Hollister, the teen retailer known for its preppy surfer aesthetic, is re-entering the intimate apparel market with the relaunch of Gilly Hicks products in stores and online.
Hollister announced Friday that it will again begin selling lingerie offerings in stores, after closing standalone Gilly Hicks locations in 2013. Though Hollister, which is owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, continued to sell Gilly Hicks products online after stores were shuttered, the launch appears to serve as an extension of existing efforts by Abercrombie and Fitch to desexualize the brands within its portfolio.
“We recognized an opportunity to redefine the Gilly Hicks brand, and we know our Hollister customer will enjoy another destination for fun and cozy bras, undies and sleepwear,” Kristin Scott, brand president of Hollister Co., said in a statement. “We’ve designed our Gilly product to be effortless and comfortable to align with our customers’ on-the-go, busy lifestyle.”
The new Gilly Hicks campaign, which is featured on the Hollister Co. website, is pointedly toned down from the imagery of its early days, opting for images of girls brushing their teeth and making eggs, rather than doing sexy poses with male models.
On the left, an image from the 2017 Gilly Hicks campaign. On the right, marketing from 2011.
Hollister has started featuring images on its Instagram account using the hashtag #GillyGirl to promote the line. The strategy has shades of Abercrombie and Fitch’s redesigned website and revamped digital presence last fall, in which the brand wiped its Instagram and started fresh with less scantily clad models.
Cora Harrington, founder of The Lingerie Addict blog, said in order to succeed, Gilly Hicks will need to identify a way to differentiate itself in an already saturated lingerie market.
“Launching a brand in the lingerie industry is very difficult,” Harrington said. “The hard thing with Gilly Hicks is going to be figuring out what’s new and interesting that they can offer to a highly saturated intimate apparel market. It’s not enough to be like, ‘Hey, we sell bras, too.'”
MaryLeigh Bliss, chief content officer at YPulse, said the desexualization of marketing has translated to a significant shift for the lingerie market, particularly for companies like Victoria’s Secret. While its Pink line, which is geared toward a teenage demographic, has continued to grow, total sales for the company have continued to decline. In December, parent company L Brands reported that the brand’s comparable sales dropped by 4 percent. Victoria’s Secret has responded to falling sales in the last year by scrapping categories like swimwear.
According to a recent YPulse survey, 49 percent of respondents ages 13-19 said they were most compelled by advertising that supports a cause they believe in, as opposed to 21 percent who said sex appeal.
“When you can see sex whenever you want, and it’s everywhere you look and you have access to the internet, seeing it in marketing is not that thrilling,” Bliss said. “It’s not as alluring as it used to be. Abercrombie and Fitch had the same problem — its catalogue was tantalizing in the ’90s, but when you have internet access, it’s not different than something you can see on Tumblr or Instagram any day of the week.”