The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said that "The only constant in life is change." The current intimate apparel and retail environments are challenging, but also ripe for new ideas and innovations.  As the industry examines areas of growth, brands are seeking partners with strong technical knowledge, the ability to translate trends into consumers' favorite products, and global capabilities that leverage the opportunities that come with change.

Collaboration: Teamworkmakes the dream work

How do brands begin to take advantage of innovation and commercialise it? The first step is through collaboration and finding the right partners. Such is the evolution of the lingerie industry, where the benefits of global reaching consulting firms support in-house divisions.

The next round of intimate apparel innovation comes from new ideas that are brought to partners and help them reach their goals. In the case of Dora L International (DLI), partner brands are leveraging resources to help augment design and sourcing workload using the team's expertise. We collaborate seamlessly with fabric mills to understand developments before they come to market, by being fully coordinated with our sister company in Asia and working with internal teams. This has resulted in the development of new concepts, innovation R&D, trends that translate into products, fabric development, and new functional trims.

Teamwork is the beating heart of the company. At DLI, every member of the team is essential to the makeup of our DNA and since COVID-19 the team has been kept intact. We understand that "teamwork makes the dream work" and that a great team is necessary to support our company's mission. Now more than ever, teams must be dedicated to searching for newness and bringing more opportunities to brands that crave products which offer a long list of benefits to the end consumer.

Keep learning: Innovation in education

Highly technical fabrics that offer true value to consumers are most often developed at centers of learning at universities and labs. We have ongoing relationships and programmes with these centers around the world. For example, at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), the Centre for Materials (CMIFF) brings together senior-level experts in material technology, and design and enterprise researchers from the School of Fashion and Textiles to research, develop and find applications for innovations. The next round of intimate apparel innovation comes from the learning and sharing of ideas and providing consumer feedback to academic solutions.

Marketing support: Communicate product value

It is essential that those who seek to create excitement in the marketplace with intriguing products that truly meet the demands of shoppers are able to support communications. Shoppers need to understand why the product they are looking at is fashionable and functional. Brands need support to communicate the unique product benefits including how the product will enhance the wellbeing of their customers.  When a woman sees a pretty lace bra, she will know that the lace is can be environmentally friendly, adds support or smoothing, and that functional can look fabulous. As global consultants, it is our duty to support communication efforts that educate consumers and drive a desire for better products for the individual and their community. The next round of intimate apparel innovation comes from communication, education, and collaboration between product development, design, manufacturing, and marketing teams.

Virtual visits: The importance of virtual tradeshows

Although almost all physical shows around the world have been postponed, virtual conferences and webinars have become a good way to network and discover trends. The next round of intimate apparel innovation comes from constantly searching for the next and new from around the world.  We collaborate with our sister company in Asia, who helps us with the sourcing and scouting for new innovations that support what R&D and designers are seeking.

While it can be difficult to not be a part of a physical show, there are several advantages. There is a significant savings to not attending a physical show, and resources can be put into more of the team attending more online events. After each webinar or virtual tradeshow our team hosts a brainstorm and prioritises what we feel should be implemented immediately or needs to be explored further. DLI uses the time to focus on the next big innovation and where we see the market trends going. These opportunities make it possible to keep up with the important trends. Recently DLI was able to source a fabric that was specially developed for us according to a wish list which including recycled fabric nylon and polyester.

Look to the future: What do you see?

The next round of intimate apparel innovation comes from a focus on sustainability and wellness. Sustainability and examining our carbon footprint are integral parts of the future of intimate apparel so that we are able to meet the desires of consumers and the planet. DLI partners with mills that utilise sustainable production methods. We are always seeking to work with recycled and renewable materials, and fibres that are sustainable. It is one of the most important elements to creating a positive presence and future.

We also see a tremendous opportunity to focus on "wellness and mindfulness". We will see bra styles that cross-over to a variety of functions and are versatile for activities throughout the day. These are the concepts that appeal to what consumers want under the "new normal" and as a reaction to what is happening around us. It stems from a need to have comfort and security in times of uncertainty, and a desire to gravitate to garments that feel like they "hug" and support the body with comfort. The new home leisure trend is telling us that consumers want garments that are soft and easy to wear, are easy to put on, and offer size inclusive styles.

If we take a mindset that change is constant, yet offers opportunities to innovate, become stronger, faster, more efficient, and better, then we have a vision for also improving the lives of the end consumer. Taking the time to research, discuss, strengthen internal teams, and support customers in new ways will allow us to excel in the future. The next round of intimate apparel innovation begins with collaboration, is focused on education and communication, and is fuelled by looking to what is important for the future so that we may excel.