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Intimate Apparel, 101

The other day, my friend K (who is also an early and loyal reader!) asked me to explain the lingerie seasons to her. This was a total face palm moment for me, since working in the intimates apparel industry has made me totally space on the fundamentals. I've been going on and on about seasonal collections since I started writing and I had forgotten there was a time when I didn't know what they were either. So, here's the gist of it:

Lingerie Trade Shows

Twice a year, there's an American lingerie trade show held where boutique owners, department store buyers, and a handful of bloggers converge. The shows are held in New York and Las Vegas, in February and August. The American show is entitled Curve and there are similar shows in Europe, around the same time. For brands and companies, the markets can be a pretty stressful time as it's the occasion to debut their new collections, generate interest, and sell orders for the upcoming months. Additionally, if a particular colorway or new line doesn't create enough buzz and there aren't orders for it, the product won't be made. For buyers, it can easily be overwhelming as they're seeing tons of product in just a few days and must decide which items will be the greatest match for their business.
The schedule of this underpinnings extravaganza can be a little bit tricky. In February, the future Autumn/Winter collections are unveiled. In August, everyone gets a glimpse of the following year's Spring/Summer looks. This means that, if you attended, the colors would match the season that you're currently in, but you might not see those garments until the following year! However, the timing isn't always so extreme. During the most recent August show, lingerie lovers saw collections from say, Panache, that will debut from January and through to June. The idea of these "seasons" doesn't exactly match up with any actual weather patterns. I wouldn't call February "spring", but it is when spring lingerie will be sold.

Fashion Versus Continuity

To complicate matters, not all lines are created with the same expectations. Some styles are considered "fashion" and will be produced in limited quantities. Other colors are considered continuity that will be, as the name suggests, continuously produced. Traditionally, those are your run-of-the-mill beige, black, or white bras. Barring any back order issues, those color and style combinations are always readily available. As I mentioned above, some fashion orders are made according to the exact sales they generate. There will be a deadline for the company to receive fashion orders so that they may tell the manufacturers how much of an item will be cut, sewn, and shipped.  With fashion like this, once a product is sold out, it's gone for good (i.e., the Ewa Michalak PL Eden). However, some fashion can be available for two seasons or reordered within a specific time frame.



Additionally, lingerie companies react to customer demand. If a bra is released as fashion and proves wildly successful, it might become a continuity (i.e., the Curvy Kate Lottie). Or, if a line was released as a continuity and then fails to perform as predicted, it will be retired. If a basic bra becomes a bestseller, it'll soon have fashion sisters. Some bras are only made in one color per season, as fashion items (the Curvy Kate Tease Me). Looking at collections this way, it becomes easier to see where the company is placing its bets. The Gem, from Freya, will be appearing in the next month in a pretty China Blue, but in the subsequent year, will roll out in basic shades. Clearly, the brand believes in this bra. Even before their customers have tried it out, they've invested in several color options. The Curvy Kate Smoothie and Desire also seem to follow this pattern, with multiple colorways planned before the first bra hits stores.
Let's talk seasons

K also asked me if there were differences between the two seasons. The answer is a resounding and definitive yes. When you see the Autumn/Winter trends, there are usually a lot of jewel tones. You're more likely to see rich reds, majestic purples, and midnight blues. If you're into vampy black bras, it's definitely the season for you. In the patterned realm, the prints are also moodier. There are tartans, dramatic parrots, and leopard print. For example, here's the Emily bra from Curvy Kate in the current Autumn/Winter 2012 incarnation:



When the Western hemisphere moves into warmer weather, lingerie lightens up. It's the season where you're more likely to see brights, pastels, and creamy sorbet shades. Prints become more feminine and flirtatious too. Paisleys, watercolors and florals rule the sphere. Here's the Emily again, in the Spring/Summer 2012 fashion colorway:



Personally, I'm all about the Spring/Summer collections and I've been scooping up these girly colors left and right in end-of-season sales. However, I have to remind myself: all is not lost. There are bras on my wish list that are true Autumn/Winter babies that speak to my inner French seductress (that's my seasonal personality, yo). In a few more weeks, I'll be craving the Miss Mandalay Paris in Black or the Curvy Kate Entice in Black/Gold. I just need the temperature to drop a little, to get me in the mood...

Alright, let's hash it out. Do you have a preference for one collection over another? Are you fascinated by the intimates apparel industry like I am? Isn't the Emily gorgeous?

11 Comments

  1. I used to be a fervent follower of the fashion weeks but then I got into EMS. By the time I returned back to fashion, I felt like there was a fashion week every month and it was way overwhelming. Its a relief that lingerie only has two per year. Does Ewa Michalak take part in the Europe shows or does the company do its own thing? Have you been to Curve US? It sounds both exciting and depressing (from the lack of business owners here who don't know the correct sizing methods).

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  2. This is an excellent post! One of the challenges as a retailer is deciding which fashion is going to make it to your store. You literally see so many different styles and colors that choosing which one to carry has a strong element or risk. We offer customers the chance to pre-order fashion items for just this reason. Not only do women get the chance to secure their favorite bra, but it also lets us know which fashion style has a lot of appeal and to bring it in next time around (like the Elomi Betty). Also, we can also start tracking which customers like fashion and the sizes in which we see the most demand to better plan for future seasons.

    On a personal note, I'm a huge fan of the Fall/Winter collections, so that's when I need to exercise the most restraint when buying . . . for the store or myself!

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  3. I am also a jewel and dark colors fan. I also did not quite understand the timing of lingerie seasons.

    When something is offered for A/W, when does it usually actually debut in stores? September? October? Later?

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  4. Usually, the fashion shows take place at least five months before the item releases (sometimes as much as ten or eleven months). If they say A/W release, it could be anywhere from June to December depending on the brand and the item. Retailers can usually tell you the exact month the item is scheduled to ship which helps, but most of the time, there's a no set date. We've had items scheduled for late-March arrive in early-Feb before.

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  5. I, personally, really love the A/W colors. I've always been a big fan of rich jewel tones. I did happen to order the CK Angel in the delightful bluebell yesterday. I couldn't resist the sale and it's so gorgeous.

    I LOVE the Emily. I think it's so beautiful....and I almost ordered the Emily you picture in the coral colorway. I had to show restraint!

    I loved how thoughtful and well put together your post was! :-)

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  6. Thanks, Erica! If I had a good boutique like you nearby I'd ask them what would be coming soon!

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  7. Awesome post-- I knew some of these things, but it's great to have it all laid out clearly. So glad I now know the difference between "fashion" and "continuity."

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  8. Hey Brianna, I feel similarly about fashion week. While I enjoy seeing the trends translated in magazines, when I see runway photos I often feel as if it's too outlandish to be accessible. At least, to someone with my budget.

    Ewa Michalak doesn't take part in any lingerie market, that I'm aware of. Since they act as their own manufacturer, designer and retailer, they're a little bit of a dark horse in this conversation. However, some rules still apply. For instance, I know that many of their customers were dismayed to find more "special" pieces -- like the Eden or the Lato -- available for a short time/in a limited size range. Whereas it seems to be that their beige and black styles are always available for order and special order. That's the main idea behind continuity/fashion, but they operate more independently than any other full bust brand.

    I have been to Curve last February, on behalf of the store. I loved it! While some brands lag behind in size availability, it seemed that the options are better than ever. Although it's sooo hard to wait for your favorites to come out! ;)

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  9. I'm more of a spring/summer fan, but I do love some pieces from autumn/winter from time to time. I'm also going to snap up the Paris in black as soon as it comes out! I'm such a sucker for the light blues, mauves and blush/cream colours of spring summer. If autumn/winter collections would start including forest green I could be completely sold on them though!

    Thanks for the thorough post!

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  10. [...] Intimate Apparel 101  Let me just say that I love reading Cece’s blog because of her quirky and sweet personality that is easily conveyed in her writing. What I love about this post is that it explains Lingerie seasons, as well as the method behind product releases. Excellent information! [...]

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  11. [...] Busty Girl Comics: Naked Truth A perfect illustration to go with my Nude is Not Beige piece. Intimate Apparel 101 This is a post about what the intimate apparel seasons really mean from miss underpinnings. So [...]

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