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Wacoal lingerie report: The shape of things to come

Shapewear, fashion features and everyday styles with a twist are popular for autumn 16.

With the explosion of underwear launches on the UK high street, it is clear the lingerie market is primed for growth. Nude tones, everyday bras, premium styles and shapewear are just some of the key trends consumers want to see in store.

Market research firm Verdict estimates the UK women’s underwear market – including lingerie, nightwear and hosiery – will grow by 16.1% by 2020, to  total £4.8bn. A strong economy, falling unemployment and earnings growth that outstrips  inflation mean consumers are more likely to indulge in discretionary underwear purchases. 

Belinda Leca, head of sales at Wacoal Europe, which owns the Wacoal, Fantasie and Freya brands, says: “Purchasing habits of lingerie are changing. First, we’ve seen a great response to our collections that are at our entry price-point level, where the product offers great fit and style as well as great value. That said, we’re also definitely seeing a growing demand for more premium looking product – particularly across our brands Wacoal and Fantasie.”

Jo West, design and development director at Wacoal Europe, agrees: “There has been a rise in sales of our more premium-looking product, particularly where we’ve used more luxurious colour palettes, beautiful embroidery and subtle embellishments.”

“One of the primary trends driving growth in the underwear market is the rise of underwear inspired by fashion and seasonal trends – incorporating more design details, prints and trims,” says Nivindya Sharma, analyst at Verdict.

Claudia Walker, buyer for lingerie and hosiery at House of Fraser, agrees: “Our premium brands are seeing strong sales in pieces that feature embellishment, embroidery and premium fabrics.” She adds customers are buying into more risqué designs: “Details such as strapping, cut-outs and sheer fabrics are now more everyday fashion items rather than something for the bedroom.” In line with this trend, Wacoal Europe has expanded its range of basques and chemises for autumn 16.

Walker adds customers want larger cup sizes with smaller backs, sports bras in a range of colours, natural fibres, bralettes and soft cups, as well as buying into lingerie apparel styles. West confirms these are in demand, as are natural tones and rounder silhouettes.

Leca notes the “growing popularity for women choosing basic everyday lingerie styles with a twist”, adding that the Fantasie Kirsty collection, which features a feminine magnolia print on a natural embroidered base, has performed well as a result. The lingerie company’s wide range of cup sizes, beyond a GG cup with back sizes of more than 40 inches, have proved popular too. 

Shapewear is a key growth area. 

“The rising popularity of shapewear and shape-enhancing products, such as corsets, Spanx and control panties, has encouraged shoppers to spend more on underwear annually,” says Sharma.

This has been reflected in House of Fraser’s lingerie sales, says Walker: “This season we’ve had a good uplift on shapewear and lingerie accessories, especially during the occasionwear-selling period. Sales of nude lingerie, strapless bras and modesty tape have all increased in line with our womenswear occasion business, which is also seeing a strong season.”

Isabel Walker, manager of independent The Lingerie Lounge in Blackpool, which stocks Freya and Fantasie, is also selling more shapewear: “We do a lot of bridal, so we sell well with shapewear anyway, but there is definitely more demand.”

West says Wacoal is expanding its shapewear range this season: “For autumn 16 Wacoal has introduced a shapewear collection that goes beyond our traditional perceptions, giving a light and second-skin feel that is totally smooth and comfortable.” 

With both the premium and everyday ends of the market thriving, styles becoming more directional and niche ranges taking off, it is clear  consumers are willing to pay for quality on-trend styles that offer comfort, great fit and support.

For more details on Wacoal Europe’s autumn 16 collections, go to

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