Here at the studio we’ve recently noticed a distinct trend: a renewed interest in the development and production of lingerie and intimate apparel. Which is great! If developed and produced correctly, it can be a very rewarding – not to mention, lucrative – clothing category.
But before you jump in, we need to have a discussion about what it means to do it right.
So What Does Your Customer Want, Underneath It All?
Starting an intimate apparel brand is no different than any other category. The first thing you need to do is identify your market niche and then determine what is missing in that niche. In other words, market research is job one.
Here’s a bit of info to give you a headstart. Business Wire says, “The intimates market is poised to grow by $57.34 bn during 2022-2026, accelerating at a CAGR of 8% during the forecast period. The rising trend of athleisure in the intimate apparel industry as one of the prime reasons driving the intimate apparel market growth during the next few years.”
Research suggests, by product category, the lower innerwear segment (we’re talking undies here) will show significant market share growth during the forecast period. The projected growth is attributed to the development of new sustainable fabrics and product innovation. For instance, in January 2022, Modibodi announced the launch of the world’s first biodegradable period and pee-proof underwear for women. This is an excellent example of a brand that identified a consumer need, did their fabric research, and innovated the perfect answer.
All of which goes to show that there’s a lot of room in the market for a new intimate brand. The question is, of course, how to make your brand catch the consumer’s attention, and wallet, in a crowded marketplace?
Well, this next step might be difficult to do as a creative person, but it’s actually quite simple. Just ask your potential consumer some pointed questions. Where do you shop? What do you like the most about the brands you already buy? What do you like the least? Go ahead and get creative with your questions. People love to share their opinions, so take advantage of this very human trait!
While talking to people face-to-face is super important, you can add to your research by talking to people digitally. There are two main ways to find the target customers for your clothing brand. Online through your email list, and the other of course, is through social media.
When trying to perfect your product offering, one tried-and-true trick is to “niche down.” You can’t be all things to all people, so don’t even try. It might seem counter-intuitive, but narrowing down your target market doesn’t limit your sales. The opposite is true. It actually helps your target consumer FIND you. And don’t worry, this is something you can do at any time, even if you’ve been selling for a while. It never hurts to learn more about your customer and tweak your collection accordingly!
Fabrics and Finery
If there’s a category that needs more attention paid to fabrics and trims than intimate apparel, we can’t think of one. Every part of the garment touches sensitive skin, so you’ve got a challenge ahead of you. What’s more, the fabric must be durable enough to stand up to multiple washings as well.
Once you’ve designed the styles in your collection – whether it’s a full coverage bra, a lightweight bralette, a comfy nightgown, or even a g-string – consider the following before choosing the fabric.
- Stretch, or No Stretch. Study your designs carefully and determine if they require stretch, and if so, how much. If your pattern requires any stretch at all, your pattern maker should make this clear to you. They will also tell you whether you need one-way stretch, which usually runs crosswise from selvage to selvage, or two-way stretch, which runs both lengthwise and crosswise.
- Weight and Thickness. The last thing a customer wants is bulky underwear. So the weight of your fabric should be a major consideration. Also, pay attention to the thickness of the fabric as well. Consider how thick the seams will become when sewn up.
- Look and Feel. This is where a creative lingerie designer can have some fun. The fabric choices for lingerie are quite extensive, and far beyond what you might imagine. From the finest French lace to soft, sustainable cotton, there’s a dizzying array of options at your disposal.
First, take a look at the fibers you want to use, then decide if you want the fabric to be woven or knit. It may seem obvious, but the type of fabric you choose can completely change the look of any garment. Imagine a basic chemise, for example. It’s going to look completely different in a shiny stretch silk charmeuse with accents of French lace than it will in a waffle weave cotton jersey.
Let’s not forget how the fabric feels (by the way, this is called “the hand” of the fabric). Fabrics with a rough or irritating hand will prove themselves a much bigger nuisance when rubbing against skin all day. Test it yourself by touching the fabric to a sensitive area of your face or neck. Don’t trust your hands to determine the softness of a fabric, chances are they’re less sensitive than other areas of your body.
A Small Discussion about Fit
It probably goes without saying that fit is everything for undergarments. You most likely know from your own experience that ill-fitting lingerie, sleepwear, or activewear undies are a nightmare. Definitely something you’ll want to avoid with your fledgling brand.
Therefore we cannot emphasize this next point enough: do NOT trust your collection to an inexperienced pattern maker. Let that sink in for a moment.
Fit is pivotal, and a master pattern maker experienced with lingerie and undergarments has learned many lessons – often the hard way. Which means they won’t be learning these lessons at the sake of your collection.
At your initial intake meeting with your pattern maker, it will be very helpful for you to share some representative fit samples. Maybe you purchased them in the marketplace, or maybe they’re from your own wardrobe. Either way, nothing explains your desired fit better than an actual physical sample.
After your first samples are sewn, prepare yourself for some lengthy and numerous fit sessions. It’s not at all unusual for intimate samples to have two, or sometimes, three fit adjustments to perfect the pattern. In fact, it’s preferable.
Some Real World Testing
Before you launch your intimate apparel collection, test your final samples in the real world. Wear them yourself, or invite family and friends to give them a try. Listen to their feedback with an open mind. If you find you have to do some tweaking, it’s better to do so now than after you’ve produced hundreds of units.
Speaking of production, it’s equally important to partner with a factory that’s experienced in the category as well. While the garments themselves are small, intimate apparel requires many sewing procedures and finishing techniques to be done properly.
We’d love to talk with you about your underwear (sorry, just couldn’t resist that one!). Feel free to reach out to us anytime at https://tegintl.com/get-in-touch/ or just give us a call at 800-916-0910.