Grand Designs: The fuller bust debate

Function and fit are the most important requirements when it comes to fuller-bust lingerie, but what can retailers expect from brands in terms of style this season, to ensure they offer their larger-cup customers ample choice? Leading labels discuss the use of luxury fabrics, from opulent laces to luscious gold thread, in DD+ sizes, and multi-functional products that can be worn day and night.

On the panel

Alysha Taylor: Product manager, Panache Lingerie
Liesbeth Van de Velde:
Brand design manager, PrimaDonna
Jessica Prebble:
Creative director, Tutti Rouge
Pascale Renaux:
Creative director, Maison Lejaby
Jo West:
Design and development director, Wacoal Europe

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How have your fuller-bust products evolved over the last two seasons in terms of function, style and fit?

Alysha Taylor: There is a drive towards advanced function, along with style. For example, there is a demand for centred straps more than ever before, and racer clips – all to prevent strap slippage on narrow shoulders. There are so much more added extras available for our customer, and when people see they can wear bras in a variety of ways, it gives them the reassurance that they are getting great value for money and a product that they know they can trust.

Jo West: Not only have the styles and shapes in our collections advanced, we’ve also pushed our fabric innovation further to make our collections feel even more comfortable. We’ve introduced softer-handle fabrics, which are lighter on the skin yet still give the great support that our customers require. You can see from our new collections that Wacoal has evolved with new development and innovation being key.

Jessica Prebble: We believe that it’s important to keep ahead of the game and give consumers constant newness. AW15 saw the introduction of our exclusive Jessica bra, which was developed with the patent-pending ‘Tutti Booster’ and ‘Tutti Super Booster’ to give three levels of cleavage. For AW16, we have introduced Sukki 2 Style, which is one bra with two looks. By day, it can be worn as a padded balconette, and by night it can be vamped up with detachable caging.

How have lingerie retailers’ needs changed over that time?

Liesbeth Van de Velde: Our customers are looking for bigger cup sizes and band sizes, as well as the combination of smaller band sizes and deeper cup sizes. They are also looking for more elegant and lighter designs, with transparency, elegant straps and sexier details.

Jo West: We’ve certainly seen an increased demand for more good basics and continuity collections. Customers are looking for core styling with a twist, or basic styles that offer unique design details – comfort shoulder straps, soft elastics, smoothing innovation. Colour is also still important – the customer wants more choice in colour and prints and expects her underwear to follow the latest fashion trends.

A number of new fuller-bust brands have come on the market in recent years. How do you stay ahead of the competition?

Alysha Taylor: We believe in never compromising on fit. We have the experience and expertise in house to exceed style expectations and offer the consumer her best fit. We are continuously communicating with our customers and consumers to ensure the product suits their needs.

Pascale Renaux: Our strategy is to create seductive products and on-trend collections for the modern women using our unique technology to provide comfort and support without developing very structured, heavy styles.

Liesbeth Van de Velde: We love the fact that new and young brands are entering the market. They challenge us to keep innovating. We will, however, stay true to who we are – offering the best support, comfort and quality for women with a fuller cup. We will always challenge ourselves to find the best technical solutions to combine innovative designs with the perfect fit.

The luxury lingerie market is growing at a fast pace, according to recent research by Fashion Business Intelligence. Is the fuller bust market heading in the same direction?

Jo West: Fantasie has introduced more premium product, which is proving extremely popular. The Allegra collection from Fantasie is a key example of a fabulous premium range, which gives the perfect fit and continues to be in demand. For AW16, Fantasie’s more premium styles continue, with the introduction of collections such as the Sofia range, which features Swiss-designed, baroque-inspired embroidery in tones of luscious gold. Wacoal also introduces some incredible premium styles for AW16. A key collection is Chrystalle, which features rich decorative stretch Leaver’s lace combined with two-way stretch woven crepe de chine.

Pascale Renaux: Maison Lejaby already caters for the premium/luxury fuller-bust market with Elixir. We are constantly searching for new fabrics/innovations and offering a point of difference, allowing us to meet our consumer demands for unique and modern fuller-bust styles.

Jessica Prebble: Yes, the fuller bust market has picked up its pace over the last six years. Women understand the importance of a good fitting bra for comfort, lifestyle and fashion. Lingerie is becoming a part of their wardrobe and they will not accept mediocrity.

It’s not always easy for retailers to stock a large number of SKUs. Are you concerned that consumers must rely on online stores to buy certain sizes and styles without being fitted first?

Alysha Taylor:
Etailers are increasingly becoming great fit advocates with skype/telephone fitting, fit videos/guides and free returns (allowing customers to buy multiple sizes to find their fit). Bricks and mortar stores are of course essential in offering a personal, one-on-one service, but online fit education is helping to eradicate the historical issues with online bra purchasing. Online is also a great avenue for repeat purchases once the consumer has found their perfect fit.

Pascale Renaux: We’re not concerned. This is the era for ‘phygital’ (between physical and digital). The idea is to choose product from the website and try it on in the shop. It is a global service to meet better the expectations of customers.

Jessica Prebble: Yes, I am concerned, given how important fit is in supporting and providing comfort. However, good online retailers do have fantastic systems in place to accommodate e-fitting. Bespoke fitting is always preferable, but not everyone can get to a specialist bra-fitting store, and e-fitting is the next best thing.

Liesbeth Van de Velde: We work with a good system of pre-ordering and backordering, so stockists can always order specific sizes. We also have a large collection of fashionable ‘stayers’ – styles that are permanently available. We also make sure that these lines are re-colored in trend colours of the season. In addition, we work hard to provide a consistent fit so consumers can stay true to a certain style and size. However, as a woman’s bra size can change up to six times during her lifetime, it remains important for consumers to get a professional fitting from time to time.

What key fuller-bust trends can retailers expect from AW16 and beyond?

Jo West: We’re so excited to launch our AW16 collections. Customers will see more detailing generally, as well as elegant lace details, luxurious touches and retro styling. Our lingerie collections will feature more jewel tones and brighter colours. Urban styling can be seen in our new swimwear ranges.

Alysha Taylor: Building on classic and well-trusted styles, we are introducing more stretch and comfort laces and embroideries to Panache. Stretch is controlled with the use of soft mesh liners so we can maintain the same great fit, but with the benefit of a stretch top-cup to accommodate ladies with bust-size variation. We are also looking at more luxurious and opulent laces and fabrics, but with classic styling details for a timeless look. At the same time, in the Cleo and Sculptresse collections, we maintain our love of vibrant colours and prints, but have added delicate laces and soft marl fabrics in moulded
styles to provide the fun factor with everyday functionality.

Pascale Renaux: Our customers can expect cinematographic glamour: light lace, embroidery and tracery punctuated with pink guipure and a lace/satin mix.

Jessica Prebble: We’ll introduce more fashion lines as girls are looking for a complete lingerie wardrobe. That is likely to include everyday comfort bras with added sass.

Liesbeth Van de Velde: Retailers can expect sexier styles, more transparency, subtle colours, elegant details such as embroidery and lingerie that can be worn as outerwear.

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