The intimate apparel industry is at a breakpoint.
A year ago, when lingerie-inspired slip dresses and lacy camisoles paraded down runways at the Big Four fashion weeks, it seemed like a natural response to consumers’ call for all-day comfort and somewhat more acceptable than wearing a pajama set in public. Nighties could be worn over jeans and under a blazer, while flimsy tops or bralettes could be layered over a T-shirt à la Kendall Jenner.
Apparently that wasn’t enough for some people. At New York Fashion Week earlier this month, the likes of Lacoste, Band of Outsiders and Alexander Wang took laid-back luxury to the next level, showing high-fashion bathrobes made for streetwear.
“Women are building another wardrobe, and that wardrobe consists more and more of declassified product,” said Jos Berry, founder of trend forecasting and consulting agency Concepts Paris, speaking Thursday at Interfilière New York.
What she meant: product categories no longer exist.
“It’s about stopping that belief that everything belongs to a classification and it’s all separated,” Berry continued. “So you see what’s coming together at the moment is an enormous need to be casual in all different ways, to adapt very unlikely products such as lace and embroideries, constantly bringing together fabrics and ideas which are coming from other areas and adapting them to a very casual-inspired wardrobe.”
This mix-and-match style of dressing has as much to do with individualism as it does with comfort.
“We have a period behind us where the only thing we communicated with was cleavage, pushed up. Everything had to be two sizes bigger, three sizes bigger, and suddenly—what a big surprise for a lot of brands—that’s over,” Berry said. “There’s now an enormous need for beautiful, light, comfortable, practical things.”
Recognizing that it’s difficult for most intimate apparel makers to create mix-and-match collections of undergarments—because of the risk of not making minimums—Berry pointed to LoveStories as inspiration, a Dutch lingerie brand that opened its first boutique in 2014 and which combines eclectic styles with fashion fabrics.
“It’s very interesting. They make one shape, constantly using different fabrics and different colors, and the presentation is fantastic,” she said, adding, “You don’t have to have everything new. You can recolor it. There are very successful companies in this world that just make the same bra over and over.”
In keeping with the eclectic theme, Berry brought two new names to the table: leisurèe and swimtimates. Because it’s hard to talk about this new breakpoint in the industry using the same names as always.
“Leisurèe, what it is isn’t clear, as long as you can wear it in different ways. It’s a combination of beach, ready-to-wear and of course loungewear. What is important however is that the prices need to be lower than ready-to-wear and it needs to be easy to wear,” she said. “Swimtimates are things you can run around in on the beach, but you can’t swim in them. Most women have a whole wardrobe of beachwear, not necessarily to go into the water but there’s a lot of showing off going on.”
There’s nothing crazy about intimates anymore. As Berry pointed out, the craziest thing that brands do today is put a dancing teddy bear on a boxer short. It’s time to throw out the rule book, she said, and forget the typical lingerie colors.
“Graphic ideas are everywhere,” she said, citing what Alessandro Michele is doing at Gucci. “When you analyze that collection you see that every garment on its own is a fantastic little wardrobe. In the styling it’s perhaps craziness but on the other hand the individual garments are very interesting.”
Consider yellow, which Berry said is here to stay, alone or “lifting other colors out of boredom,” and green, but just a touch and always paired with other shades.
“The world of sexy stuff is changing. Sexy stuff has been completely dominated by S&M and bondage wear and suddenly we see that brands, like For Love & Lemons, everybody is trying to break away from the black dominance, toward something that’s different, and that’s an enormous eroticism of other cultures,” Berry said.
Taking inspiration from the success of the kimono as streetwear and embroidered satin bomber jackets, Berry said exotic patterns and big, beautiful flowers would work wonderfully in lingerie.
“We have talked a lot about tattoo art but decorating the skin, using your skin in a different way and using transparency is a very important part of trends going forward,” she said, pointing out that new placements are important. “Cut-and-sew of course helps dramatically in that trend because it’s much easier to have placement in a cut-and-sew bra than a molded one. Beautiful new embroideries and the placement of guipure, which is making an enormous impact in all the embroidery collections at the moment. Using a combination of flocking, embroidery and lace to create something super modern but also very romantic.”
Athleisure is booming, and Berry said sports bras are more than just a garment to be worn while working out.
“These are precision garments. These are the racing cars of our industry,” she said, noting the importance of stretch, which has also led to an uptick in business for elastic manufacturers. “They have quickly understood the need for comfort and softness. How the elastic sits on the skin, that the inside of the elastic needs to be super soft.”
Similar to her suggestion to follow LoveStories’ lead when creating an eclectic collection, Berry also pointed out that “clever people” are developing one perfect fabric suitable for activewear and then changing its look in the finishing process through lamination, flocking, foil printing, heat transfers, pleats and jacquard.
“It’s a fantastic way to subtly play with decorating the skin,” she added.
Despite Kanye West managing to build a whole clothing line around pieces that bear a striking similarity to Spanx, shapewear is at a standstill.
“Shapewear is not just about looking thinner under a garment. It also has to do with creating an effect,” Berry said, noting that thanks to advancements in technology, compression garments don’t have to hide under clothing anymore and can be transparent in certain areas, stretchy in another and even incorporate designs. “The idea of seamless jacquard in a garment, of concentrating on the compression of a garment by making it absolutely gorgeous and super lightweight.”
The all-over lace bodystocking is another example that feeds into this trend.
Just because undergarments are getting more technical doesn’t mean fabrics always have to. Berry pointed out that someone just made the first-ever shapewear jacquard including 60 percent cotton.
“There’s a growing need for more natural fibers against the body,” she said, noting that desire for naturalness also comes into play in shape. “Here we are talking about the enormous success of bralettes worldwide. In my opinion, there’s not enough bralette-type of thinking for bigger sizes, but it’s a world of wireless, it’s a world of comfort and there are certainly, even in the cut-and-sew world, a lot of wireless bras that are ready to be redesigned.”
Proportions are becoming more generous, too, and tunics are coming to the fore, with lots of layering going on.
“One of the interesting new developments is white plus texture. A lot of quilting, which is a surface effect, like pleating, or little quilted details,” Berry said. “Visual attractiveness that makes you want to shop.”