Stockings containing "silver ions" - introduced at the dyeing stage and claimed by the manufacturers to eliminate the problem of tired legs - plus the incorporation of creams that soothe away cellulite when employed in the production of panty hose and long leg girdles are among the latest applications of the micro-encapsulation process.

A development from Penn Elastic, it was among the latest advances on view at the recent Interfiliere, the French trade fair devoted to providing yarns, fabrics and components for the lingerie, underwear and hosiery trades, and its companion the Salon International de la Lingerie event for retailers. Both shows were held at the Porte de Versailles exhibition complex from January 26 to 29.

Other introductions include thermochromatic printed swimsuit fabrics that change colour when the wearer is exposed to strong light or heat. Meanwhile water-reactive fabrics that reveal their patterns only when wet are among the novelties intended to enliven our beaches next summer. They will be made available to manufacturers by both French producer Pierre Rocle and the UK's Welbeck Fabrics.

Staykups go commercial
Within the bra market self-adhesive cups that eliminate the need for "wings," fastenings, or indeed any of the components of a conventional bra, is a development that has now gone wholly commercial under the brand name Staykups. It is backed by a full range of self-selection aids for retailers.

Pads filled with baby oil as opposed to the more usual silicone or gels are offered as aids to the less well-endowed while elastane-content yarns used to create concealed control panels perform the same service for men. Men's briefs with built-in "push-up" are a 200l talking point in a market sector increasingly dominated by seamless garments produced on circular knitting machines of the Santoni type.

Technological advances harnessed to the service of fantasy, often with a strongly erotic flavour, characterised most of the ranges shown at this year's Interfiliere.

Except of course that smart manufacturers don't talk of underwear or hosiery any more. They have revised their vocabulary so that underwear - particularly the sleek-fitting stretch garments for both sexes, that derive from recent developments in the sportswear market, should now be described as bodywear, while hosiery, be it socks, stockings or tights, so long as it is lively in design, becomes legwear.

Lingerie lingers
The term lingerie remains. However, this is a market now in process of fragmentation. In a sector where the slip and its ancestor the petticoat
 has all but disappeared, that despised and functional garment the female vest has suddenly become sexy. Vests that are pretty enough to be seen in public have become the first underwear choice of consumers in their teens and twenties who are increasingly buying vests as sets that include matching briefs.

It is a similar story in the fast-expanding men's market where sexy black underwear, see-through fabrics and glitter-decorated garments are no longer confined to the gay community but are expected to be widely bought by wives and girlfriends as the "fun" choice for their menfolk - and, it is predicted, by early 2002 will be sought by style conscious males themselves.

"Fun" garments obviously designed strictly for adult play sessions are moving into the mainstream market using fabrics like Taubert Textil's new knitted polyamide with a polyurethane coating. It gives it the look of patent leather while retaining the supple handle and silky touch of the base fabric. Taubert's latest range also includes fabrics with "shape memory" that they suggest as ideal for bra manufacturers whose order catalogues are now being marketed to mainstream lingerie manufacturers.

Elsewhere trimmings manufacturers seek to recreate the "woman made of flowers" from the Mabinogion Welsh legend cycle by suggesting totally covering bras or bikini pants with three dimensional miniature rosebuds, lilies or poppy blossoms. Demo garments of this type proved a real show-stopper on the stand of Eyes Industrial SA.

This Spanish manufacturer also scored heavily for originality with the heavyweight, guipure all-over lace which had been contract finished to give a silvered or gilded matt surface.

Amazing lace
Scarlet poppy blossoms are also frequently worked into the patterns of extra wide olive, grey or black edgings or insertion laces. But the prize for the most unusual lace pattern must surely go to the Swiss house of Filtex who offer rows of angel faces - a design at its most dramatic in the ghostly shade of grey that they tip as a top fashion colour for the season ahead. Look out too for butterfly motifs interpreted both as patterns worked into lace and as independent trims.

Meanwhile in a season when prints make a major comeback, funky dark all-over designs vie with super bright shades and with autumnal tones of copper and apricot.


But in patterned fabrics the
most striking development is
the return of bold black and white
"op art" designs

But in patterned fabrics the most striking development is the return of bold black and white "op art" designs and the adoption of houndstooth check motifs more usually found in men's suitings.

These are favourite subjects for prints on satins, real silks and man-made silk simulations destined for dressing gowns. Not since Noel Coward in his heyday as a style setter has the decorative dressing gown played a larger role in the leisure wear market. Today however such robes are seen as having unisex appeal and form part of the fast burgeoning "housewear" market.

Thirteen per cent of the entire garment offer at Salon International de la Lingerie, or Lingerie Paris for short - now falls into this category.

Housewear the new growth market
"Sales of 'housewear' are obviously being fuelled not only by the steadily increasing amount of leisure enjoyed by citizens of the world's affluent nations but also by the numbers of those citizens who now work from home and can therefore adopt a generally much more relaxed attitude to dress," say the show's organisers. They also attribute the overall growth in size of Interfiliere - this session 3.5 per cent larger than last year, and occupying 6,400 sq ms of display space in the Porte de Versailles exhibition complex - largely to the number of manufacturers who now want to be part of a sector with "enormous potential for increased future sales."

While tantalisingly difficult to define precisely the term "housewear" or "housewares" - both spellings seem to be in regular use - this often implies a merging of daywear designs with styling that would have once been considered suitable only for slumber or at best boudoir wear.

Housewear for instance, is a niche market that loves crushed velvet finish, drapable knitted fabrics for pyjamas - pyjamas that are much too glamorous to be worn only to sleep in. But it is also a market that makes use of luxury fibre content knitting yarns to create three piece ensembles that consist of a cardigan or zip-up lumber jacket teamed with a vest and with comfy, unstructured trousers.

 

Other fabrics important to this new genre include cotton or cotton/man-made blend jerseys dyed to resemble denims and which, indeed, give a very good visual imitation of denim but are essentially soft to the touch.

Fake fur, pile fabrics and all forms of fleece are also finding further outlets in the housewears trade which also regularly employs micro-fibre knits, many as fine as the legendary baby shawl that passes through a wedding ring.

The nursery analogy is an important fabric fashion trend that runs through the entire market served by Interfiliere but which manifests itself most strongly in the true nightwear sector. Here naive print motifs of all types and particularly prints featuring typically nursery characters such as teddy bears or fluffy bunny rabbits are being suborned for adult use to create an ambience of cosy innocence.

For just as the vest is now wholly acceptable as revealable daytime attire for adults, so by night the long sleeve nightie now takes its place alongside more obviously glamorous boudoir wear in boutiques patronised by fashion conscious adult females.

And although Interfiliere is a French fair, these days the composition of its exhibitor lists, with 63 per cent of its 232 exhibitors coming from outside France, suggests that the trends seen in Paris represent the global picture and that new ideas seen here first are likely to be taken up by garment manufacturers worldwide. For while the final attendance figures have yet to be analysed, all the indications are that the show's visitors were drawn from as broad a spectrum as the exhibitors themselves.