Intimate Affair: The Underfashion Club Hosts “Eye on Trends”

17 Oct

The Underfashion Club hosted a panel discussion entitled “Eye on Trends” on Thursday, October 13, 2011.  The event was moderated by Guido Campello, Cosabella’s vice president of sales, branding, and innovation and member of the Underfashion Club’s board of directors.  The panel was comprised of trend experts David Wolfe, creative director of The Doneger Group, Sharon Graubard, senior vice president of trend analysis at Stylesight, and Danielle Black, co-founder and chic operating officer of www.iloveagood.com.  The event was held at St. Giles Hotel on Manhattan’s east side. 

The evening began with a cocktail hour which allowed the Club’s membership to mingle and network with fellow industry professionals.  Like all Underfashion Club events, it was well attended and the evening’s “Eye on Trends” panel discussion was highly anticipated.  Attendees at the Intimate Affair included the Club’s president Walter Costello, lifetime member Roslyn Lances Harte who coordinated the event, the Club’s executive vice president Victor Vega, several members of the Club’s board of directors including Suzanne Beck and Gary Hughes, as well as dozens of members and new members including buyers, merchandisers, designers, marketing executives, consultants, and account management executives from intimate apparel retailers, ecommerce retailers, manufacturers, trend services, fabric and lace mills, and trim suppliers. 

After sipping on cocktails and munching on hors d’oeuvres, the members of the Club were ushered into an adjoining room by Roslyn Harte where the presentation was to be held.  It took a few minutes to quiet the crowd as many members look forward to catching up with old friends, associates, and former colleagues at these events.  But as soon as the Club’s president Walter Costello stood at the front of the room and greeted the members of the Club, we focused our attention on the event which was about to be presented.  Many members pulled out notebooks and prepared themselves to hear the latest trends influencing our industry and the world we live in as well as upcoming trends which we should keep an eye on.

Guido Campello, VP of Sales, Branding & Innovation at Cosabella

Utilizing a well-prepared Powerpoint presentation, Guido Campello began the evening with his own interpretation of trends.  First, we need to understand what a “trend” is…  There are various ways of looking at trends and our own experiences influence our perspective.  Guido’s dad says “It is like love…. we may not understand it, but it will be happening.”  And Guido said it is like cooking.  A cookbook helps him to get to the masterpiece.  Creativity is good, but we need tools to lead us there and to help us to understand where we should be headed.  Guido talked about knowing your brand and knowing your market.  He emphasized the importance of knowing your target consumer in each market.  A style or color could be great in one country (or one part of a country), but it may not sell well in another country.  Guido suggested a few books which have helped to influence him greatly including Buzz Marketing by Mark Hughes, Socialnomics by Erik Qualman, and Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.  He also reads industry trade papers including Women’s Wear Daily and the California Apparel News, and he follows daily and weekly email newsletters such as Daily Candy and Ellen Lewis’ Lingerie Briefs.  He also mentioned using the “blogosphere” as a resource which is becoming more and more relevant in today’s world.  Regarding trends, he said “if you see repetition, it might be a trend.”  The key is in being able to react quickly.  As an example, his company Cosabella saw bandeaus popping up…. As a brand, they recognized this as a trend and were able to jump on it quickly.  He suggested, as a vendor, assign tasks to various members of the team.  Then, when you come together to discuss ideas… If several people are seeing the same thing… It is likely to be a trend.

Guido introduced us to David Wolfe, creative director of The Doneger Group.  David is responsible for both tracking trends and forecasting trends.  He first asked, “What is a trend?”  He said, “Every definition is correct.”  He said it is easy to spot current trends and he utilized his Powerpoint presentation to illustrate his point.  We are seeing lingerie inspiration in ready-to-wear collections.  There is an “Exposure Explosion” happening as women are becoming more comfortable displaying their bodies.  He laughed while saying, “I’m so old I thought you should wear things that flatter you!”  He pointed out the fact that prints are still prevalent and color is still strong (less and less black on the runways.)  He touched on “mega forces” around us such as culture, lifestyle, economics, and demographics.  All of these things influence trends.  And we are now living in a world where the consumer has power (as a result of the internet and social networking).  My favorite line of the night was “You never want to be surprised…  If you’re surprised, it means you lost money.”  How true is that?  So how do we avoid this as a brand or as a business?  How can we be on top of the current trends and attempt to predict future trends?  As a brand or business, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying “coulda, woulda, shoulda.” 

Time Magazine February 2011- Singularity

So… what is about to happen?  David gets excited to think about upcoming trends….  What’s to come?  First is “The Future.”  David referenced Time magazine’s cover story on “Singularity” in which the futurist and engineer, Raymond Kurzweil, makes five incredible predictions including “computers will think like humans do by the end of the 2020’s,” “the Singularity will occur in 2045,” and “after the Singularity, humans will become functionally immortal.”  These are pretty incredible statements.  But, how far-fetched are they really?  We will start controlling our computers via brain sensors.  Internet enabled contact lenses are being developed.  And what about cars that drive themselves?  We are moving into the age of “magnetic force.”  Fossil fuels and electricity will be relatively obsolete.  So what does all of this mean for the world of fashion?  Modernism.  Apparel will be a reflection of the society that wears it.  David suggests that the apparel industry needs to catch up to other fields such as architecture and art.  Architects, designers, and engineers are using “out of the box” materials. 

Soumaya Museum Mexico City

David referenced an image of the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City.  What’s happening in the world around us is certain to influence fashion design and the textiles used in fashion.  David thinks we’re really dragging our feet and falling far behind other fields in this regard.  He predicts luminescent fabrications, shimmery surfaces, pearlescent…. Fabrics that dazzle, shimmer, and shine.  How about clothing that changes color based on your mood (remember the good ol’ mood ring?)  How about pieces that glow in the dark, are 3-D, or light up? 

David’s second prediction is “Age in the New Age.”  People aren’t “done” at age 70 anymore.  And as advances in medicine and technology continue at the pace they have been, there is a new notion of “amortality.”  Time magazine writer Catherine Mayer coined the term and defines it as “the burgeoning trend of living agelessly.”  Age appropriate behavior and age appropriate dress codes have gone by the wayside.  Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Cher are all turning sixty-five.  Does this change our view of the average sixty-five year old?  Market to the Baby Boomers!  Baby Boomers are rethinking old age.  The fastest growing demographic in the United States is eighty-five plus years old and they have the most money of any demographic.  Targeting the youth is still important, but they need to be regarded differently.  The Gen V (generation virtual) is different than previous generations.  What does this all mean for those of us that are designing and marketing apparel products?  The Boomers are regaining fashion economic control.  And as we are becoming “ageless,” we need to design product that caters to various groups.  We can no longer pigeon-hole apparel by the age of a certain demographic; we need to think about “cross-aging” apparel.  Is eighty the new sixty?

Sharon Graubard, SVP of Trend Analysis at Stylesight

David focused his presentation on burgeoning mega trends which fascinated the crowd.  But he was followed by Sharon Graubard, senior vice president of trend analysis at the well-known trend forecasting service, Stylesight, who made intimate apparel trends more tangible.  Sharon shared images from the Fall ’12 runway shows and helped us to understand how we can interpret these trends into our intimate apparel designs.  It was amazing to see how much of what is currently being seen on the runway is influenced by current lingerie and sleepwear trends.  Sharon said “Runway is a rich, hot bed of ideas.”  She referenced intimate apparel brand VPL and demonstrated how they are modernizing color; they are expanding how we view neutrals and as well as “sport” in intimates.  When looking at the runway shows, we should be looking for consensus in a trend and consensus in designers.  Again, if we see repetition, it is likely to be a trend.  What is that “thing” underlying it all? 

What we see on the runways can be translated into intimate apparel.  Sharon saw a “fetish” trend (soft bondage).  Many designers used interesting straps to accent the bustline.  She saw a lot of slips and slip dresses.  Vintage is still prevalent.  The brief is sexy!  There’s a lot more coverage… Sharon says, “The thong isn’t looking so sexy these days!”  The hipster is happening.  She is seeing an influence of 1960’s… Think Brigitte Bardot.  Sharon saw sweater-knit knickers on the runway.  Here’s an opportunity to explore a different fabrication.  Sharon shared her idea that “Sexy is within… Dress the way you feel.”  What about the tap pant?  It’s making a resurgence… It is more fluid and has more volume.  She saw sheer slips peeking out from underneath dresses.  Many of these slips had a certain “stiffness” to them and were meant to be seen…  Fabrications included organza, netting, and tulle.  Many gowns were floor length.  We can easily translate this trend into our lingerie and sleepwear lines.  The Camisole is still an important silhouette.  Sharon saw thermal and thinks it could be a fabrication easily incorporated into loungewear, pajamas, underwear, and tights.  There are “PJ” trends…. Classic styles with piping, silk and silk foulard, tunics, and kimonos.  The babydoll silhouette has a “ballet-look.”  Sharon said lace was key on the runway and of course, this bodes well for our industry.  Sharon saw wraps, cocoons, and tunics on the runway which can influence our upcoming designs in bathrobes.  There were cardigans in various styling which can be interpreted for our daywear and loungewear collections.  She saw robes on the runway which were reminiscent of the styles worn by 1930’s startlets such as Jean Harlow.  And, she even saw slippers on the runways!  She saw everything from man-tailored styles to fluffy, furry, fun styles!  Sharon’s intimate insight is invaluable to us as industry professionals whether we are retailers or wholesalers.  I’m sure that many members of the Club were anxious to get back to their drawing boards to put together a new collection.  The best part is that each of us interprets information differently.  I can’t wait to see what is in store for intimates for Fall ’12.

Jenny Altman and Danielle Black, Founders of http://www.iloveagood.com

Our final trend expert panelist was Danielle Black, co-founder and chic operating officer for www.iloveagood.com.  Danielle chose to discuss marketing trends with an emphasis on the importance of social media (and the internet in general) as a means of marketing our intimate apparel brands and businesses.  She and partner Jenny Altman created I Love A Good as a forum for communicating with customers.  She said, “We put it on every day, yet it is still an unmentionable.”  She said their site is a “feel good” resource.  They want to encourage women to embrace their femininity.  Don’t be afraid of it.  She talked about Facebook and Twitter as excellent marketing tools.  She said that more users check their Facebook account at 7am and then again after 9pm.  Posts with eighty characters or less get 27% more engagement.  Brands such as Zinke Intimates are even using Twitter to book appointments.  The benefit is that they can do it while “on the go.”  Crowd sourcing is an important tool.  Listen to consumers.  Don’t tell them what they want; listen to what they want.  Use Facebook and Twitter to ask questions and to create a dialogue.  We can use Google Alerts to track key words so that we can listen in on the conversation.  Brands are now posting “sneak peeks” of upcoming collections on Facebook and Twitter so that they can gauge interest before placing bulk production orders.  Today’s consumer is looking for instant gratification.  And the consumer tells us immediately what they think.  In addition to social media in general, trends include the use of expert or celebrity partnerships to promote product.  Contests and giveaways are popular methods of generating buzz.  As consumers are being more knowledgeable, we need to make it newsworthy or give her a reason to buy.  We need to give her something she doesn’t already have.  We have heard a lot about the importance of social media and embracing technology in our industry over the past few months.  I appreciated Danielle’s intimate insights and am excited to see how more brands and businesses in our industry look to implement these tools into their marketing strategies.

The event came to a close after a brief “question and answer” session.  Anthony Oren asked, “Is Twitter perceived as a threat?”  Panelists responded with an emphatic “No.”  In fact, in terms of trend forecasting, Twitter allows us to know what people want even before they know it!  Twitter is an excellent tool for listening in on the consumer conversation.  A buyer from BareNecessities.com commented that, unfortunately, department stores are still driving the business and they are not allowed to take risks.  They are allotted very few dollars to purchase product that is truly innovative.  This makes all of our jobs more difficult.  Everyone agreed that specialty stores are critical to the future of our industry.  Guido Campello talked about our responsibility to educate our retailers about the need for more diversification in their stores.  I think we can continue to improve our industry if we work together.  The events which are hosted by The Underfashion Club throughout the year are vital to the continuing education of our industry’s professionals, especially as our world is evolving so rapidly.  This Intimate Affair proved to be no exception.  Each of the panelists brought their own unique perspective to the discussion and they each provided important Intimate Insights in their own area of expertise.  Thank You to The Underfashion Club for doing what you do. 

About The Underfashion Club

Established in 1958 as the Corset and Brassiere Women’s Club, Inc., in 1963 the group was re-invented as the Underfashion Club — a non-profit, intimate apparel industry organization dedicated to education.  The Underfashion Club’s mission is to support new talent with scholarships and internships and it offer seminars, panel discussions, and networking opportunities to industry professionals.

Today, the Underfashion Club members work in all facets of the intimate apparel industry: foundations, daywear, sleepwear, robes, and loungewear.  The Club’s membership represents all areas of the industry: retailers, manufacturers, textile mills, fiber producers, and trim suppliers.  Members hold positions in all departments: management, marketing, merchandising, sales, design, education, and human resources.

The Club’s annual Femmy Gala, a premier event in the intimate apparel industry, recognizes and celebrates the achievements of intimate apparel industry leaders worldwide.  Honorees are chosen from all sectors of the business and have included Designers Donna Karan and Josie Natori, retailers Neiman Marcus and Victoria’s Secret, manufacturers Carole Hochman Design Group and Maidenform, and industry notables Eileen West and Elle Macpherson.

Proceeds from the Femmy Gala are distributed by the SAIG Committee (Scholarships, Awards, Internships, and Grants) to deserving students who pursue high school or college–level intimate apparel related courses. The Fashion Institute of Technology and the High School of Fashion Industries in New York City are primary beneficiaries.

Resources

The Underfashion Club

www.UnderfashionClub.org

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