Drapers talks to industry insiders and rounds up the new brands, emerging trend led designers and product shifts set to make an impact for autumn 18.
More from: Why underwear is overperforming right now
Adam Kelly, director of buying and merchandising, Fenwick of Bond Street
Which lingerie brands sell well for you?
Maison Lejaby, Wacoal, Chantelle and Hanro perform particularly well for us. The Fenwick customer has always been well informed on fit and quality, so brands that focus on those areas tend to consistently perform best.
Do you have any newcomers?
We recently launched luxury intimates brand Palindrome for spring 18. We are seeing a great response to “everyday luxury” pieces that blur the lines between underwear and outerwear, and believe Palindrome can deliver that for us.
What are customers looking for in their lingerie at the moment?
Customers are looking for lingerie that fits their lifestyle. There is a need for comfort and practicality, but not at the expense of a good design. Our most successful brands provide unexpected details, colours and textures, while also addressing the need for comfort and a great fit. This has been shown by brands such as Maison Lejaby, which is moving design further into wireless and soft-cup bras.
What are you looking for in the brands you’re stocking for the coming season?
We’re focused on brands that provide clear solutions for our customer. As we have always been very service oriented across all our stores, the Fenwick customer is often coming to ask for advice or find a solution. We are always looking for a breadth of brands that enable us to provide clear and simple options for each request.
Sharon Webb, head of buying and design for lingerie, Debenhams
Which lingerie brands sell well for you?
We’ve been doing really well with our customers’ most loved and trusted brands such as Triumph and Fantasie. When people need to be more conscious about where they spend their money, they tend to buy brands they can rely on, and with fit and quality.
What are customers are looking for in their lingerie?
Comfort when it comes to lingerie has always been important but I’m seeing and hearing this from customers more and more. Getting the right fit is crucial but products with enhanced comfort features such as suede cups and soft elastics are driving sales.
Are there any new fits or technologies you’re interested in?
Soft cups and non-wire bras are key for comfort. We’re really excited about the launch of Sloggi’s Zero Feel which lands on International Women’s Day [8 March]. It’s a great new product that we’re really confident will resonate with our customers.
What are you looking for in the brands you’re stocking for autumn 18?
Innovation is key. Brands are definitely beginning to re-focus on this after a long period when the high street brands were leading on newness. Customers need to be excited by new ranges and technologies to keep them engaged. It’s equally important that brands communicate in an engaging and relevant way with their consumers.
Which brands sell well for you?
Wacoal and Wolford are strong brands for us. Our newest addition, Fleur of England, has performed extremely well in a short period of time, as it offers something different. It’s a beautifully made collection with feminine colours, amazing shapes, and luxurious silk robes and chemises.
Do you go to any of the lingerie trade shows?
Depending on my schedule I go to Salon International De La Lingerie [20-22 January in Paris]. I visit mainly to look for new and exciting brands. All the accounts I deal with I mainly see in London, so the shows for me are really about discovering newness.
What are customers are looking for in their lingerie?
Our customers are very much shopping for themselves, so they are less interested in the bells and whistles that come with fashion lingerie, but instead are investing in classic tried-and-tested products. Soft cups offering total comfort and support in smooth classic styles that are completely wire free are performing well.
Are there any new fits or technologies that you’re interested in?
There are lots of new technologies coming out for shapewear fabrics, which is very exciting. This is a consistently growing category, so it is promising to see it move on in a more fashion-forward way.
What are you looking for next season?
I’m looking for great shapes that can cater for the broad spectrum of sizing that our customer is looking for. We are seeing a higher demand in sizing on both ends of the spectrum: in 28-to-30-size backs and 38 backs, and we need many more bras offering a G cup or bigger. I’m also looking for strong commercial colours to be able to compete with black and nude that are selling well right now.
Sarah Connelly, owner, Edinburgh independent Odyssey Boutique
What new brands have you taken on recently? What has performed well?
I took on Dita Von Teese for spring 18. We took the first delivery in December and it was a sell-out. I had the busiest winter I’ve ever had – I sold out of all my autumn 17 collections twice. Fleur of England and Mimi Holliday both did exceptionally well. Fleur of England is quite luxurious and high end – they retail for around £200 for a set – and Mimi Holliday is much more accessible, around £80 to £120 for a set. Their collections were so on the money – elegant, but sexy and grown up as well. Everyone fell in love with them.
Are there any gaps you’re looking to fill in your collection?
Yes, quite a few. Adding more diverse price points is important to me. The more fun pieces tend to go very high end, but I concentrate on mid-to-high-end customers and I want things available for all my customers. I’m especially keen to be getting sexy and very provocative pieces that cater for larger cup sizes. That’s the main thing that I’m looking for just now.
Is there enough size diversity?
I specialise in sizes up to an F cup and my most popular sizes are 32 E and F – while they’re not particularly big bust sizes, they’re not well catered for in all brands. Most brands stop at a C or a D. It’s trying to find that special brand that does the right price point, the right quality and the right aesthetic with those sizes. It’s a real juggling act.
Are there any fits or technologies you’re looking at?
Not specifically. I really just want a good fit and good quality along with the aesthetic. A couple of years ago I was shown some new technology with the underwire being replaced by a curved plastic rib, which was fascinating, but sadly never came to market. It’s nice to have something new to fit with and to try with clients.
Michele Poynter, owner, independent lingerie retailer Mish in Wadebridge, Cornwall
What is selling well for you?
In the plus-size brands, Elomie is outstripping everything. That’s thanks to the addition of things that weren’t available in this market. It’s starting on a great base of a good fit, and then adding in strapping and sheerness. It has also taken the size down in terms of coverage with a lot of its products, meaning less fabric and more sexy shapes – so it’s a little bit more mainstream and a little less plus-size looking, but keeping that functionality.
At the other end, bodies for autumn 17 from La Perla and Triumph: we thought they’d go to young 20-year-olds, but they were going to mums with young children who were loving how flattering they looked.
Do you still go to the trade shows?
I do want to see what’s out there and, as an independent I don’t want to be shopping in the same places as everyone else. I’m very much on the lookout for new brands this time. The items that are doing best are those that aren’t stocked everywhere.
What will you be looking for in new brands?
We will be looking for size increases, particularly cup size increases. There’s plenty on offer up to a D, some to an H, but we need to see those fashion-forward styles coming in above an H. I’ll be looking for brands that can achieve that, not only just producing it, but ensuring the product is good enough. We’re also looking in niche areas, like sports bras in bigger sizes. I’m looking for more bralettes and more bodies, as well as the crossover pieces from bodies into shapewear – Spotlight Lace from Spanx, for example. It’s functional in shapewear but looks more like a body – so you don’t feel so Bridget Jones-y when you take your clothes off.
ALL PRICES ARE WHOLESALE
For plus-sized promise: Adina Reay
As the demand for fashion-led, elegant lingerie in larger sizes grows, Adina Reay is thriving. Specialising in sizes 28DD to 38G, the brand was launched in 2016 as a response to the lack of “indulgent” options in larger sizes, and aims to create items that are both supportive and exciting to wear. Stockists include Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Journelle in the US. The autumn 18 collection is inspired by Wonder Woman and female power.
Prices range from £19 for knickers to £42 for bodies and slips
0191 447 2090
Lingerie buzz brand: Fleur of England
Stocked by Harvey Nichols and Matchesfashion, Fleur of England’s elegant and luxurious designs are a favourite with buyers. The brand celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, and is still led by founder Fleur Christacos. Lingerie is manufactured in Portugal and focuses on a feeling of “modern sensuality” with romantic, edgy designs that retain a high-quality fit. Sizes range from 30C to 36E.
Prices range from £35 for knickers to £146 for a body
0117 924 4177
New name to know: Studio Pia
Launching wholesale for autumn 18 after making its debut in January 2017, Studio Pia is a UK-made, ethically produced luxury lingerie brand, set up by former head designer at Bordelle, Pia Conaghan. She focuses on creating flattering styles for a wide range of body types and sizes, and the lingerie is produced from “cruelty-free” silks. The debut Jungle collection features delicate leaf and floral embroidery. The autumn collection is inspired by Gustav Klimt and the Art Nouveau movement. Sizes range from 30C to 36DD.
Prices range from £37 for knickers to £93 for bras
020 8885 3915
Feminist manifesto: Silent Arrow
Aussie lingerie brand Silent Arrow designs its collections around ideas of female empowerment and takes a bold stance on inclusive sizing: selected styles come in back size 28 to 40 and up to a FF cup. For every item sold, the brand donates a pair of knickers to women in need. Its designs aim to alter the traditional tropes of lingerie, and bestsellers include trend-led bralettes and the sexy “warrior mama” maternity bra. The brand has 10 stockists in the US and is looking for its first UK account.
Prices range from £7 for knickers to £33 for a bodysuit
+61 422 737503
For bold bodies: Undress Code
With its geometric prints and sheer detailing, Polish brand Undress Code tapped into the emerging trend for bodysuits when it launched for autumn 17. Since its debut it has picked up several high-profile stockists, including French department store chain Printemps, Yoox and Zalando, thanks to its quirky, sheer and geometric designs in sizes XS to L. Last month Undress Code opened a pop-up store in Galeries Lafayette in Paris.
Prices range from £16 for knickers £66 for bodywear
+48 793 193 278
Comfort innovation: Hanro
As part of its focus on comfort, Hanro has created a “fusion” bra for autumn 18. The ”cotton spacer” style is designed to be a combination between a soft-cup and a padded bra. It aims to provide a natural feel – almost like a T-shirt bra but with more support thanks to a light padding and optional underwire.
Prices for the cotton spacer collection range from £10 for knickers to £70 for daywear
Blossoming Brit: Something Wicked
Initially founded in 2013, British brand Something Wicked underwent a revamp in 2017. New managing director Steff McGrath changed the design direction, leading to a fourfold sales increase by the end of last year. The range is made in Yorkshire and has a luxurious and elegant aesthetic. Coco de Mer and Dolci Follie are new stockists. Sizes range from 32C to 38D
Prices range from £10 for knickers to £325 for a bodysuit
0113 243 5848
Lingerie: top buyers' picks and brands to watch for autumn 18