Lingerie Market A/W 2015: 4 Major Design Trends
Now that it's almost June, it's time to start thinking about Autumn/Winter lingerie. We'll start seeing more and more sales in the next few weeks as retailers clear out current Spring/Summer merchandise for their new autumnal stock.
I've had a lot of thoughts about the lingerie industry since this year's CurveNY. Despite decades of resistance to change, the world of intimate apparel is in a state of rapid transition. Online retail has completely upended the way consumers buy lingerie, while lingerie bloggers and bra fit forums have permanently dismantled the information oligarchy brands and boutiques once controlled. An ever-increasing number of lingerie startups are actively seeking to disrupt the industry, and even brands that once swore off the internet and direct-to-consumer sales have "seen the light," so to speak, and are now scrambling to amplify their web presence. Many lingerie brands have even dropped their wholesale accounts altogether, preferring to take their chances interacting directly with customers as opposed to going through the middleman of boutiques.
Among all this, consumers have become both more discerning and more critical. People want more sizes in more colors (with more variations in fabric, style, underwire width, band tightness, and so on), yet sales figures show that many are unwilling to pay for these options. Mass retailers like H&M, Forever21, Wal-mart, Target, and Aerie have created an artificial price ceiling (one that hovers right around the $20 mark) that is simply unattainable for most designers. Meanwhile, the bestselling items for many lingerie brands are basic, uninspired staples like beige t-shirt bras and beige shapewear. This contentious environment has resulted in a self-perpetuating cycle where boutiques (and, as a result, brands) are unwilling to take risks. New, exciting lines are passed over in favor of sure things. Extended sizing is declined in favor of what stores know will sell. And concerns that are viewed as non-essential (such as diversity) are relegated to the wayside.
This conservatism, this avoidance of risk, has never been more obvious than it was in this season's lingerie market. While I saw things I personally liked (because I'm an addict, and I always see things I personally like), my professional impression of Autumn/Winter market was that I'd seen much of this before. Brands are aggressively moving towards what they know will work, and edging away from anything that could be perceived as an unsafe bet. In terms of what you'll see in stores this season, that means a lot of blue and black (as in, a LOT), and way more neutrals (beige, brown, blush, etc.).
However, there is a bright spot to all this (at least for me), and it appears that the industry's obsession with all things harness/strappy/bondage-inspired is coming to an end. Much like the pinup/boudoir/burlesque phase of several seasons ago, I think the world at large has reached a saturation point on all things with the word "cage" in the title. Of course, that doesn't mean this design element will disappear entirely (in the same way you still have brands making girdles and garter belts and what have you), but I do believe we're on the other side of peak fetish-inspired lingerie.
What's going to replace it? Well, I think we'll see more of a move towards textural and three-dimensional elements in lingerie starting with this season. I'm seeing increasing amounts of embroidery, applique, embellishment, flocking, contrasting textures (such as mesh with lace), and other design details. It's a very exciting time for me as a neophyte trend spotter, and I'm very interested to see if I'm right. Another, smaller, trend I'm seeing is painterly or whimsical prints, especially on loungewear.
A few other notes from this last market: there's far less talk about size expansion than in previous markets. There are still some brands doing expansions (check out Sweet's awesome lingerie market roundup), but many brands that expanded into smaller back sizes (in particular, 28 bands) did not get the sales results they were hoping for, and so several of them are quietly shrinking their range. I also saw very few interesting things for small busts and plus sizes. Larger brands are doubling down on core options (including the full bust version of core sizes), while brands focused on either end of the sizing spectrum appear to be more or less divorced from overall industry trends (which I imagine makes it harder to merchandise them). On the luxury side of things, I'm seeing brands both dig deeper into the high-end category with features like in-house designed embroideries and rare laces or offering lower-priced diffusion lines. Finally, there are some fun things happening in the worlds of mastectomy and maternity, but I'll cover those in a follow-up post, along with a few lingerie sets that didn't quite fit into this trend feature.
What are your impressions of the lingerie industry right now? Are you seeing similar trends and patterns? And do you have any thoughts about the state of intimate apparel in general?
Lingerie Trend Photos:
Neutrals & Basics: Beige/Brown/Black: