I wonder how many women reading this are wearing a bralette vs. a bra? Out of 7 days, how many days do you wear one versus the other? How many of each do you own now?
Recently, Victoria’s secret announced that it would be discontinuing bralettes in favor of its wheelhouse, structured bras. The rationale was, basically, that anyone could make a bralette, but it took special equipment and skill to make a bra. That decision would be defensible if this were an incidental trend that could be ignored. But with L Brands (Victoria’s Secret parent) earnings seriously down, you would think they might have thought more about the trend, and considered, could one of the world’s most respected bra makers dominate in bralettes?
Just this kind of stasis is what makes dinosaurs, and dinosaurs get extinct.
Edited magazine, in the article entitled, “The Lingerie Trend that Rocked the Entire Category, “(March 23, 2017 https://edited.com/blog/2017/03/lingerie-trend-changing-category/), reported that “sell outs of push-up bras have fallen by 50% compared to a year ago while sell outs of bralette, or triangle bras, have rocketed by 120%. “
In addition, they reported that price points at major retailers as well as brands had sunk significantly due to the increasing popularity of bralettes: “Bergdorf Goodman’s recent new-in focuses 44% of their bra products priced below $50, whereas last year that was little more than one per cent. Even Calvin Klein increased its emphasis on the $20-30 price point by 22%. “
Wow. So what is going on here? First, let’s say what it is not. This is not a price phenomenon. If you go by Victoria’s Secret decision, this is just a fad that can be weathered. I am not a category expert; nonetheless, I disagree: to me it seems that the bralette phenomenon is one of those disruptive trends that changes not only the item itself, but everything around it in fashion. OR it is one of those disruptive trends that is the result of changes in fashion or social changes. OR both at the same time. Fashion eruptions are a result of social changes, and designers who are part of those changes find a great way to express them through fashion. History bears this out.
I am saying that bralettes are not only here to stay, but that they will put the traditional bra out to pasture within a few years or shorter. Why?
1. They are cheaper. Recently, it is documented that the US consumer is spending a lower percentage of their disposable income on apparel. Perfect.
2. They reduce skus. Bralettes can come in 5 or 6 sizes, not the dozens that traditional bras need. So stores can carry less stock per style OR carry more styles.
3. They are conducive to numerous looks and fabrics. Much more so than the traditional bra.
4. They look and feel more natural and comfortable than a structured bra. (So I am told)
5. They can be sometimes worn as sports bra or sports bra can be worn as bralette. Multifunctionality is a key to not only a wanted wardrobe item, but one you buy more of.
6. Most important-They marry better with sportswear and dress styles popular today than the traditional bra.
7. OK, maybe this is most important-They are accepted to be seen from outside, while a peek or more of the traditional bra looks like a wardrobe malfunction.
I am sure there are more reasons, but the above would be enough for me, if I were CEO of Victoria’s Secret, to rethink that decision.
I hope it is not monotonous to hear, again, that this is exactly what I have pointed out every time I have commented on the retail scene: Change or die. Focus on presenting value and excitement in what the consumer wants, not just price. And, most important, forget the idea that what you did yesterday is still valid today. IF you think it is, prove it by treating it like you would a new idea.
For those of us with some history in the fashion business, this is déjà vu. What is also déjà vu is the fact that those who recognize the disruptive trend and represent faster and better than their competitor, win. That is what I was taught during my years as department store buyer. Still true today.
Again- I am predicting the rise of the bralette and the marginalization, if not extinction, of the traditional bra.
But more than that, I am predicting the marginalization, if not extinction, of those who miss the signals of disruptive change, or see them and stand pat. I know a dinosaur when I see one.