As lingerie retailers offer more choice than ever, stocking functional and fashionable styles that fit, it’s inevitable that consumers will require the same benefits from their shapewear. No longer is shapewear just about shaping; it should also be stylish, comfortable and even suitable for exercise, according to leading brands in the field.

On the panel:
Mathias Schulz: Head of International Sales, ITEM m6
Janice Tassell: Senior key account Manager, Wolford
Linda Leestemaker: Managing director, Magic Body Fashion
Jane Denereaz: Commercial director (UK and Ireland), Maidenform

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How has the shapewear market evolved over the last two seasons in terms of new innovations, shapes and styles?

Mathias Schulz: With men and women becoming more aware about the benefits of shapewear, I think their expectations have increased and they are seeking products that not only deliver body shaping, but also comfort. They want shapewear that can be worn all day long and integrated into an everyday outfit. In 2016, shapewear doesn’t need to hide under a layer of clothes.

Linda Leestemaker: The biggest innovation in shapewear is lightweight but firm materials that are invisible under clothing. We have also seen shapewear developed in pastel colours instead of plain nude for a sophisticated look, and the creation of shapewear that looks like lingerie, with lace detailing.

How have lingerie retailers’ needs changed over that time? Are there certain design details and fabrics they are asking for?

Janice Tassell: Our customers are asking for functionality and, more importantly, comfort. The days when you wore a shape and control piece without being able to breathe are over. Shapewear has to feel like a second skin – you wear it, it does the job and you can forget about it. There are so many brands offering products like this, so shapewear also has to look pretty, but it also has to feature subtle details so that it is invisible under clothing.

Linda Leestemaker: Retailers are focusing on experienced shapewear brands. Other than Magic, there are only a few labels that have more than 20 years’ experience in this sector and know what a woman truly needs from her shapewear. We have also found that retailers are asking for luxury products with a good price point.

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Jane Denereaz: Maidenform has long-standing relationships with our retailers, so we understand their needs and these haven’t changed dramatically over the last two seasons. Equally, we understand that the needs of our consumers are constantly evolving. We are fortunate to have a loyal customer following, but we are noticing that younger consumers also want shapewear and this is driving a new segment for Maidenform, where fashion and comfort is the key consumer value proposition.

What is driving innovation in the shapewear market?

Mathias Schulz:
High-tech, modern shapewear. The previous trend of “ultra light” shapewear seems to have replaced by higher levels of shaping with increased comfort. Consumers want to choose the degree of shaping based on the occasion. A low pressure garment for work is sometimes not enough.

Jane Denereaz: Innovation is being driven at present by the younger consumer. Clothing trends in this consumer segment have dictated the shapewear silhouette. This season, Maidenform is launching both the Endlessly Smooth collection and also a shaping skorty, a sexy half-slip with a built-in thigh-slimmer, which can be worn under an A-line skirt or summer dress.

More brands are expanding their lingerie portfolio to include shapewear. How do you stay ahead of the competition?

Linda Leestemaker: We benefit from the experience of knowing how to make good shaping products for our customers. Also, shapewear is just one of the key pillars in our total body solutions offering and we believe we are a key player in this segment. This is how we stay ahead of the competition.

Mathias Schulz: We invest time and money in our in-house R&D department to experiment with new knitting technologies, yarns, and fabrics. We are also in close contact with our customers to develop the products our clients favour. With our own production facility in Germany, we are able to react to the needs of our customers. We are also able to integrate functionality and specific technologies from our sports brand, CEP, a leading brand in sports compression.

Janice Tassell: Wolford has always been way ahead in terms of innovation. We constantly work and invest in technology and sustainability.

There is a big trend for shapewear being incorporated into sportswear and outerwear. Do you expect shapewear brands to expand into these areas as a result?

Mathias Schulz: We are definitely seeing a big trend here. ITEM m6 has learned from our sister sports brand, CEP, and vice versa. Similar technologies and benefits make it easy for us to deliver benefits of both worlds. However, at our company, we have a two-brand strategy to deliver products within specific categories.

Janice Tassell: Sportswear is a very big trend at the moment and several brands seem to be expanding in this segment. We are seeing fabrics launch with anti-sweat properties and we believe the element of shapewear will be incorporated into sportswear and outerwear.

Linda Leestemaker: We have already launched an activewear programme that is all about shaping. Our Yoga Essentials range includes a bra top and yoga pants designed to shape the stomach and thighs. Other brands will follow, but Magic is leading the way.

Jane Denereaz: Maidenform has led the way in offering everyday shapewear. Some of the key styles in our range include shaping leggings and camis, which appeal to both leisurewear and everyday wear. They not only offer style, but excel in comfort and control.

What other key shapewear trends can retailers expect from AW16 and beyond?

Janice Tassell: At Wolford we constantly look at our offer and improve the essentials. We have in our collection at the moment some exclusive products made with lace, which add a design twist to our core shape and control product range.

Mathias Schulz: We believe that shapewear for men will be a bigger topic from season to season, so we are definitely working on this area, experimenting with different cuts and shapes and materials that can be worn at work or at the gym. In general, we believe that quality will be an ongoing trend throughout all styles. Customers want to buy products because they’re functional, but also because they last longer and feel great to wear.

Jane Denereaz: This autumn, we will be offering fashion twist to our existing shapewear for the first time. Our Dream Pink continuity collection is performing well and comprises our key selling shapewear and matching bras in a natural cosmetic palette. Following on from the success of this collection, we realise that colour is now starting to be favoured amongst consumers so we may expand in this area.