Les Belles offers new approach to hosiery as trend strengthens
Kendall Jenner did more than get the internet buzzing when she stepped out in LA last week sans pants. Her Bottega Veneta ensemble highlighted a current trend and punctuated an emerging start-up business. Lingerie and pajamas, even hospital scrubs, have been the auxiliary apparel start-up du jour for brands seeking unique opportunities in a market saturated by sportswear, ready-to-wear brands, and footwear companies.
Another niche market is hosiery, which until recently ebbed back to a functional-versus-fashionable role and neglected unisex fit. It was just the gap to allow Les Belles, an indie hosiery start-up, to make a dent and vie for a chunk of the legwear consumer base interested in a fresh approach that includes sustainability and a subscription model.
Les Belles was founded by New York-based CEO Cecile Antier, who had previously pursued a law career. Her eureka moment was in 2020—the pandemic was said to launch many new business concepts—when the stars aligned for Antier to take the leap.
"I saw there was a big gap in the market waiting to be seized. But it didn't come out of nowhere," said the French native, who found the outdated hosiery market puzzling.
"There was no brand getting it right for a millennial like me. At first, I thought I was the one being picky or not looking in the right place, but then I realized that frustration was shared by many friends," she recalled.
Moving to the States in 2006 to get a degree at Georgetown Law School also ignited an entrepreneurial spark in her. With her first child on the way, Antier needed no further convincing to launch her own business.
Being raised in France also gave the CEO another perspective on tights or collants, as they are called in French, as the French have embraced them throughout the ebbs and flows of hosiery trends in the U.S. and embrace novelty more. The quality-to-price ratio was also better.
"In France, it's easy to find decently priced quality hosiery, but in the U.S., I found it was either $60 for a premium brand or $8 for scratchy tights that run after one wearing. It was depressing. Les Belles is here to bridge that gap with affordable, fun-to-wear tights for everybody," she said.
To that end, she refers to the dynamic seamless knit that allows the tights to be worn comfortably by male physiques.
"Currently, about half of our customers identify as men, and the feedback is these are the most comfortable tights they've ever worn. I'm transparent about the fact that they found us in the beginning. We don't try to sell it as unisex to sound "on-trend." Our product construction is different and completely innovative," she continued adding the repeat customer rate is 35-40 percent in this market.
Another feature to boost those repeat sales is the Les Belles subscription service. The customizable service ranges from 1 to 4 tights a month and can be altered monthly, allowing for flexibility according to seasons. Novelties are also regularly introduced, such as polka dots for October. The service also gives a 20 percent discount.
"It's very novel. As crazy as it sounds, there's no other subscription service for that product in the U.S. We had an opportunity to chat about it with a major brand; they also believe this model can work for that product. But they don't seem to have made a move in that direction," she asserted.
Regular prices for Les Belles tights are $20-$24. In other creative offers, for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the brand offers two pairs of 'mystery tights' with every order of two or more tights.
Her quest to develop genuinely seamless tights helped her source the right relationship with a yarn producer who could achieve that with recycled yarns. "Seamless tights are very complicated to produce and involve the latest technological developments in that field," she added.
The 100 percent recycled yarn tights are also made in a zero-waste emissions-less factory in Italy. They also last longer thanks to reinforced yarn and anti-rip technology. Case in point, the 20 denier basic sheer tights. "They last longer, and even if you get a hole, it won't run, and, in most cases, you can continue to wear it. It's a major innovation," she said, adding Les Belles was the first to bring this new technology to the market.
he competition, Canada-based Sheertex, makes similar claims in terms of supernatural durability not seen in the hosiery market. Les Belles tights also contain a 3D double-covered knitting that reinforces durability by cooling the tights.
In two years, the brand has become a favorite among stylists and the celebs they dress. The Queen's Gambit Actress Anya Taylor Joy recently stepped out in bright red Les Belles tights.
Cyrano movie actress Haley Bennett and Influencer Leandra Cohen are reportedly fans of the polka dot styles, according to the CEO
The timing for a new hosiery brand is serendipitous as hosiery trends such as the Matthieu Blazy for Bottega Veneta sweater and tights looks have been cropping up on runways of late. Brands such as Coperni, Victoria Beckham, Prada, and Del Core also highlight hosiery in many cases in lieu of a proper skirt or pants making conditions for designer collaborations a distinct possibility.
"We're in talks to collaborate on shows. We've been very busy this past year to "get the business and operations right. Now the natural evolution of the brand is to do partnerships; that's what we're currently working on," added Antier.
Copyright © 2023 FashionNetwork.com All rights reserved.