NEED MERCHANDISE DESPERATELY read the urgent telegram. The West Coast's Joseph Magnin Co. was about to open "News Stand" boutiques carrying paper dresses in its 28 stores; informal sales had proved so successful that the chain was nervously awaiting an onslaught of customers. The same happy nervousness is now sweeping other stores across the nation. Paper clothing, apparently, is here to stay.
It was only one year ago that Scott Paper Co. introduced disposable duds as a promotion gimmick with a sleeveless shift selling for $1. It was so shapeless that it recalled a paper bag; scoffers put it down as just a paper gag. But for a country already accustomed to throw-away cups, plates, napkins and diapers, paper clothing seemed only a logical next step. Scott sold 500,000 dresses in eight months, and the strong response had other manufacturers and designers joining the paper chase.
Kaftans & Kabuki Slippers. The result has been a quick proliferation of styles that already make the original Scott dress seem like the Model T Ford. Mars Manufacturing Co. of Asheville, N.C., is the nation's leading producer of paper dresses, sells 80,000 a week. From its basic A-line shift ($1.75), the company has expanded its line to include bell-bottom jump suits ($4), evening gowns ($5), aprons ($1.35), and men's vests ($1.99). Sterling Paper Products aims to gross $6,000,000 this year from such items as a $7.50 zebra-print pants suit, a $15 bridal gown, an $8 maternity dress and 40¢ children's pinaforesjust the thing for ever-sprouting sprouts.
Elisa Daggs, who creates in paper for 60 department stores, including Bonwit Teller and Lord & Taylor, has designed striped kaftans ($7) and Kabuki slippers ($2) as well as specially treated raincoats ($7.50) and bikinis ($4) that can be worn in the water, last for two to three wearings. Formfit Rogers has gone into underwear with a $3 ensemble consisting of bra, petti-skirt and kerchief. Not to be outdone, Hallmark Cards has just marketed a complete paper party kit: a flower-printed shift with matching cups, plates, place mats, napkins, matches and even invitations. Among other strong sellers are $9 foil shifts and paint-it-yourself dresses that cost $2 including the paint.
$12 Man's Suit. The paper that helps make it all possible is Kimberly-Stevens' Kaycel, a tough blend of 93% cellulose and 7% nylon which is fire resistant unless washed. So great has been the demand that the company has had to put all Kaycel customers on rations; since there is not enough to go around, manufacturers are turning to Du Font's Ree-may, a "spunbonded" polyester, and are also using Kendall's Webril, a nonwoven rayon. Kaycel marketing experts calculate current expenditures for disposable goods made from Kaycel and similar materials at $50 million per year, think the figure could reach $300 million within five years.