A Comprehensive Taste of Interfiliere Paris: My Introduction to the Role of Fabric in Lingerie

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Lycra.

Lycra Beaut for Intimates

Lycra Beauty for Intimates. Shapewear by La Perla.

On Monday, I had the very great pleasure of attending the Taste of Interfiliere Show at Tribeca Skyline Studios in Manhattan. For those who haven’t heard of it, Interfiliere is Eurovet’s (the same company that owns Curve) fabric tradeshow for lingerie, swimwear, and loungewear. Basically, it’s a place for lingerie designers to place their fabric orders for the next season; in the same way that Curve is a place for lingerie boutiques to place their shop orders for next season. The company Invista collaborated with Eurovet for the event, and Invista invited me to attend. Invista is world-known for the production of Lycra fabrics, which make a frequent appearance in lingerie and swimwear. While at Interfiliere, I got to preview fabrics for A/W 2014 as well as S/S 2015, and I got a ton of new insight into the role fabrics and fabric purchasing plays in the final product lingerie consumers see. Up until now, Interfiliere has only been held in Shanghai and Paris, but I sincerely hope they bring the show to NYC again. Not only is it great for stateside buyers, it’s a genuinely interesting show for the press as well.

Lycra Fiber with W Technology

Lycra Fiber with W Technology

Lycra sponsored my attendance at Taste of Interfiliere, and they were also a collaborator on the event itself. As one of the best known names in the textile industry, Lycra is world famous for the quality and durability of their fabrics and fibers. While at the show, I got the inside scoop on two Lycra fibers and two Lycra fabrics in particular: Lycra XtraLife and Lycra fibre with W Technology (both fibers) & Lycra beauty and Lycra Sport (both fabrics). I have to admit…before the show, I didn’t really think about the difference between fabrics and fibers, or even about the role fabric technology has in the final garment. And though I’m certainly no textile expert (this show really brought home how much I don’t know), I was really intrigued at the science and research behind bringing a new fabric or fiber to market. Quick note (because I didn’t know this until recently): fibers are the material which make up the fabric. Lycra makes both fibers and fabrics, but they also sell the actual Lycra fibers to other fabric mills (some of which I’ll talk about later) to make their own fabrics. I’m worried I’m making this sound more complicated than it really is, but that’s only because it’s so new to me. At any rate, I’ll start with the Lycra fibers.

Lycra Lingerie Fibers and Fabrics

Lycra fibre with W technology is all about making sure your lingerie stays the color it’s supposed to be as it makes the journey from the factory to the showroom floor. Lycra fibre with W technology helps ensure intimate apparel stays a true, bright white (so you’re not buying an off-white or dingy bra from the retailer), and that the color of the fabric, if it’s dyed, is truer, richer, and more saturated. It didn’t really occur to me that loss of color would be an issue between the factory and the store, but it makes perfect sense. These garments are made months ahead of time; if you’re a retailer, you don’t want to order a white bra and wind up with a beige one.

Xtra Life Lycra Fiber

Xtra Life Lycra Fiber

The second fiber I viewed was Lycra XtraLife, which is a swimwear specific fiber. This one was really cool because it relates directly to issues consumers deal with in their swimwear…namely, swimsuits that become stretched out, broken,  see-through, and otherwise ruined before swimwear season is even over. I was also really intrigued by this fabric because of how much science and research went into it. Lycra was doing things like soaking swimsuits in sunscreen and pool water, and then leaving them in the conditions similar to the trunk of your car for hours to replicate the damage the everyday woman might do to her swimsuit. The fiber they produced as a result of all this research lasts 5x longer than regular chlorine-resistant elastane…and the colors were brighter and richer after all that wear as well.

LYCRA Black

Moving onto to fabrics, Lycra beauty fabric is used in shapewear and shaping swimwear (when used in swimwear, it also meets the criteria for Lycra Xtralife fiber described above). In terms of what was most relevant to me (and probably what most people are familiar with), I’d say it was Lycra beauty. Lycra beauty comes in 4 categories for lingerie (ordered from least to most shaping): smoothing, sensual curves, sculpt, and control, as well as two fabrics for swimwear: firm and extra firm. Again, I thought it was really cool how much market research and scientific research a company like Lycra does. We’re talking 3-D body scans and force analysis tests to see exactly how much shaping their shaping fabric provides. This wasn’t something I was even aware was happening, but it shows how deliberate and how serious fabric development is in the market.

Finally, the last fabric I looked at was Lycra Sport. As the name implies, Lycra Sport is all about athletic wear…specifically, about retaining fit and stretch (sans bagging or sagging), muscle support, and durability after repeated washings. This isn’t a lingerie fabric, per se, (the research I read about it was on men’s leggings), but I know for a fact I own several Lycra sports bras that have lasted forever. Like all the other fabrics and fibers mentioned here, you see Lycra sport in both luxury and budget level products.

So Many Gorgeous Laces…

ellen at hang gang textile

Ellen Lewis of Lingerie Briefs putting together a sample color story from several laces at the Hang Gang Textile booth.

Though Lycra sponsored the mini-Interfilere, there were plenty more companies present besides Lycra…21 fabric mills to be exact (though this represents only a tiny fraction of the companies that usually exhibit at a fabric show). Lycra and Eurovet pulled the companies they were felt were most innovative, creative, and visually dynamic and there were mills from the USA, Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, Taiwan, China, and Columbia at the event. One of the things I learned is that I don’t know to photograph fabric very well (which is why most of my photos are of laces). For example, this one mill named Liebaert out of Belgium made some gorgeously soft, plush, luxurious powermesh and stretch fabrics…I just wanted to wrap myself up in them (and buy a full-body girdle made from them!), but when I tried to take a photo, the whole image felt flat. I was told that, in the future, I should crumple and play with the fabric a bit while photographing it so show the texture, and I’m looking forward to trying that technique at the next show.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned that I learned a lot about the role of fabric in the final garment consumers see. For example, I learned part of the cost of lace is determined by how close together the stitches are (i.e. the number of stitches per inch). Expensive embroideries and laces have more stitches, but to make a expensive lace cheaper, companies can request that the mill remove stitches and make the lace less “dense.” As customers, you still get the same effect of the pattern, but the lace isn’t quite as fine. I also learned that many of the large mills sell lace by the tens of thousands of meters; I talked to some mills that will only accept orders for certain laces of 20,000 meters or more. While that’s great for a really big company (especially since it might also come with some exclusivity, i.e. no else in North America can use that lace), it negatively impacts small, indie brands who simply don’t have the capacity to turn 20,000 meters of the same lace in the same color into garments. As a result, those smaller designers have to go to lace mills and factories that allow smaller buys…but with the side effect that they cost more per meter. That increased cost is, of course, passed on to consumers.

In addition, I learned that trends, color stories, and patterns are decided upon a year or so in advance of when I see items at market. While at Interfiliere, I saw a trends presentation which detailed a number of fabric trends for A/W 2014 and S/S 2015 (keywords from my notes include: airy, lightweight, white, nature, dimension,  bohemian, richness, renaissance, gothic, night sky, folk, creatures, and geometrics). What that means is, by the time a buyer sees these fabrics in market, they’ve already been under development for a year or two years prior. It makes perfect sense for these things to be planned so far in advance, of course, but it still blows me away. I realize I’m only seeing a tiny part of the lingerie industry when I attend lingerie market twice a year. The fabrics I recently saw for S/S 2014 lingerie, for example, have been in development since at least 2012…and that’s amazing.

In case you haven’t noticed, I would really like to attend another one of these, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Interfiliere returns to NYC next year. I feel like there’s such a rich story to share here about the role of fabrics in the lingerie we buy, and I’m more than aware that I’m only just barely scratching the surface. It’s my hope to return to this topic a few times and from a few different angles…discussing luxury brands, mass-produced brands, indie labels, and so on as I think that understanding fabrics as they related to lingerie can only help us all become better lingerie consumers. And it goes without saying that if someone would like to write a guest post on this subject for TLA, you are more than welcome to do so!

Please take a few seconds to scroll through the fabric gallery below and tell me what your favorite lace is. I’d also be interested to know if you look for the Lycra brand when buying lingerie, shapewear, or swimwear. Finally, would you be interested in learning more about the fabrics behind lingerie on TLA? Share your thoughts in the comments!

bischoff 1

Bischoff (Switzerland). One of the most prestigious embroidery mills in the world, Bischoff has been around since the 1920′s. Some of their fabrics cost hundred of dollars per meter. I saw just a tiny sample of their embroideries, but they were all exquisite.

bischoff 2

Bischoff

bischoff 3

Bischoff

chanty 1

Chanty Lace (Germany). Chanty Lace is when it finally hit me that I was looking at fabrics that weren’t going to appear on actual lingerie for the next year and a half or so. Chanty also does some gorgeous, stretch, chantilly-style laces.

chanty 2

Chanty Lace

darlington fabrics 1

Darlington (USA). This powermesh fabric is actually quite a bit more subtle in person (the flowers are more pastel), but I enhanced it so you could see the pattern. Darlington makes all their fabrics in the USA in Rhode Island, and I saw some really cool, trendy, colorful meshes (from powermesh to fishnet) at this booth.

darlington fabrics 2

Darlington

hang gang textile 1

Hang Gang Textile (China). One of the large lace factories out of China, this is where I learned about the sizeable minimums large lace factories can require. I also learned that the narrower the lace (for example, lace used for trimming), the higher the minimum…as in 50,000 meters or more!

hang gang textile 2

Hang Gang Textile

hang gang textile color story

Hang Gang Textile. A closeup of Ellen Lewis’ color story.

iluna 1

Iluna (Italy). My first stop at Interfiliere, this booth was full of laces that made me swoon. I saw laces I wanted to use on stockings. I saw laces I wanted to use on chemises. I saw laces I wanted to use on bodysuits. I saw laces I wanted to use on eyemasks. It was lace paradise. Iluna also manufactures some fabrics in America in addition to Italy.

iluna 2

Iluna

iluna 3

Iluna

protela

Protela (Columbia). Protela is a Columbian mill which makes a ton of swimwear fabrics, but also some nice laces. They have their own trendbook which they give to buyers, and they use quite a bit Lycra in their products (notice the Lycra beauty hangtag up above).

tianhai lace 1

Tianhai Lace (China). Tianhai is a lace specialist. They have their own in-house team of lace designers, and they make up to 1000 new laces per year. Tianhai is another fabric with 5 figure minimums because they start up their mills for each specific client.

tianhai lace 2

Tianhai Lace

Cora

Cora

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. I started TLA in a small studio apartment in 2008. Since then, it's become the leading lingerie blog in the world, and has been featured on the websites for Forbes, CNN, Time, Today, and Fox News. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that every who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

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17 Comments

  1. josephine
    04/10/13 at 9:23

    It is so funny to look at this from a customers point of view. Ik work as a designer in the swimwear industry and I have started on our 2015 summer collection about a month ago. Since we are still quite a small brand we have to have our designs ready for the factories early. The larger the brand, the bigger your order and then factories are more willing to fit in your order closer to the actual season you are ordering for. I love the Italian laces, they look so refined. I also love the pink and green embroidery at the top, so fun!

    • 04/10/13 at 15:26

      This is really interesting to me, and is definitely the kind of thing I’d love to talk about more on the site. One of the big revelations for this trip is that it takes 18 months to design a bra (style or size) and bring it to market, so when consumers demand a size expansion and then get upset because it doesn’t happen in six months, the customer is genuinely in the wrong. I wish that kind of info was a lot more transparent and visible to customers as I think it’s important stuff for us to know as we’re making purchasing decisions and consumer requests.

  2. 04/10/13 at 10:57

    Goodlord, I am feeling quite faint!! I think I need a lie down in a dark room. Or a fan! Great post. Makes me more determined to go to the show in Paris in January.

    • 04/10/13 at 15:24

      Awesome! I attended the Paris show in January 2012, and stopped by Interfiliere while I was there, but I had no idea what I was looking at. I think I’d have a much better time at an Interfiliere now.

  3. 04/10/13 at 13:19

    Very interesting post, would love to read more like it :-)

    • 04/10/13 at 15:23

      Cool! You use some amazing laces and fabrics for Sparklewren…where do you get them? From a show like Interfiliere or somewhere else?

  4. Faye
    04/10/13 at 14:09

    Thank you for taking the time to put this together. The lace from Chanty is so beautiful. I do tend to look for and purchase undergarments, lingerie, hosiery with the Lycra and Spandex label because the fabrics move with me and they stretch and snap back to their original shapes. I also notice they tend to be breathable and I don’t sweat as much though I’m not sure how much Lycra contributes to that. Are Lycra and Spandex related?

    • 04/10/13 at 15:22

      Spandex and elastane are generic labels; Lycra is a brand name. They’re probably the most famous makers of spandex; I can’t think of the names of any other company off the top of my head.

  5. anon
    04/10/13 at 16:44

    I love this post so much. Genuinely interesting and new information. Plus, I am a huge fan of lace and mesh lingerie – anything sheer basically – I feel like I am seeing a preview of what could be in my underwear drawer two years from now – all so pretty! all so different! love it. love it. love it.

    • 04/10/13 at 19:25

      Yay! I’m glad you liked it. I felt the same way while I at the show…like I was getting a special sneak preview of what I could own in a couple of years.

  6. Jacq
    04/10/13 at 22:43

    I loved this article! it made me want to pursue a side project I’ve been thinking of for a while. I’d love to know more about the process of translating a creative design/sketch to a finished product. Does anyone know what software designers use for this ? and whether it takes into account things like the stretch of the material, the impact of seams, etc …

    p.s. I should add my (boring) day job is in the fields of material science/design/FEA simulations.

  7. Ana
    05/10/13 at 0:36

    My favorite is the first one from Iluna, so pretty. Would love to know more about the fabric industry, it looks like a very interesting topic that might help when choosing the final product.

  8. 05/10/13 at 6:32

    I really really like this kind of posts ! Please continue if you want to !

  9. 06/10/13 at 12:20

    I found this article really interesting and would love to read more on the subject. I studied textile design for my first degree and am still fascinated by fabric and fibre technology. My favourite fabric from this post was either the floral powermesh, or the black Italian lace.

  10. 07/10/13 at 7:59

    This is so interesting! Since I’ve started sewing, I’ve developed a big interest in fabrics and production, so this article had quite a lot of information I loved to learn! I knew about the good quality of Lycra products but never thought about how much science there was behind it! It reminds me of how every step of the production is important, every little work makes a difference in the final result. Very interesting!

  11. shikha
    09/10/13 at 4:37

    frankly speaking i never shop from lyrca brand. i love to buy bras specially lace bra so i have huge collection of branded bras like enamor,prettysecrets,amante, triumph. but now i am excited to buy bras from lycra. lycra here i come :P thanks for this post. please mention more brands if you know

  12. Amanda
    03/11/13 at 13:33

    My friend put the pictures in order, but did not include ANY identifier. Loved them all EXCEPT the ones with the 5 figure requirements. Darn me and my expensive tastes :)

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