(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). “It looks like, at the end of the show, our door-opener will be this product,” said Hubert LaFont, directeur general at Barbara, the resurrected French brand, speaking about the new Beauty Perfect bra and control panty that were a prominent part of the new collection he introduced to the U.S. market at the recent CurveNY show.
Barbara was at the show with its new U.S. distributor, CMK, headed by Cynthia Kelly, president and Russell Kelly, COO. The firm also handles Zimmerli of Switzerland, Louis at Home, and FineLines Australia all of which also had booths at CurveNY. CMK signed on with Barbara in January 2011 and offers all of Barbara’s 120 piece line of intimates, with retail prices for bras ranging from $89 to $129, panties from $45 to $79.
For LaFont, the job of selling Barbara is a lot more complicated than helping retailers pick winners in his new collection. The 86-year-old French company (which has been making bras since 1980) went through several rounds of re-financing and ownership changes over the past few years and was totally absent from the U.S. market for a period of time. In June, 2010 the brand was acquired by Korean lingerie maker Namyeung Vivien, which injected substantial cash into the business.
Now, with new owners and systems in place,” Barbara is “here for the longer term” assured LaFont.. “We have to build our customer” base back, “one by one,” he continued. “We go very humbly but very surely.” He emphasized that the brand has not only new owners but a new design philosophy. He pointed to the new Beauty Perfect collection as a typical example of the new design directions.
The bra “is made of the flattest lace, that does not show through the clothing. It remains very comfortable on,” he added, explaining that the garment of “continuous lace” is the result of a technical innovation by a French producer in Calais. It provides a “very new feeling on the skin,” he added. While the material provides the necessary support, “it is very feminine, delicate and sexy too, because it is see-though,” he said. The level of support varies throughout the bra. “It is elastic where it is supposed to be, rigid where it needs to be, where you need the support.” The control pant is made of a single piece of lace with the only seam in the back.
Describing customer reaction to the set, LaFont claimed, “Just every account would say, ‘Wow” and be ready to buy it.” The suggested retail price for the bra is $99, the matching control panty, $97. He reported strong response from “a variety of specialty stores on the East Coast and West Coast,” as well as “online operators.” He said the positive response was “100 percent. ‘We like it, we’ll take it.’”
“For us, this is a very strategic encapsulation of everything that Barbara is about. We are not about one night, extraordinary things. Barbara is for every day use. Comfort, elegant, natural. For us this is a very strategic product. It is spot on what we are trying to express as a brand.”
According to Cynthia Kelly, the Barbara line has already generated sales of the Beauty Perfect bra and other styles, to a variety of specialty stores in the U.S. We found the Barbara brand on sale at such online retailers as HerRoom and Bare Necessities.
CMK was formed in 2008. Previously Cynthia Kelly had worked at Hanro USA as President and at Chantelle US as Managing Director. LaFont, who joined Barbara in 2005 and helped steer it though its recent difficulties, worked for several years previously as directeur commercial general at Chantelle.
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