You didn’t have to be an industry insider at last week’s CURVE Expo trade fair in New York to see where the lingerie business is heading.
Always a bellwether for the latest style options, miracle fabrics and color preferences for innerwear consumers, this edition of the North American lingerie and swimwear exposition left little doubt about the major trends sweeping the industry.
It was hard to find anyone among the more than 300 exhibitors that wasn’t introducing a new sports bra line or athletic wear collection as brands scurry to keep up with the surge in demand for fashionable performance undies known as athleisure.
But standing out from that suddenly crowded market isn’t easy, and some CURVE exhibitors tried innovative approaches to get attention. The Canada/US division of Anita, the 130-year-old global lingerie powerhouse, had models bouncing around on a mini-trampoline (below) to promote its new activewear line, while new exhibitor LIVE!, a Miami-based swim and lifestyle fashion brand, had its model doing yoga stretches and fitness routines.
But the athletics boom wasn’t the only hard-to-miss trend at the three-day show, which attracts up to 3,000 retail buyers from across North America. CURVE is also getting a lot curvier, thanks to a growing number of lingerie and swim brands serving the plus-size and fuller-bust market and employing show models with a diverse range of body shapes to promote their products. The consumer-driven body diversity message that has echoed throughout the fashion world over the past few seasons has finally reached the trade show floor, where it will inevitably impact the retailers and marketers to speak most directly to customers.
Of course, this being a lingerie show, you also didn’t have to look far to get your blood racing at the sight of ridiculously provocative boudoir wear. Sex still sells, and CURVE still boldly showcases the best of the sexier lines, from the soft-core seduction of French labels like Maison Close and Maison Lejaby to daring indie labels like UK’s Lascivious and new fetish-themed label ELF Zhou.
The New York show gave brands a chance to book advance retail orders for their Spring 2017 collections (some of which were kept hidden from the media). A modified group of CURVE exhibitors will set up shop in Las Vegas for three days next week to court the west coast buyers.
One other change was evident in the latest exhibition, which is put on by global fashion-show organizer Eurovet: a significant drop in the number of smaller independent labels and first-time newcomers to CURVE. Whether this signals a slowdown in the growth of the entrepreneurial boutique lingerie market isn’t clear. More likely, the high cost of booth space at CURVE may be driving niche players to find other, more cost-efficient ways to market their wares.
Here’s a gallery of images from the CURVE Expo summer show, shot by John Brown for Lingerie Talk.
All photos © John Brown, JSG Photography