Today’s intimate apparel brands offer their customers an irresistible X factor. Find out how the latest fiber and fabric innovations have helped companies such as Victoria’s Secret and Spanx stay on top.
Women today refuse to accept that pain is beauty. Except for the discomfort caused by the occasional waxing, tweezing or stiletto-induced pinched toes, long gone are the days of bustles, girdles and garter belts.
Today’s intimate apparel fabrics actually got their start 80 years ago, when scientists at chemical company Dupont invented the synthetic filament fiber nylon. Stockings made of the fiber felt like silk but were more durable and less prone to tearing and runs. Best of all, they were machine washable and didn’t need ironing. When nylon stockings finally hit stores in 1940, an astounding 780,000 pairs were sold on the first day.
Roughly 20 years later, Dupont decided the natural rubber used in girdles and garter belts could be improved on as well, and created Lycra spandex, a lightweight synthetic filament fiber that could be stretched at least five times its original length without losing elasticity. Fabric makers found they could combine spandex with nylon in lightweight, comfortable, washable, no-iron fabrics for intimate apparel and hosiery, finally freeing women from garments that were restrictive to wear and time-consuming to care for.
The march of synthetic progress
Though Dupont no longer makes nylon or spandex, manmade fibers continue to be improved upon, and are now used in fabrics that are lighter, stronger, softer and more beautiful than ever, made into garments by leading brands sold in the top department and specialty stores throughout the world. These new fabrics have helped make intimates one of the most interesting and innovative segments in the apparel space.
Market leader Victoria’s Secret offers women colorful, sexy, affordable lingerie sold in beautifully appointed stores reminiscent of a supermodel’s boudoir. The success of the brand has been due not only to superior product design and development, but also to brilliant brand positioning supported by an annual runway fashion show starring its famous “angels” and televised to millions of viewers the world over.
But the folks at Victoria’s Secret know that no matter how good lingerie looks, women won’t wear it if it isn’t comfortable, so using soft, sensuous fabrics and trims made of state-of-the-art synthetic fibers that feel good next to the skin is just important as offering a sexy, flattering cut.
One of VS’s newest bra collections, So Obsessed, features a soft, satiny nylon/spandex cup molded with memory foam padding for an ultra-comfortable fit that claims to add one-and-a-half cup sizes. The straps are padded and slightly wider than usual for extra comfort.
Advances in synthetic fibers may not seem like the sexiest possible secret, but when you consider that Victoria’s Secret sales have grown to $5 billion, or an estimated 35-40 percent of the U.S. intimate apparel market, maybe synthetic fiber science is a little racy after all.
The future of fabric is now, and it has plenty in common with the past
One of the nylon fibers at the forefront of intimate apparel innovation is Nylon 6.6. The original and highest quality form of nylon, it is used in intimate apparel garments from functional second-skin body shapers to the most revealing—and mostly for show—lace bras.
Nylon 6.6 can be used in a wide range of garments because it offers a combination of performance, fashion and superior tactile aesthetics. The performance traits may get more attention in general thanks to Nylon 6.6’s contribution to the newest generation of performance garments like compression socks and sweat-wicking shirts, but it’s the tactility that makes it so important to the intimate apparel industry.
Because Nylon 6.6 provides a soft and silk-like feel that can’t be replicated by other synthetic fibers, renowned lingerie brands have turned to it to produce garments that women can truly feel wonderful wearing.
This combination of comfort and luxury simply can’t be topped. Nylon 6.6 also provides a smooth and uniform surface, inspiring feelings of elegance and sexiness in lingerie consumers all over the world. Shapewear brand Spanx, whose celebrity following includes Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow, is using NILIT’s microdenier Nylon 6.6 in its latest collection of shaper slips. The soft, silk-like yarn allows even the most functional of innerwear garments to feel like second skin. Underwear brand Jockey is using fabrics made of NILIT’s moisture-wicking Aquarius nylon in its Skimmies line of panties.
The unsung hero of intimate apparel
Nylon 6.6 flourishes in a world where the modern woman would make her 1940s forebears proud. It is thanks to the discerning consumer that leading brands must continuously develop new, improved fabrics that don’t compromise on performance features, visual or tactile aesthetics or product quality.
Since that first nylon was invented, fabric technology has only gotten better, and major players like Victoria’s Secret will certainly stay abreast, so to speak, of these developments.
Sponsored by Nilit.