Consumer Nation

Making Your Clothes Work for You

From shoes that tone to tights laced with caffeine, retailers are increasingly marketing clothing that performs as beautifully as it looks.

The trend is an attempt to add value to clothing as consumers begin to spend again.


“When you look at the quest to get the consumer to buy, differentiating yourself from the competition is the goal," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for market researcher NPD Group. "Retailers are finding different ways and reasons to get consumers to buy again.”

“They (consumers) are looking for interesting products that could add real value to their everyday lives,” he said.

It's crucial as consumers are being very strategic about their spending, and are always asking, “If I buy this, what am I not going to be buying in its place?”

In other words, if you're going to buy sneakers, why not buy the pair that also promises to tone your legs.

Increasingly, companies are injecting technology into their products rather than add embleshments or a more luxurious fabric.

“Technology has become much more exciting than fashion," Catherine Moellering, executive vice president of the Tobe Report, said. "They [retailers and manufacturers] are realizing this is a huge opportunity in the industry and figuring out how to make fashion exciting again.”

She added, clothing makers are competing with Apple to be techy and trendy.

The "value-added" merchandise items also are a tried-and-true way for retailers to grab hold of higher price tags, but still be able to be competitive with what they are offering customers.

Functional Fashion: Guitar Stilettos to Cooling Briefs

Take the $70 consumers are willing to pay for Lytess slimming leggings "microencapsulated" with "fat-mobilizing caffeine." The company promises the caffeine in the pants will help reduce fat on the hips and thighs, plus moisturize skin after three weeks' wear.

“People are willing to try anything and some people like to have fun with experimenting," Cohen said. "It is going to come down to the believability factor. If you’re going to make a claim that is going to be so absurd, you are going to have to prove it to me before I finally spend some money."

“Some of the things that have been far-fetched have actually come to bear fruit. All it takes is for consumer to believe it, or believe in it enough,” he said.

Waterproof and breathable apparel has been around for quite some time, but it has mostly been used in athletic gear. Now those fabrics are being used more widely in other categories.

Timberland recently came out with boots that combats odor-producing bacteria. The boot and apparel company markets its shoe line as being “designed with purpose.”

"Manufacturers are well aware that if they have an interesting product and market it correctly then they can capture a premium price compared to other things they may offer," Brian Sozzi, an equity research analyst at Wall Street Strategies said.


Japanese apparel manufacturer Uniqlo sells T-shirts, cardigans, hats and trousers in its UV Cut line that are designed to be "wearable sunscreen."

The sleeveless Dry-Lux UV cut tanks sell for $19.90 versus the premium cotton tank tops, which are currently on sale for $5.90.

The brand also has other functional fashion lines such as Heattech, which is apparel that is designed with fibers that prevent warmth from escaping, and the Silky Dry line, which consists of apparel designed to eliminate odor and keep its wearer cool in the hot, humid summer months.

Levi's recently introduced its new Commuter Series line designed specifically designed for cyclists. These items resist water and dirt, antimicrobial properties and reflective material. So no need to worry about working up a sweat.

Even the low-end retailers are trying to find a way to put more value, quality, and attributes into products these days. It's an effort to pass along the rising cotton prices as well as spikes in other commodity prices.

“If you’re going to hike up the prices, you better have something different,” Sozzi added.

Questions? Comments? Email us at

Related Tags