We recently received a nice range of samples from the Couture Ultimates range which we will start reviewing shortly.
As part of our coverage of the Coutures Ultimates launch we wanted to bring you more background information and insights into this new product range.
We were delighted then to get the opportunity to speak to Allan Falconer, the director of Legwear International, the brand behind the Couture Ultimates range.
Can you tell us more about the Couture Ultimates range and how you developed it? Were there any particular technical challenges you faced when developing the range?
Normal hosiery is knitted in horizontal rows of stitches – the same as one would knit a jumper on a flat hand operated knitting machine or knitting using knitting needles. If a thread breaks the material then creates a run or in the case of tights, a ladder. Tights are knitted using a circle of needles where tubes are created and then sewn together, hence the seam through the middle of the body from front to back.
Couture Ultimates have been knitted in one piece (therefore no seams) using a machine that was designed to make fabric – this machine can also produce netting and crochet type designs. This machine has a long bed of needles but each needle has an individual thread of yarn. Tights have previously been made on these machines but limited to netting type fabrics. Nobody previously has managed to develop a range of everyday hosiery using this technology.
We are in the process of making a video showing the comparative manufacturing processes.
The yarns that have been used are with high elastomeric content, and together with the stitch construction, create a very snug fit giving almost the same feel as support tights. This gives the wearer a feeling of inner confidence and together with the seamless features gives a sleek, shaped look.
After a year of product design and testing we truly believe we have created the Ultimate pair of tights: unique, comfortable and durable.
Is it true that these tights are genuinely ladder-proof?
Because of the different knitting technique Couture Ultimates are made up from vertical rows of knots as opposed to horizontal rows of stitches. In addition to the other benefits this also makes them 100% ladder proof.
However they are not indestructible! If they are not fitted correctly it is possible to put a finger through the fabric – the risk of this will be more on patterned styles. Consequently we stress the need for rolling up the legs and releasing the fabric as the tights are pulled up. There are detailed wearer instructions inside each pack.
Seamless tights seem to be a growing trend with several brands now making them. But we understand that they are not a totally new phenomenon. Can you tell us more about the history of seamless tights?
Hosiery without seams are not new – the first of these were created in the 60’s. The production technique used was to knit one long tube, but to have a wide as possible opening in the middle – this was for the body, but was limited in the length of the body that was achievable. To create a deeper/longer body a wide piece of elasticated fabric is added. If you hold them up they would look like a long banana and hence were often referred to in the trade as “banana tights”. See the photo of typical banana tights, a pair made in the 70’s (top product) and a pair currently sold in Asda for £4 (bottom pair).
All of the seamless tights currently being sold are made like this, and they are usually only available in small sizes or M/L. There is nothing wrong with these products, but compared to Couture Ultimates they have the following limitations:
1. They ladder.
2. They are limited in the sizes they can offer.
3. They cannot do patterns.
However they can achieve very sheer tights, which is something Couture Ultimates are developing.
What Couture Ultimates styles are now available and where can you purchase them?
At the moment the tights can be bought from UK tights who have Internet exclusivity on this range. These products will also be offered to selected high street retailers.
The range has nine styles, a 60 and 100 denier opaque together with seven fashion styles: all in sizes Small to XL. Most styles also have gussets.
There is always quite a lot of media interest in the subject of tights and men. The tights with leggings and shorts look is also mainstream now. What are your thoughts about the greater visibility of men buying and wearing hosiery?
Regarding tights for men, after years of experience dealing with our male customers, I believe you can divide the demand into two types: functional, where there are a few products already on the market, and fashion.
One of the most successful products we sell to male customers is our Dance Shimmer tights – we believe this is because they are available from small to XL, the yarns used are strong, the fashion look is high shine.
Unfortunately there are not many hosiery products that offer strength, a range of sizes and a fashion element. in fact, looking for fashion options can be extremely limiting for male consumers. However, I do sincerely believe the Couture Ultimates satisfies all three requirements.
As someone with decades of experience in the hosiery industry do you think that more attention will be paid in the future to this segment of the market?
Quite definitely the male market has been ignored – and I must confess by us as well – and I must also confess this was not a consideration when we designed the Couture Ultimates range. Every time we have looked at doing a men’s range it has been pushed aside on the grounds the volumes for a men only product range is unknown, that we do not know enough about the needs and preferences of this market sector.
We should have a separate discussion on how to take this further, and maybe we could work with you and your readers in developing some specific products?
What are you planning next? Are you hoping to extend the Couture Ultimates range in the future?
Next year we are also going to be developing sizes XXL and even bigger, and we will be bringing out different ranges probably twice a year.
Thanks for speaking to Hosiery For Men Allan. It has been fascinating to get more information about the Couture Ultimates range, the knitting process and also your thoughts on the men’s hosiery market.
Regarding the development of men’s products for men, I hope we can continue this conversation and involve Hosiery For men readers at some stage.