PARIS — The Salon International de la Lingerie continued to shake things up with its 60e anniversary edition, the second since the takeover by WSN, the organizer of Who’s Next.
The innerwear industry is also in flux, with brands looking to evolve to meet new consumer sensibilities and retailers, especially independents, struggling to stay afloat. The high-profile woes of heritage brands Lejaby, which went bankrupt in early January despite several turnaround attempts in recent years, and Italy’s La Perla, whose seamstresses recently appealed to the European Parliament for support, were also top of mind for many .
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“Some of our peers are disappearing; the market is evolving,” says Claire Masson, Aubade brand director.
French domestic sales of women’s lingerie fell 4.8 percent in value to 1.8 billion euros in the first ten months of 2023, according to data from Kantar for the Salon International de la Lingerie. Exports of French women’s lingerie rose slightly, rising 1.16 percent to 658 million euros, according to data from French customs and the Fédération de la Maille, de la Lingerie et du Balnéaire.
Most major players said they had experienced a difficult second half in all markets. “The independent boutiques are struggling in every market,” says Stéphanie Bujard Pérèle, brand and product director Simone Pérèle. While department stores and online performed better despite lower footfall, she said: “Overall we were down this year because of wholesale.”
Sophie Knis, marketing and communications manager at Wacoal Europe, said: “We are fortunate to be part of a great group; when one brand is going bankrupt, the other brand is rising. It has not been an easy year, but we are doing well.”
In Europe, the retail landscape is changing as parts of independent boutique owners reach retirement age without finding successors. “Many shops are closing in France; there is certainly less space in the middle of the market, although luxury is doing well,” says Renaud Cambuzat, Chief Creative Officer of Groupe Chantelle.
“Many stores are closing, largely due to the age pyramid,” agreed Magalie Le Banner, who was appointed president of Empreinte in January. “The retail landscape is changing in Great Britain, France and Germany. Few boutiques are being acquired and the online pure players continue to grow,” she says. “Chains are increasing their market share, but they are also suffering.”
“It will be a difficult year,” agreed lingerie consultant Petra Schöfert, who was present together with a group of independent retailers from Germany. “But for those who survive, there is business to be done.” She praised the show’s brighter layout and more contemporary offerings.
The changing dynamics of lingerie retail mean brands must “seek growth through fashion boutiques,” says Matthieu Pinet, managing director of SIL and sister fabric event Interfilière. As such, the event continues to broaden its offering and build bridges with Who’s Next, also held at Porte de Versailles from January 20 to 22. “There are more lingerie boutique closures than openings. If the show only offered lingerie, we wouldn’t be able to attract a broader portfolio of boutiques.”
Pinet continued: “Attitudes towards lingerie are changing. Women understand that they can play with lingerie and see it more as a fashion product. Thanks to the collaboration with WSN, we strengthen the link with fashion.”
As such, the show’s offering was broader than ever, with an expanded wellness area and a greater focus on emerging and creative labels. For the first time, visitors entered the show through a hall lined with offerings from smaller labels, before reaching the stands of industry heavyweights.
Events included a fashion show on the history of lingerie to celebrate the show’s anniversary on Saturday evening, as well as a performance celebrating French corsetry expertise at Cirque d’Hiver on Sunday evening, staged by professional association Promincor – Lingerie Française , with the support of state agency DEFI.
Cambuzat from Groupe Chantelle praised the creativity of the new generation of underwear designers. “The lingerie market is extremely dynamic creatively,” says Cambuzat. “There’s a lot going on, but I think this is here to stay.”
In recent years, Chantelle has opened her factory in Epernay to support young designers and help maintain know-how in France. “We help them with production, development and our stock of materials,” says Cambuzat. So far it has helped around 60 young labels develop their collections. “Our goal is also to help preserve and valorize the factory,” he explains. “Making corsets desirable as a sector is an important topic.”
Corsets are making a comeback after a period when the emphasis was on comfort, but the codes have changed, says Cambuzat, and women are increasingly buying lingerie for themselves, rather than as a means of seduction. A return of retro styles “is driven by young people and the growth of secondhand,” he said.
“Women seek to please themselves, not others, with their lingerie choices,” Aubade’s Masson agreed. The label is also looking to expand its registry with more pieces such as bodysuits that can double as ready-to-wear, including in the line created with model Cindy Bruna, one of the highlights of the fall 2024 collection.
Groupe Chantelle continues to reap the benefits of its repositioning under a single master brand.
“Chantelle is growing,” Cambuzat said. “We are now seeing the effects of our restructuring and it is a powerful growth driver.”
Under the high-end line Chantelle “We continue to promote a vision that is closely linked to fashion,” said Cambuzat.
A capsule was also designed with fashion label Ester Manas included. After debuting swimwear under the Chantelle Pulp brand last summer, the company introduced lingerie under the same name, with younger, more inclusive positioning and sizing and colorful silhouettes. Pulpies, a range of seamless microfiber panties in colorful shades, offered in small boxes inspired by cosmetics, were also new to the range.
Simone Pérèle, who celebrated her 75the anniversary last year, has high hopes for a return to more sophisticated lingerie and injected its Fall 2024 collection with accents of color and shine against sensual embroidery and plays with transparency. “Recent years have been characterized by the demand for more basic pieces; people want more feminine lingerie again,” says Bujard Pérèle.
One brand reporting strong demand was Skarlett Blue, which is rapidly expanding outside the US, tapping into what it sees as a gap in the market for beautiful, well-fitting designs for smaller cup sizes. “We are filling the gap left by Elle Macpherson,” says international sales director Denise Shepherd. “When the market is in turmoil, the fact that we are an established brand in America is reassuring for retailers.”
Reinvented shapewear was a major theme at the show, as brands look to tap into the demand driven by Kim Kardashian’s Skims. “Shapewear is doing very well, it is definitely back, but with a more lifestyle positioning,” said Cambuzat.
For example, Wacoal showed off updated shapewear silhouettes designed to create an hourglass figure, including an innovative model with a deep “V” back that could be worn under backless dresses, for example, in what it said is a market first . Aubade also focused on both shapewear and vintage-inspired innerwear, introducing a backless bodysuit and a satin corset, for example.
Luxury brands have channeled a more couture aesthetic, in line with demand for statement pieces that can double as ready-to-wear. Highlights here included the creative vintage aesthetic of Japanese label Soeur Tokyo, which combines inner and outerwear, and 130-year-old brand Cadolle, both featured in the Exposed designer label space. “Young women love our corsets, for example they like to wear them with jeans,” says Patricia Cadolle, co-owner of the company, which has been passed down through six generations of women. “They are back in fashion.” The label’s high-waisted briefs are also selling well, she says.
Also featured in Exposed, Atelier Amour was founded in 2015 by Aubade and Simone Pérèle alumnus Rachel Bouchon, with the aim of tapping a gap in the market for well-crafted yet erotic pieces with simple dimensions that make them easy to buy – especially as a gift – and accessible prices. The brand is seeing strong demand despite what it described as a marked decline in consumer confidence in the second half of the market. “I am lucky, I have been spared from the crisis, our category remains largely unaffected,” she said.
There were also plenty of parallels with the growing welfare market. In addition to a wealth of sexual wellness labels, concepts like Maison Plouf, with French-made laundry detergents and accompanying hypoallergenic fragrances sold separately, sought to tap into gaps in the market.
Period clothing, breastfeeding and post-surgery collections also grew categories. In a brand selection sponsored by Ulule, Delphine Di Rosa debuted the F’Latte brand with her colorful breastfeeding designs. She had discovered a gap in the market for attractive products – her designs included fabrics such as lace and satin – with a strong sustainability angle. “We have saved more than a million nursing pads since launch,” she says.
Australian label Modibodi, one of the leaders in heritage lingerie outside the US, was an exhibitor for the first time when it opened to wholesale. Recently awarded B Corp certification, the brand’s biggest markets are Britain, France and Germany, said CEO Kerry Cusack, who joined the company last August after being approached by owner Essity, which bought the brand in 2022 . opportunity to put the product in the hands of the customer,” she said. “People should be able to touch and feel the products.”
Modibodi presented a new high-end line, Renaissance, with the first matching sets, made from recycled nylon with a merino wool lining, as well as a ballet collection for young girls. “The category is maturing and the product is becoming more interesting,” Cusack said.
With approximately 16,000 visitors, unique visitor traffic at the SIL and sister fabrics fair Interfilière increased by 4.6 percent year on year.
The summer edition of the show – traditionally held in early July and focused more on swimwear – will be held from September 10 to 12 in the same hall as fashion event Who’s Next. The move is partly intended to alleviate problems during the summer leading up to the Olympics and follows a survey of participants’ expectations.
Launch gallery: Inside Paris Lingerie Trade Show SIL 2024
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