The return of satin and lace, both traditional to the luxury end of the lingerie trade, was a feature of collections for summer 2005 as seen at the spring 2004 Interfilière fabric event. Run resistance, preformed bra cup variations and new underwirings were other selling points on show.

Modern satins have none of the stiffness which used to characterise gloss finished fabrics. Rather, these new generation satins retain the entire supple drape that is the legacy of their knit construction.

Laces on display at the Porte de Versailles event have also come a long way. Vivid colour is the order of the day especially in collections from Taiwanese producers like Sunny Lace Company. Shocking pink vies for attention with apple green and with orange. And in two-tone laces orange is often used in combination with a rich claret shade.

Meanwhile, particularly in the Far East, clever use of the latest computer controlled machinery is dramatically bringing down the cost of what at first glance appear to be extravagantly re-embroidered, raised motif designs. Looks whose cost would have once confined them to the couture market are now finding their way into the volume sector. This could well be a factor that makes lace more acceptable to the young consumer.

Seram's latest range of double sided laces and Billon Freres stretch qualities, both with relief designs, also seemed to be an Interfilière focal point for manufacturers servicing the mid-market.

Stretch tulles and fabrics with natural fibre constructions, including from Italian manufacturer TFT a range which employs microlight woollen yarns, were one the new season's success stories. TFT says that today's consumers are becoming much more conscious of fibre content, particularly in fabrics worn next to the skin.

Stretch is also becoming ever more important in all weights of lingerie fabrics. This demand is answered by ranges such as those from Belgium-based Liebart whose collection features 40 gauge knit fabrics with a higher than average elastane content.

Selling point
For many knit fabric specialists, however, the most telling selling point for summer 2005 is run resistance. While this will probably have most impact in the hosiery trade, but because the current trend is for hosiery producers to branch out into general fashion, and into active sportswear, this means that being able to offer garments in run-resistant fabric could become a selling point across every clothing industry sector.

When it comes to choosing fabrics for garments which offer a high degree of control yet are still visually attractive, Penn Elastic's Dreamshape range is one of the best sellers. Elasticated mesh with self-colour polka dot designs seems to be what most control corsetry manufacturers are looking for this season.

Meanwhile new opportunities are opening up for lace manufacturers as trimmings and insertion laces grow so wide that they can be used in their own right to create mini brief and bandeaux style bras. No additional fabric is needed to complete the garment. This is an application which cuts across national boundaries, as popular with customers of the Spanish house of Indesmalla as with those who buy in the Far East for houses like Japan's Hokuriki Corporation.

Lace certainly seems to be winning back the territory it has lost to simple mesh over the last couple of seasons. Nor are producers shy about literally gilding the lily, since the blossoms of various members of the lily family are the new season's favourite floral motifs and floral laces are now frequently embellished with sparkle threads and with sequins.

Glamour conveyed through glitter is also winning the day in underwear accessories. Components best described as "jewellery" for the intimate apparel market were a special feature of Interfilière.

Optional extras from the trimmings trade now include items like gem-set bra clips, designed to be pinned to straps or to the front strip of fabric which separates bra cups. Straps themselves are frequently diamante decorated.

Other ornaments suggested for summer 2005 lingerie include chains from which heart-shaped metal charms are suspended. Ropes of crystal beads designed to be worn like 19th century watch chains, but slung across the front of panties rather than waistcoats, are another jewellery-inspired innovation. Here market leading manufacturers include, from Hong Kong, Hing Man (Lee's) Co Ltd, Germany's Muhlmeier Enoform GmbH and Art Martin from France.

Functional components
In more functional components 2005 seems set to see battle between preformed bra cup producers. Value-added variations on the basic product theme are the weapons with which this contest will be fought. Few manufacturers now offer less than half a dozen cup shapes ranging from natural to super support. And each style often comes in a rainbow-wide choice of colours.

Technical innovations include, from Taiwan's Bra Cup Co Ltd the "sandwich" cup with a layer of liquid fill between the inner and outer surfaces. It is described as giving an added boost to push-up styling.

Elsewhere fillings as diverse as Vaseline and tiny globules of polystyrene, the latter the latest suggestion of Utax Europe, are being trialled as a means of giving a fuller look to the less well endowed wearer. And every manufacturer makes the claim that their choice of filling has a tactile appeal approximating more closely than any other material to "the real thing."

Utax is also pioneering the use of new materials for underwired bras, adding cushioning for greater comfort. Wires themselves are being produced with padded tips so they can't dig painfully into flesh and are made to be easily removable so that they don't distort during laundering.

Tulip is also looking to soften underwiring, but suggests plastic coating for the wires which are polycarbonate construction. Here too, in the name of greater comfort, a "soft" hook system replaces conventional metal closures.

Freydberg aim to make dressing and undressing simpler, even for the disabled, with its System Mag closure which, as its name suggests makes use of miniature magnets concealed within a washable tape. By the same token Utax is now advocating front rather than back fastening bras, not just for nursing mothers but for the general wearer.

With interest in seamless construction continuing to grow from season to season any technical development which can further speed up this process immediately becomes one of the major talking points of Interfilière. At the January 2004 show it was the use of high frequency, ultrasound bonding for polyurethane film and for cutting circular knit fabrics which seemed to be attracting particular visitor attention on the Eyes International stand.

By Sonia Roberts.