It may be a tiny shop tucked away on the Left Bank in Paris but with the turn of every season, a stream of celebrities like Nicole Kid man, Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Catherine Deneuve, Sofia Coppola and Woody Allen make their way to La Sabbia Rosa to get their quota of hand-made, customised, lacey nothings.
The fact that even a cashmere and silk robe costs $3,230 (Rs 1,29,200) is hardly a deterrent. Seasonal lingerie is big business the world over, something India is fast waking up to.
Industry sources say that high-end lingerie, which seasonal lingerie forms a major part of, considering only high-end brands introduce new collections every seasons, is a fast-growing business.
"The high-end lingerie industry is changing very fast. It is growing at a pace of 40 to 45 per cent per year," says Sunil Pathare, director, Maxwell Industries, an innerwear company that handles brands like Rivolta and Lovable in India.
Adds a La Senza spokesperson, "The approximate value derived by KSA Technopak, a global management consulting firm in New Delhi, in their India Retail Reports states that the premium lingerie market for women is growing by 40 per cent."
So it stands to reason why brands like La Senza recently held preview shows featuring their best lingerie. After all, lingerie trends, like haute couture, change every season. No wonder that brands like La Perla, giants in the US and Europe are zeroing in on India and have already planned to launch the Fall/Winter collection in September.
<b1>"La Perla has become famous in the world because of the seasonality of its collections, because since the very beginning, its founder Masotti La Perla started proposing that clients treat it not only a seasonal item, but also as one that adds colour to their wardrobe. So seasonality has always been the distinctive feature of La Perla. And we are sure, India will also follow the same pattern of other markets," says Andrea Bonardi, MD, La Perla, Asia.
It's clear that the Indian woman no longer restricts her lingerie shopping to occasions like filling her trousseau or dressing up for special occasions. Says Sangeeta Assomull of Xess, a premium lingerie brand. "Women are now buy ing exotic lingerie to match the change in annual trends in fash ion."
While most people already buy lingerie as often as they buy clothes in USA and Europe, Assomull says it won't be long before a majority of the Indian public will catch on to this trend.
"With the overall increase in sales of lingerie (20 per cent over the past five years) the market for high-end lingerie has also seen an increase. This is closely related to the higher spending power. In addition, awareness about innerwear being as important as outerwear has also increased. The Indian lingerie market is still to experience the incredible growth that other parts of the world have encountered in this segment but we anticipate this change happening soon," says Assomull.
Bonardi predicts that India will soon be a leading market for all kinds of lingerie. "Indian habits are changing fast and today's urban women have a growing need for beautiful quality lingerie," says Bonardi, whose company produces two main seasonal collections Summer and Fall/Winter and two pre-collections to bridge the gap between the two seasons. "Customers are eager to have new designs and cannot wait till the next season," he says.
However, there is a method to the high maintenance madness. "Every season sees some high performance products being launched, so it is very important to upgrade oneself," says Adish Oswal, MD, Oswal Retail Private Limited, that distributes the Straps brand in India. According to the La Senza spokesperson, Indian consumers are slowly getting educated about the different "wears" in the day; be it day wear, party wear, lounge wear, beach wear etc.
"Brands like La Senza do provide varied kinds of "wears" in lingerie, which women customers are now purchasing to suit their different clothes to wear on different occasions. The gap between buying lingerie as often as clothes is slowly reducing," says the La Senza spokesperson.
Interestingly, a look at Calvin Klein Underwear (CKUs) new promotion will reveal that seasonal lingerie trends are not just restricted to women. CKU will kick off its 25th anniversary with a worldwide launch of its Fall'07 line: Calvin Klein Steel for men and women - featuring Djimon Hounsou, an Academy Award nominated actor who was hand-picked for the campaign.
It's a sign of the times that most global brands treat the Indian market on par with the rest of the fashion conscious world. "The CKU India collection is totally up to date with the collections across Asia and Europe," assures Sujata Assomull, Director-communications, Murjani Group.
XESS introduces three collections every year. "The first one is the Spring/Summer collection in March. The Autumn/Winter contemporary collection enters the store in August/September and finally we have a Holiday Line," explains Assoumal of Xess, adding that the store will soon see the launch of the Christies collection that is works to couple formal and evening wear and Argentovivo, which consists of corsets, loungewear, lace tops and flowing comfortable resort wear.
Brands like La Senza and Straps introduce collections in India based on Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. "We also have mid-season injections in most of the brands and have recently introduced two international brands Passionata, a comfortable, feminine brand and Elbrina a high technology basic bra, along with some very vibrant and young, chic styles," says Oswal.
It's clear that lingerie brands have long since moved on from being just mom and pop shops with only male staffers. They have now evolved into stores that offer customers personalized service, like brands like La Senza do.
Though it may be a while before we have specially commissioned lingerie and luxurious changing rooms lined entirely in lilac, quilted watermark taffeta a la the Chantal Thomass boutique on the rue Saint Honoré in Paris, with new brands in India rising to the occasion every season, it may just be a matter of time.