Lingerie Market Spring/Summer 2016: Trends from CurveNY
To be totally honest, I’m not quite sure where to begin with this year’s second lingerie trend report. I’ve been sitting on these notes for months, trying to unravel my thoughts and decide what to say… or, to be more specific, how to say it. As TLA has already covered several times this year, the lingerie industry is undergoing some tremendous changes, and certain tensions or issues are finally showing real effects. But enough skirting around what I’m trying to say here.
The core of the matter is that lingerie tradeshows are no longer the place for lingerie trends.
That may sound a bit strange, so let me elaborate. Yes, CurveNY is still the place to see what’s going to be in stores next season. Yes, CurveNY is still the place to network with brands and bloggers and boutiques and “talk shop” for a few days. Yes, CurveNY is still the biggest tradeshow of its kind in the United States. However, CurveNY is not the place for discovering what’s new or cutting edge or novel. If anything, the gulf between the mainstream lingerie world (which can be seen at CurveNY) and the creative lingerie world (which is in places like Fashion Week and Instagram) is widening.
I’ve only been attending Curve for five years, and in that time my knowledge of the lingerie world has changed dramatically, so it’s hard to say definitively if what I’m seeing now has always been the case or if it’s an entirely new phenomenon. Yet it certainly feels like there were more independent and editorially-focused designers at previous Curvexpos. While the larger intimate apparel industry in general has always lagged a bit behind the curve (no pun intended), what’s happening now is an unending feedback loop, one that can best be described as an endless sea of beige t-shirt bras in mostly core sizes.
Of course, living in the United States skews what I see somewhat. Consumers in my country tend to be conservative. And that makes buyers conservative which makes brands conservative. However as certain trends bubble to the surface in “regular” fashion land, they still remain conspicuously absent at the tradeshows, even after trend forecasters begin to predict a shift.
For example, I’m seeing the high-cut legs of the 80s and the sporty, minimalist aesthetic of the 90s gradually come back into vogue. Meanwhile, the bondage/strappy aesthetic is being elevated and reimagined by designers like Creepy Yeha. However at lingerie market, we’re seeing vaguely pentagram-esque bodysuits which can’t help but seem reminiscent of designs that are several years old.
Going further, media and fashion industry darlings like Chromat (a recent CFDA finalist), Dear Kates, Negative Underwear, and Fleur du Mal are noticeably absent from Curve, amplifying the feeling that Curve isn’t a place for fashionable brands. Meanwhile, major buyers and mainstream press are shifting to showroom visits instead of tradeshow appointments, leading many booth owners to remark on how “slow” things seem. As fewer new brands sign up for booths and older brands continue to double down on staples, the tradeshow begins to look more and more stale.
This sensation is perhaps more amplified since the disappearance of both The Lingerie Showcase (which briefly aligned with The Lingerie Collective) and Lingerie Fashion Week. While neither platform ever achieved the raw numbers of CurveNY, they were a much-needed exhibition stage for more on-trend, media savvy, independent brands. Labels like You! Lingerie, Play Out Underwear, and Rococo Dessous generated excitement and interest for an industry in desperate need of both (especially considering Victoria’s Secret’s PR juggernaut). Now that these venues are gone, there is only one place to access a seasonal view of the lingerie world.
Since Eurovet, Curve’s parent company, is the only game in town, I’d like to see them push farther and innovate more to attract both mainstream press and indie labels to CurveNY and turn it into a real lingerie fashion platform. While the once-yearly fashion show is a start, a semi-annual event would be even better, and could give everyone — buyers, brands, and boutiques — added incentive to attend.
Curve could also do more to boost the professional education of its attendees, a natural fit for an industry event like a tradeshow. While I’m always partial to seminars on digital and social media, discussions on buying inventory, marketing one’s business, and expanding into new size or product categories would all be beneficial. A press breakfast for writers and editors, along with a guided tour of the floor, could also bring necessary media cachet to Curvexpo. And offering scholarships or special rates for new brands could add freshness to what’s become a predictable event for many.
With all that in mind, I don’t think Curve is going anywhere. The upside to being the only game in town is a captive audience. But it would be nice to see the lingerie industry take a more central role in the fashion + lingerie conversation.
But, then again, that may be too much to expect, especially from one organization. After all, Curve is a tradeshow. It’s primary purpose is buying and selling, so it may be unfair to want them to host what is essentially a fashion week too. However, after nearly eight years of writing about the lingerie industry, I feel in some ways it’s in exactly the same place as when I started. This blog is proof that there are people interested in fashion-focused lingerie coverage. It’s left to the intimate apparel industry to do their part in picking up the slack.
Now let’s talk trends. I’m seeing five major categories for Spring/Summer 2016, some of which overlap with the current Autumn/Winter 2015 season:
- Florals (for spring, of course)
- The Colors (Mint, Gold, Orange, Coral,Yellow, Pink)
- The Neutrals (Beige, Blush, Brown, Black, Gray)
- Sheer/Illusion Tulle
What are your thoughts on the trends for next season and the general direction of lingerie tradeshows? And do you have any thoughts on how the mainstream press covers intimate apparel?I’d love to hear what you think.