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Carole Hochman Talks Next Steps for Intimates and Her Move to Naked

Emerging innerwear brand, Naked Brand Group, announced last month that leading intimates designer and industry pioneer Carole Hochman, would join its ranks as both CEO and chief creative officer.

For more than 30 years, Hochman, the namesake behind the Carole Hochman brand of sleepwear, daywear and loungewear, has kept a finger on the pulse of the intimates world, identifying opportunities and leading trends many have followed.

Now that she’s joined Naked, Hochman hopes to incorporate the same savvy that has kept her successful for so many years into positioning Naked as a leader in the intimate apparel industry, starting first with expanding the distribution for men’s product.

Sourcing Journal spoke to Hochman about her vision for the Naked brand and what she sees happening in the world of intimate apparel today.

 

SJ: What attracted you to Naked?

CH: When I met Joel Primus [Naked founder and president] and I heard that he had this Naked brand, I thought, ‘This is one the best names for a brand that I have ever heard.’ For lifestyle, Naked is awesome.

It’s a provocative name; It’s about being provocative and sexy. It’s about feeling sexy how you want to feel sexy. And I love the idea of offering men exciting underwear, and offering comfort and luxury at the same time. I love the word provocative to describe the general sensibility of the brand.

SJ: What is your vision for this venture?

CH: My vision is to make Naked an important global brand. I think women want to feel that they have a brand that is personal. I think the idea of having a brand that is about you, something that speaks to the individual, is key. The idea of Naked, and feeling like you’re wearing nothing at all and feeling just special is, I think, what Naked personifies.

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SJ: What innovations are you seeing in the intimates market?

CH: There are so many fabulous new fabrics out there. Our collections will go from microfiber to micro modal and run the gamut right back to cotton, cotton blends, cotton stretch, so it will be a blend of all fabrics. Individuals like to have choices. There’s a lot of amazing fabrics and fabrics that offer great technology. People are wanting high-tech fabrics, not just for active wear, but for sleepwear too. They want fabrics that wick and fabrics that wash easily and fabrics that are lightweight and practical. I believe in wardrobe building and I believe that a person might want cotton one day and microfiber another day, it’s not exclusive. People have a wardrobe, underwear for different occasions.

The intimates already exist in Naked that use micro fiber and micro modal, they use TENCEL. There’s a group with actual silver in the fabric and, for underwear, it is wonderful because it’s antimicrobial and anti odor, so we’re already there. We’re not reinventing the great product that Naked already has in the marketplace. There’s outstanding product already that’s high tech and luxurious, we’ll just incorporate a lot of those fabrics into intimates, and enhance them and add to them.

SJ: What does the price conscious consumer want vs. the luxury customer when it comes to intimates?

CH: I think that the price conscious customer will still want something that’s luxurious. This line at the moment is really not a price sensitive collection. I think we will be adding opening price points because I do think that we want to reach more customers, and maybe then we would build into a more luxury price point. So, we will have opening price points that don’t exist at the moment to reach a customer that might want to step up to something a little bit more special.

SJ: What countries will you look to source from for Naked?

CH: We’ll be producing in Asia, the Far East. We’ll be in China, we’ll be in Cambodia, it’s possible for us to be in India. We have our choice of lots of good production bases for various products. I have always sourced product with reliable partners and this product will be sourced the same way, with people I know and trust.

SJ: What is your feeling on sourcing factory direct vs. using agents?

CH: I have, in my career, worked mostly with an agent, in this situation I probably will not be working with agents. My sourcing relationship is directly with factories. We will be working with TMS Fashion, part of Luen Thai, and they will be manufacturing the Naked underwear.

SJ: What are the biggest challenges in retail today?

CH: I think the customer experiences so many choices in how to shop, and I think that every supplier and retail store has to be concerned about their choices. Are the customers going to the stores? And we need to be online with whoever we sell to, and hopefully they have an online distribution that we can be part of. I think that has been the main change in retail since when I started. Online was not a factor, today it’s a huge factor. There are so many choices.

We have an excellent relationship and sell-through with our retail source right now, with Nordstrom being the number one store in the U.S. and we have a Canadian distribution that’s doing fine, and all of those people are also online, so its pretty good.

SJ: Now that Komar is managing the Carole Hochman brand, how do you feel about the product still having your name on it?

CH: I’m very proud of the product that has my name on it. I’ve spent a lot of years developing it, and I think the Komar company is committed to keeping it at a level of excellence. It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep that product at a level of excellence, and I’m sure that Charlie Komar will do that. There’s a lot of product out there that has my name on it and I don’t imagine that it will be anything less than something I’d be proud of.

My name will not be on Naked. Naked is about Naked. I still do QVC and I still sell on QVC, I still have that arrangement with the old company and that’s perfectly fine, but their product is very traditional and it’s very different than anything else I’ll be doing. Talk to me in a year. Right now all the product in the stores is product I designed for the most part. We’ll see where it goes. Right now, I have no doubt they will do everything they can to keep the product at a level of excellence that I would be happy to see.

SJ: After such tremendous success with the Carole Hochman Brand and Design Group, do you feel you can recreate the magic twice?

CH: Yes, I have no doubt. It’s a unanimous yes. I really understand this marketplace. I understand the energy, I understand what makes product successful and I think that we’re in an ever-changing landscape as people’s lifestyles change, and I have spent almost my entire life addressing those changes. It’s an evolution and I’m right on that precipice of a continuation of that.

Women want to always look good, always be comfortable, those are things that never change. But you need to think of something new and exciting and provocative, and at the same time functional, because it always has to be functional. But I think that there’s a sexiness to lingerie that needs to be expressed and I think that Naked can do it. You might still be able to walk around in it, we’re not talking about stuff you can’t be seen in because we’re talking about a lifestyle brand. We’re not talking just about underwear. I think it’s the right thing at the right time and that’s what I’ve always been good at doing.

I think there’s an emotional aspect to every purchase today and I think that the very word Naked creates an emotional connection, and then the product will deliver on that. I think the idea of wearing something that feels like you’re not wearing anything at all, and at the same time enhances how you look, is a winning combination.