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Stepping Lively Into Spring

Coming off a strong fall, the legwear industry is looking for its third consecutive year of growth after a long dry spell.

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Coming off a strong fall, the legwear industry is looking for its third consecutive year of growth after a long dry spell.

In the last two years, the category grew 6.2 percent, from $2.9 billion in 2005 to $3.04 billion last year, according to market research firm The NPD Group. Tights lead the group, surging 52.8 percent to $172.2 million.

Although legwear hasn't always been on such a consistent rise, industry insiders attribute the gains to the increasing popularity of dresses both on the runway and at retail.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD, based in Port Washington, N.Y., said 2007 "was the first good legwear year in a decade," when women often chose to go bare-legged, and "2008 is likely to be as good a year, as the dress continues to be strong and we keep seeing an overall migration of accessories as the primary part of an outfit."

Often labeled a slow season, spring is seen as an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers that will offer products such as footless tights and socks in pastel hues and sunny patterns.

"We're doing an explosion of color in our line for spring," said Catrinel Popa, vice president of design and merchandising for Hue. "There's a momentum to footless and tights, and spring will continue with the same energy in lighter and beautiful colors, textures and patterns."

Firms have taken note from the most recent spring and fall runway seasons, where legwear has played an integral part in completing a look.

"For spring, it's really all about soft blush pinks and sage greens," said Hannah Byun, designer of Hansel From Basel. "Everything was inspired by the Comme des Garçons collection from last fall, which showed pastel pinks and periwinkles. I wanted to follow that same sensibility."

From the ankles to knees, Hansel From Basel is also one of the many firms banking on socks as a way to spruce up a warm-weather look.

Tony Taylor, creative director of the Brooklyn-based Look From London, is doing striped anklets in yellow and black, as well as knee-high socks in florals and Lurex fishnet.
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