Lingerie comes out on top for French designers

26th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 26 (AFP) - Dior is an old pro, Christian Lacroix and Versace have been doing it for a little while, and Sonia Rykiel and Issey Miyake are just starting out. Lingerie is the latest must-have item for luxury brands.

PARIS, Jan 26 (AFP) - Dior is an old pro, Christian Lacroix and Versace have been doing it for a little while, and Sonia Rykiel and Issey Miyake are just starting out. Lingerie is the latest must-have item for luxury brands.

Lingerie has come to be seen as a fashion accessory in its own right, prompting top labels to invest heavily in unmentionables, according to industry experts at the International Lingerie Fair which opens here Friday.

Long gone is the image of a functional item worn to serve a purpose; long gone too, the idea that underwear is confined solely to one's personal pleasure or that of one's partner.

Over the course of just a few years, lingerie has undergone a complete image change. Fashion designers have upped its place from 'underneath' to 'above', in a display of coordinated glory.

John Galliano, the high-profile British designer at Christian Dior, has embraced the approach.

"The customer who falls in love with a motif can have coordinated ready-to-wear, lingerie or beachwear, a jacket and a corset for example," the venerable Parisian fashion house said.

Meanwhile, for Naoki Takizawa, chief designer at Japanese fashion house Issey Miyake, the lingerie collection launched for spring-summer 2005 is "resolutely an extension of the ready-to-wear line".

And Nathalie Rykiel, creative director for the label her mother Sonia created in 1968, said their line fell in line with the house's work, though she added it was also the "logical continuation of the provocative concept Rykiel Woman" launched in 2002, which included sex toys, negligees and erotic books.

But lingerie also comes down to a question of generation, she said, referring to that of her mother, a committed feminist since the 1960s.

"After being rid of their lingerie, synonymous with being shackled in the 1970s, women have understood today that lingerie can become a beauty accessory," the younger Rykiel said.

The luxury market is helping to drive lingerie "towards more added value", said Claire Jonathan, director of the lingerie division at the fair that also features night- and indoor-wear. The event runs until January 31.

"Even if specialist, low-cost chains develop, there is a search by customers for more creativity, sophistication, special products with strong added value," she said.

"Formerly every customer had their brand. Today, the customer flips between brands like they're flipping through TV channels," she added.

The choice has widened with the launch of lingerie collections by pop stars such as Jennifer Lopez and Kylie Minogue. Added to that are designers specialising in sexy wear, as well as brands originating in the 'street' look such as DDP, or beachwear such as Banana Moon.

All in all, the lingerie market is buoyant, Jonathan said.

While 15-24 year-olds are still the biggest purchasers, other age groups are buying more than before, including 25-44 year-olds, and more recently the 55-64 year-olds.

For traditional brands though, competition from the top designers is nothing new, though they acknowledge the need to closely track the up-and-coming trends and endeavour to be more creative.

Simone Perele has published a book tracing the history of the design house and lingerie since 1948, while an exhibition in the windows of the French department store Galeries Lafayette on both the trade and products is also planned.

"It's not enough to make a pretty product. One must use the same tools as luxury. The brand must provoke desire, to dramatise it," a Simone Perele spokeswoman said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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