FEATURE: The great hosiery comeback

The hosiery market has been in decline for the last three years, but thanks to exciting new product innovations, such as sportswear-inspired compression tights and luxury socks containing natural fibres, alongside the return of fashion tights on the catwalks in SS16, this sector is expected to make a comeback.

On the panel:

Mathias Schulz, Head of International Sales, ITEM m6
Laura Vacchelli, Marketing Manager, Oroblù
Beth Somi, Marketing Manager, Courtaulds Brands
Ade Hassan, Founder, Nubian Skin
Alison Baines, Brands Manager, Melas Group

Spring catwalks are telling us that fashion tights such as fishnets will make a comeback next year. Can you concur?

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Mathias Schulz: Yes, 2016 will be a fashionable year in legwear, not only for tights, but especially for socks. We will see a new generation of pastels and cool prints. We are focusing on our collaboration with German designer Dorothee Schumacher, which will bring totally new designs and material mixes. For example, high heel socks with a beautiful embellishment.

Laura Vacchelli: Yes, we believe that fishnets and fashion tights will be the biggest trends of AW16/17 and SS17.

Beth Somi: We have definitely spotted fishnets as a new trend – ASOS recently ran a fashion spread featuring fishnets. Also, Kylie Minogue and Kate Moss have been seen wearing fishnets and I think Grazia and Look magazines both took a different take on whether they were a good look or not. We will be offering large fishnets in black and nude for SS16 and we have already been asked by stylists to use them in fashion pages, so we will start to see those come through in the magazines by the end of the year, ready for the launch of spring. We really feel as if there’s a renewed interest in hosiery, which is great. Hosiery is very cyclical – there was the Henry Holland and Jessie J period, then there was a bit of a lull for a few years and it seems to be coming back, so more power to it.

Alison Baines: Fishnet tights are definitely seeing a revival, with delicate twists on fishnets and laces starting to be seen on the catwalk for next spring. In previous hosiery fashion cycles, fishnets were always the start of a fashion hosiery revival. Coloured nets are also important in 2016.

Sheers made a return for SS15. What will be the next big trend(s) for SS16?

Ade Hassan: Sheers will still be a favourite, and there will be an emphasis on making them more inclusive, whether that be in terms of tone or size. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some very creative sheers with fashion designs.

Mathias Schulz: Sheers returned in 2015, but they will reach their peak in SS16. There will be an increase in a variety of skin tones and more options like open toe tights will hit the stores in 2016. A new trend we have noticed is combining super sheer materials with compression techniques. This is set to be a new beauty essential as they offer a flawless finish.

Laura Vacchelli: Stockings and socks are the stars of spring/summer. Oroblù will offer a diverse choice of styles: lightweight, fun and simple. Stockings are no longer a simple accessory, but a base to build around an entire outfit. It’s the same with socks: they’ve gone from being a hidden garment to a key element of apparel.

Alison Baines: Sheers have always been the core business of the hosiery market, but they have been much more fashionable this year, with a younger target market. Our bare range continues to grow season on season. Spring 2016 is all about anklets and socks, which are expected to be even bigger next year.

Beth Somi: Sportwear is now very much worn as everyday wear and that will extend into legwear, with interesting shapes and meshes. Our mesh panel tight is a mock hold-up with sporty lines at the top of the leg. We’re also seeing support and compression tights as a big trend. It’s always been seen as a type of product that your grandma would wear, but brands like Under Armour and Skins are educating younger people to understand that compression and support is a really positive thing. So we are seeing people searching online for compression a lot more and we’ve added a range of support tights to our Aristoc brand for SS16.

What new legwear innovations and technologies have come about in the last few seasons?

Beth Somi: We launched an amazing range for AW15 called Sweet Steps. This includes 60 denier opaques, ankle thighs, knee-highs and footsies made with a stay-fresh patch from Odegon. At the bottom of the product is a black heart and a rectangular patch, which traps odour molecules. We are the first hosiery brand to work with Odegon and we will be extending this range to include 10 denier
tights, knee-highs and ankle highs in SS16. The patch lasts for the lifetime of the garment, is safe for the skin and is totally natural.

Mathias Schulz: Compression is now a technology that represents its own segment in the legwear and lingerie department. What shapewear did in the lingerie department, compression now does for legwear.

Ade Hassan: The new ‘nude’: innovations have allowed customers to find the right nude shade for their skin. Great innovations in sizing and technologies like those from Lycra is also playing a big part.

Alison Baines: High-performance fibres with Heatsense and Coolsense technologies are evolving, which allows brands to offer a variety of products with a difference. Also, new knitting technologies are constantly being improved and explored. In our Charnos brand this season, we are launching three new premium products in a 60 Opaque, 15 Gloss and 10 Matt. These are not only of exceptional quality, fit and style, but great value using the latest knitting technologies.

Laura Vacchelli: In hosiery, the latest innovation is seamless tights. Besides this, Oroblù has presented a comfort collection named Different, which includes tights and knee-highs featuring flat seams, a cotton gusset and an invisible toe.

What innovations can retailers and consumers expect to see SS16 and beyond?

Beth Somi: Aristoc will launch a capsule range of socks developed with beautiful yarns. Our Charlotte sock, for example, is made with added silk and our Sophia knee-high has been developed with a miyabi yarn, which generates heat to keep the wearer warm. We’ve not really developed many socks with Aristoc before, but socks are now really on trend. We know that M&S socks are flying out and M&S tends to be a good bellwether generally.

Laura Vacchelli: Our collection of socks launching for SS16 contain natural fibres, which are characterised by comfort and freshness. The collection was born out of our brand’s constant focus on environmental issues and the development of advanced technologies.

How are you working with retailers to communicate these new developments to your end-customers?

Alison Baines: We are offering exciting new packaging concepts, alongside new POS that can give buyers options on how to display and merchandise the ranges in store. Our social media channels are growing and we are driving and running promotional ideas alongside our retailers to give consumers an insight into the latest trends and designs.

Mathias Schulz: ITEM m6 creates innovative and extraordinary product and technology-centred campaigns to educate our customers. Those campaigns are mirrored in advertising, print, online and packaging. ITEM m6 also educates the end consumers through in-store promotions by our own promotional team.

Beth Somi: It’s our responsibility to get the message over to consumers through campaigns, packaging and product design. In a way we have to sell the product twice – to the retailer and to the consumer. I think our packaging really stands out with its bright colours and attracts the eye so that people read about the innovations on the pack.

How popular is hosiery in the summer months? How do you drive growth during this period?

Mathias Schulz: In SS15 we launched our new Invisible tights – the world’s first sheer compression tight. This product category grew sales in summer for the brand and our retailers. For SS16, we are creating a fun and fresh socks campaign with a spectacular presentation that no end consumer can walk past.

Beth Somi: Summer is obviously not the best time to be selling hosiery – there’s no doubt about that. Having said that, our Naturals campaign in June was all about summer solstice and we still find that there is a market for summer hosiery. Our Sweet Steps range has generated a lot of interest with our buyers in the US, where consumers have been enjoying a long summer. Selling true hosiery can be tough until it gets cool, but having these ankle thighs and footsies and being the first hosiery brand to market with Odegon is really starting to interest retailers like Nordstrom and even Walgreens.

Ade Hassan: Summer is understandably slower than winter in terms of hosiery sales, but women wear shorter skirts during warmer weather, and many still want that polished look that a lighter denier tight can give them. We try to educate our customers on how they can wear hosiery with summer fashions.

Alison Baines: Hosiery is obviously not as popular as the winter months, but we still sell sheers in volume and also socks, trouserwear and footsies, which drive our sales during this period.

Where do you see the future of the market heading?

Laura Vacchelli: Socks will be a huge area of growth in the legwear market, driven by casual and outerwear trends.

Alison Baines: It’s difficult to predict as hosiery has been a difficult category over the last few years. Here at the Melas Group we are constantly looking for innovative products and developments to keep the category alive. The revival of fashion hosiery seen on the catwalks in SS16 is a positive for next year. I think that any products with unique selling points, such as a comfort waistband, shaping and support properties alongside new specialist yarns, are the future for hosiery.

Mathias Schulz: Functionality and quality will each season play a bigger role for retailers and the end-consumer. We must therefore invest a lot in new technologies to stay on top as a leader in the premium legwear segment.

Beth Somi: The hosiery market has been in decline in the past three or four years. I don’t think it will continue the same decline, and with innovation and new products coming to the market place, we are confident that the hosiery market will remain as it is now. It’s up to the brands to develop their own share of the sector. The UK is a private-label dominated market as far as hosiery is concerned and that will always be the case, but we are the ones who are going to come with the newness and the innovation.



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