Wolf Lingerie: Diversifying for Success
"LA TAILLE MANNEQUIN, c'est démodé!" "Skinny models are out!" With this simple advertising slogan, the French fashion brand, Sans Complexe, recently drew consumer attention and strengthened its loyal female following. Sans Complexe is the large-cup line by Wolf Lingerie, headquartered in Alsace, in northeastern France, where approximately 180 people are employed. With a volume of 800-900,000 items produced per month, the company recently yielded a turn-over of €51 million (U.S. $66 million).
SIZED FOR TODAY'S WOMAN
Nowadays, six of ten women wear bra size 90D (40C in U.S.) and above, with the average French woman weighing 62 kgs (137 lbs). "Today, size 40 (which corresponds to size 12 in the U.K. and U.S., and 44 in Italy) is the most widely sold apparel size. These ladies need lingerie that fits well and looks elegant," noted Angelina Reinhold, director of Design/ Research and Development for Wolf Lingerie.
Sans Complexe is one of three core brands offered by Wolf Lingerie. It is complemented by the brand Rosy, which addresses the modern, elegant woman who enjoys beautiful lingerie. "The Billet Doux brand is focused on the much younger woman with sophisticated taste," explains Céline Frieh, Wolf Lingerie's product manager for the brand.
SEGMENTING THE MARKET
Each brand is defined according to a specific target group. "Market overlaps are impossible," noted Wolf's product managers in unison. The true balancing act, however, is realized in another way. Each of the three brands has a specific distribution channel (lingerie boutiques and specialized retailers, department stores such as Galerie Lafayette or shop-in-shops at Printemps), as well as a separate channel focused on the mass market. In France, hyper-markets are amongst the major sales . channels for lingerie. After all, a study recently revealed that the average French woman owns five sets of lingerie purchased at different price points for different occasions.
DEFINING SALES CHANNELS
But this is not where Wolf's diversification ends. In 2009, the company launched Jardin Secret, a product line sold exclusively via the home shopping segment. Add to this private labels and production for several internationally-renowned lingerie producers, as well as direct sales to end users through various Internet sites, and the complexity becomes apparent.
In addition to diversification and clear brand separation, consistent fit is a critical factor in Wolf Lingerie's success. "Reliable fit is guaranteed by using particular fit models for each style," explains Madame Reinhold. The company also relies on Gerber Technology's AccuMark® pattern design and grading system and its AccuNest™ automatic nesting software, using a total of seven workstations.
Wolf's many teams easily convert data and share AccuMark files. The software also enables them to import orders from an EDP system and automate the process – from order placement through cutting. "AccuMark also enables us to add annotation to pattern parts, including model-specific notes for downstream processes and automatically translates this information into other languages," noted one of Wolf's key managers during a tour of the design department.
Accurate communication is critical, because the design team in France must communicate with two company-owned manufacturing facilities in China where it employs approximately 1,200 individuals.