The iPant by Wacoal (Nordstrom)
Makers of undergarments infused with minerals and nutrients that are promised to improve the wearer’s physique and skin tone are feeling the squeeze of litigation.
Maidenform Brands and Wacoal America face three class-action suits over claims about shapewear made of Novarel Slim, a “cosmetotextile” embedded with microcapsules of caffeine to promote fat destruction, ceramides to restore and maintain the skin’s smoothness and retinol to make the skin firmer.
The Federal Trade Commission has called the claims “about as credible as a note from the Tooth Fairy,” according to federal court complaints in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Florida.
The suits seek to recover, on behalf of a class of users who bought Novarel Slim products from Wacoal or Maidenform, under state consumer fraud laws and on theories of breach of warranty and unjust enrichment.
Maidenform claimed its Instant Slimmer line made from Novarel Slim could “reduce the appearance of cellulite” and was promoted as “embedded with microcapsules containing caffeine to promote fat destruction.”
Wacoal allegedly sold a line called iPant which it called “hope on a hanger,” claiming it “works with your body to visually reduce the appearance of cellulite from your waist, hips and thighs.” The company said iPant, if worn eight hours a day for 28 days, would result in a reduction in thigh measurement. It also claimed the active ingredients in the iPant are still present after the garment is washed 100 times.
“Defendants make these misrepresentations in order to prey upon women’s insecurities about their body images,” according to the complaint in Caramore v. Maidenform Brands.
The Caramore case was filed on March 28, initially in Brooklyn, N.Y., and has been transferred to Newark. A second complaint, Bellot v. Maidenform Brands, was filed on April 14 in Boston, and a third, Bellot v. Maidenform Brands, was filed on May 21 in Tallahassee.
The three complaints contain nearly identical wording, including the claim that the defendants’ products “do not reduce thigh measurement or promote fat destruction.”
The plaintiffs say the companies charged as much as 50 percent more for Novarel Slim shapewear than for comparable items not infused with nutrients, but buyers have been bilked because the nutrients cannot cure cellulite, destroy fat or cause weight loss.
On May 21, counsel for the defendants petitioned the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to have the cases venued in Newark for coordinated pretrial proceedings. The lawyers said they had received notice that a second suit would be filed in Tallahassee.
Newark, they said, is convenient to transportation and is close to Lyndhurst, N.J., the U.S. headquarters of Wacoal, a Japanese company, and Iselin, N.J., Maidenform’s headquarters until its recent acquisition by Hanes.
On June 5, counsel for both sides in the Caramore case asked U.S. District Judge Faith Hochberg to stay the proceedings pending the outcome of the JPML motion.
The Novarel Slim fabric is made by Nurel of Zaragosa, Spain, which is not party to the suits.
Rebekah Kaufman of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, representing Wacoal, and Michael Mallow of Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles, representing Maidenform, did not return calls.
David Krangle of Alonso Krangle in Melville, N.Y., and Elizabeth Fegan of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro in Oak Park, Ill., representing the plaintiff in Caramore, also did not return calls.
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