garment. Robes (made in Poland) were priced to retail at $65-70.
For the younger customer, sets that pair crop tops with flowing trousers were a huge hit.
New Opportunities as Demographics Change
“We are targeting the 40+ woman,” said Mari Martini, Managing Director at Mari M. This a growing market segment (think of aging populations around the world), but is under served in most product categories – including intimate apparel.
Claudel also was seeing good business opportunities reaching out to older women. “We are also targeting more mature women. 60+ year olds are the fast growing sector that is ordering online,” said Ms. Lapierre.
In addition to its elegant sleep and loungewear collection, Mari M. offers a range of matching pajamas for the entire family. This fun concept interprets each design concept into a children’s look, a menswear look (for father) and a womenswear look (for mother).
The Brazilian intimate apparel company found that their robes and print collections were in big demand.
“Our prices are good so that’s helped,” said Jonathan Salazar at Mari M. “We’ve had lots of appointments and gotten orders – some were quite large orders.” Robes and gowns in polyamide wholesale for around $40.
“Our garments feature an elegant cut – they drape beautifully. We have great colors. Everything is tasteful. It’s alluring rather than in-your-face sexy,” said Mr. Salazar.
The Growing Beachwear Sector
Beach and swimwear are another category that proves there really are ‘riches in niches’. “More people are going to hotels and resorts. The wealthy are traveling more and they want something nice wear,” said Andreas Höss at Eva B. Bitzer (Germany), explaining that hotel boutiques are big market – with strong growth opportunities.
Big resorts are expanding the number of boutiques on their premises in an effort to capture some of the tourist spending.
“Customers shopping at a resort will buy more pieces – they’ll buy the bikini and the tunic too,” said Mr. Höss.
“Spa boutiques are another market opportunity,” he added.
“Business for us has been good. We found a few new customers and met with our regular ones.
Overall, the market is slow because consumers feel uncertain so they spend less, they hold back. The strong political situation is not helping,” said Mr. Höss.
“You must be international. You have to be open minded and develop partnerships that can help drive the business.”
“People are always looking for something new…the market will always survive,” he said.