Lingerie Insight investigates whether demand in the shapewear sector is likely to remain high, this year, and talks to a series of market leaders about their new AW12 collections.
A massive 93 percent of women would like their lingerie to give a little help with shaping and contouring, according to a world-wide consumer survey conducted by INVISTA.
The same report revealed that one third of women said that they would consider wearing shapewear every day.
If these statistics can be taken at face value, there would appear to be no immediate risk of demand declining in the shapewear sector.
This is a point of view that INVISTA would surely agree with. INVISTA commissioned the survey of women in the USA, France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain, this year, as part of its ongoing development of innovative LYCRA® fabrics for the intimate apparel industry.
Similar research in 2009 found a considerable gap between what women want from their lingerie and hosiery, and what they feel it delivers. For example, 88 percent of women said that they wanted underwear to enhance their shape, but only 63 percent said that they were satisfied that this requirement was being met.
Lycra beauty, INVISTA’s fabric shaping certification programme, launched in 2010. It has since been expanded to cover the areas of hosiery and swimwear, a clear indicator of the company’s commitment towards this area of intimate apparel.
Dogi International, Liebaert, Eurojersey, Carvico and Jersey Lomellina are just a few of the textile manufacturers to have produced fabrics within the scheme, while brand’s using these fabrics include the likes of Anita, Hanro, Maidenform, Body Wrap, Huit, Naturana, Spanx, Triumph, Playtex, Felina, Berlei and Wacoal.
Shapewear has performed very well for Wacoal over the past year, with up to 20 percent growth in some stores.
Wacoal sales director Susan Bradley said: “The market is so saturated with brands introducing shapewear that you really need to have a point of difference.”
It is for this reason Wacoal has introduced its anti-cellulite iPant and ‘Control Freak,’ a product designed to fit different body shapes. Both ranges are being expanded for AW12.
Yet, despite Bradley’s recognition that the market is becoming increasingly competitive, she still thinks demand will remain buoyant.
“I think shapewear will continue to be popular,” she says. “It is now an established part of many women’s lingerie drawer and since this is a product that is especially innovative there will always be something new to offer the consumer.”
Penelope Giguere, marketing co-ordinator of competitor Body Wrap, agrees that the market is saturated, something she attributes to the continued high level of demand for shaping products.
“Shapewear, being so popular at this time, it seems that there is a new line launching every week,” she says. “Unfortunately, most of them do not work and it can discourage someone who is trying it for the first time.”
For AW12, Body Wrap’s inspiration has been the ‘celebration of femininity in a sophisticated way’. With this in mind, it has added new colours and prints to its current ranges, along with introducing new groups.
One of these is Every Day Slimmers, which is made with an exclusive, breathable microfiber fabric, uses all around seamless technology and is reportedly virtually invisible under clothes.
The Body Wrap Bridal Collection will also be launching in the stores, this February, and the brand is reportedly ‘delighted’ with the orders placed so far.
Body Wrap is part of Patricia Eve’s portfolio of brands. Patricia Eve owns a series of labels, including Miraclesuit Swim and Shapewear, Miraclebody Jeans, Naomi & Nicole and Cupid Fine shapewear.
Patricia Eve managing director Mike Eve believes that over the coming years fabrics will become lighter and a less functional look will become more desirable. He reveals a couple of the company’s other new developments for the AW12 season.
According to Eve, Miraclesuit will be introducing a new ‘Sheer’ group, which is designed to look and feel lightweight, whilst still making the wearer ’10 pounds lighter in 10 seconds.’
Naomi & Nicole will also be launching new group Inside Magic, with stitch free control, and will also be adding a strapless full slip to its Amazing Light collection.
It is not only the Patricia Eve Group that is looking to take advantage of the rapid advancements in technology in the sector.
Naturana sales manager Neil Moore says: “One of the key advancements in shapewear design has been the continuing development of LYCRA®, which has been used to create Naturana’s shapewear range. Each of their designs offers a long lasting fit, superb comfort together with incredible elasticity, resulting in high performance designs which feel lighter and softer to wear."
2011 saw the diversification of the Naturana brand with the launch of Perfect Body – its new shapwear range.
Whilst previous ranges have included individual shaping styles, last year saw the introduction of a dedicated collection, combining directional designs with the latest fabric technology.
Following the initial launch in February, Perfect Body now offers three distinctive series of designs. Amongst these are selected styles which have been created with contoured panelling and high waist detail to capitalise on the latest 1950s inspired retro look.
For 2012, Naturana has added to its more structured shapewear, with new additions to its Minimiser collection. Its Minimiser style has now been developed with the introduction of new bodyshaper and high waist control brief designs, which provide a firm contoured effect. Adding a seasonal element to the range, these styles will be available in bright red and cobalt blue, as well as classic white.
Hanro, another fan of the LYCRA® beauty fabric, claims to be offering a completely new type of shapewear for the season, called Natural Shape.
The brand, which claims to offer body-forming underwear to meet the very highest demands, has specially developed an interlock fabric made of LYCRA® beauty fabric with micro modal.
The ‘subtle’ construction of this fabric means that it can apparently make do with a relatively low percentage of high-quality LYCRA® beauty fabric and yet still manage to shape the body efficiently.
A Hanro spokesperson says: “We´ve managed to square the circle: shapewear that really does shape you and yet does not interfere with your freedom of movement.”
As the shapewear sector becomes increasingly crowded, the role fabric technology plays in enabling these new product functions is vital. Chantelle and Passionata UK brand manager Alexandra Gueveneux is another who supports this belief that fabric innovation is a major cause of evolution within the shapewear sector.
She says: “Any change occurring will be based on technical advances and innovations in fabrics mainly. This, combined with fashion trends, will perfectly respond to the fast growing demand for shapewear.”
Chantelle launched its new range of basic and sexy shapewear, last season, in an exclusive pop up shop at Selfridges. According to Gueveneux, the launch was a great success and initial feedback from both consultants and consumers was ‘excellent’.
This year, Chantelle is planning to expand its shapewear range as a proportion of its overall product offering.
Chantelle’s roots originate in the perfecting of the girdle, something that the brand’s product development team and designers always keep in mind. Its Sexy Shaping shapewear collection is about reinventing the girdle, but in an up-to-date way, with the most cutting edge technologies and contemporary look.
Technically, the construction work involves a skillful mix of lace, shiny knit and semi-opaque tulle. Each yoke is selected and positioned to ensure targeted and ultra-effective action.
Gueveneux says: “Thanks to various cutting edge technologies (heat sealing, cut and sew, and laser cut, amongst others) which have been developed and made available to corsetry makers, Chantelle can now offer women two things: the comfort they’re not willing to compromise on anymore and a more contemporary and feminine style.”
But, it’s not just the technology or its key point of difference that necessarily makes a brand sell well in today’s market; it is also its price.
Eveden marketing manager Ann Marie Manley says: “The greatest challenge at the moment is price competitiveness. It’s important that consumers realise the importance of a quality shapewear, which is made with quality fabric. With many cheap alternatives having launched this year, it’s important consumers realise that, if they want a product that really, truly works and where they will see the effects, they’ve got to choose a quality product. Shapewear can’t be cheapened!”
Eveden has recently increased its shapewear offering across its Freya, Fantasie, Fauve, Elomi and Huit brands.
In particular, Fantasie lingerie has introduced new shapewear styles across existing and debut collections. The best selling Elodie collection has seen the launch of a high waisted control short, which Gueveneux believes will be a key trend this year, and which offers greater coverage and a smoother tummy area.
For AW12, Freya is introducing three longline bra styles to its Piper, Carys and Ivy collections. The padded longline bra is designed to offer superior uplift and support, and features seven hook and eyes for a smoother look.
In contrast, perhaps, to Manley’s views, there are those in the market who do believe that shapewear should and can cost less.
Playtex marketing manager Marica Carleschi says: “Currently the greatest challenge in the shapewear market is the need for innovation, but at a consumer friendly price in the tough economic climate.
“With the current economic pressure leading to less disposable income, women are looking to get real value for money and, if a product can offer additional benefits over and above the normal shapewear, but without a hefty price tag, then consumers are more likely to take notice.”
Playtex’s existing Pure Control range has three shapes in two colours and is designed to provide high level control for those ‘special occasions’. In 2012, Playtex will be adding a new range that will aim to provide great shaping on the silhouette and some ‘additional benefits’.
One thing is clear, the shapewear market is still evolving and, while product innovation certainly plays a major part in this, a change in public attitude is also an important aspect of this development.
Felina head of international product management Marion Miltenburger says: “Shapewear will stay a while. One never knows how long a trend will last, but shapewear is more than a trend; it is an expression of social development. The slimness craze and perfectionism are reflected here. And, it should not be forgotten that shapewear is primarily worn by slim people.”
Felina is supplementing its AW12 portfolio with Clarity, a portfolio of highly functional diamond jacquard with elegant and graphical embroidery. The series comprises a functional underwired body and a high waisted maxipant, with matching bra.
The subject of shaping has always played a central role in the Felina collection. Functional materials and cuts, reinforced tummy areas and shaping lingerie seams – all these details reflect the collection’s focus on ‘best agers’.
It is undeniable. Shapewear, as a sector, is continuing to grow. And, as shaping products become increasingly mainstream, their popularity looks set only to increase.
“Shapewear is not ‘taboo’ anymore,” says Body Wrap marketing co-ordinator Penelope Giguere.
“Shapewear is here to stay.”