“Let’s face it: Every leg looks better with hosiery — whether it’s sheer or opaque,” declared Kerry O’Brien, founder and president of Burlington, Vt.-based Commando, which has evolved from making seamless undergarments into a full-scale leg, swim and shapewear brand. “You change the legwear, it changes the entire look. It’s almost an accessory.”
For fall ’15, designers, stylists, celebrities and influencers all caught on to what O’Brien feels is “a functional fashion statement.”
After seasons of bare legs dominating runways and the red carpet, an onslaught of both novel legwear and unearthed retro classics are capturing the spotlight and spurring sales of legwear.
“Fashion is in a hosiery renaissance,” said Catrinel Popa, VP of design at Kayser-Roth Corp., owner of Hue. “We’ve seen it gaining momentum over the past few seasons, and it’s diversified a lot for fall. We are also noticing more socks that are meant to be seen, not hidden.”
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To that end, Hue collaborated with New York designer Timo Weiland on a capsule collection of cashmere-blend socks, tights and even track pants that will retail as part of Hue’s Global Design Discovery program.
Proenza Schouler was among the bellwethers on the runway this season, showing polka-dot cutout hosiery that stole the show. The tights were produced in-house and styled with waistband-exposing dresses.
The catwalks also saw artfully shredded pairs at Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane and Nicole Miller, the latter the result of two layered and DIY-slashed Commando styles of varying deniers. “Customers want to be able to pick their sheerness. It’s not just about the black opaque anymore,” said Commando’s O’Brien, who recently launched a 30-denier style.
Gerbe Paris eschewed the dark side altogether, instead offering brightly colored tights that were integral to finishing Honor designer Giovanna Randall’s girlish collection. The line was inspired by archival ’70s photos of Shelley Duvall that were discovered by stylist Leith Clark. “I immediately loved the idea. It felt fresh, glamorous and coquettish,” Randall said of the stockings, which were paired with Bionda Castana’s rule-breaking open-toe sandals, another styling trend that is shifting attitudes toward hosiery.
The latest collection from boundary-pushing designer Mary Katrantzou, who personally dresses in an all-black uniform that always includes black matte tights, toyed with the “traditional connotations” of stockings to put forth a new, modern message, or “juxtaposition,” as she put it.
“We used thick, ribbed tights to emphasize their traditional history but also their revival in the ’60s and ’70s,” Katrantzou said, musing on the concept of “pretty schoolgirls” for the collection’s leggy looks, shown in shades of gray.
Footwear also played a key part in the direction her show stylist, Panos Yipanis, took with hosiery. Indeed, Katrantzou worked with Gianvito Rossi on a clunky platform Mary Jane, which required a more substantial legwear look.
The ever-increasing exposure opportunities of international Fashion Weeks can give hosiery brands a leg up on the competition. Pretty Polly, which is based and manufactured in the U.K., aligned its cheeky hosiery with Alice + Olivia and London designers Paternity and Henry Holland on the runway. That introduced the heritage brand to a whole new audience: Rita Ora, Rihanna and a slew of street-style magnets have been seen in Holland’s hit trompe d’oeil suspender tights.
Pretty Polly CEO David Connelly said young designers help keep the brand forward-looking to satisfy the demands of trend-obsessed millennials at some of the brand’s key retailers, such as Topshop, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters and Bloomingdale’s. “Our girl wants her legwear to be fun, flirty and enhance her confidence,” added Connelly.
Sheers and fishnets also made a vampy comeback this season, with names such as Wolford outfitting models at Monique Lhuillier, Jill Stuart, Rebecca Minkoff, The Row and Marc Jacobs. Falke worked with Diane von Furstenberg on point d’esprit styles and also provided tights for Rodarte, socks for Adam Selman and hosiery for Kempner.
In this increasingly competitive market, brands are also looking to technological innovation to differentiate themselves and inspire consumers to continue padding their drawers with new, advanced hosiery variations.
Hue is expanding its heat-tech offering, while Pretty Polly will soon introduce cool-tech and odor-blocking styles as demand increases for year-round and warm-climate leg fashions.
For Commando, continually improving consumer comfort through its patented seamless waistbands is an ongoing priority and essential to O’Brien’s mission of dispelling perceptions of legwear as dated or dowdy. “Hosiery skipped a generation. There are a lot of people who don’t understand what it is meant to do,” she said. “The technology today has [advanced] so far — it’s not your grandmother’s sheers anymore.”