By  on July 16, 2014

In Miami, hurricane season means more than afternoon storms. The largest concentrated presentation of swimwear in the world will also pour down during swim market week, and the forecast is robust.

Sales of swimsuits and their booming offshoots, from cover-ups to water-sport apparel, survived the recession relatively unscathed, and continue to climb. Swimwear sales in the U.S. reached $4.4 billion in the 12 months from June 2013 through May, a 6 percent increase over the prior year according to The NPD Group Inc. The firm’s report from the same period also shows that women’s swimwear grew by 6 percent and men’s swimwear an even more vigorous 13 percent.

Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst, added that the greatest uptick came from swim shirts, which he defines as any top other than a bikini separate designed for water use such as rash guards and sun-protection shirts. Women’s swim shirts alone rose 68 percent from spring 2013 to spring 2014, a significant indicator of how the swim category is evolving.

“The real change is how swim has become more diversified for sports and everyday wear that appeals to a wider range of demographics and lifestyles,” said Cohen, of consumers’ newfound autonomy. “They now have the ability to use swimwear uniquely, whether mixing separates, wearing a cover-up to dinner or a swim shirt to paddle board.”

This desire for myriad choices parallels Miami swim week’s surge in events, tie-ins and trade and fashion shows.

The 32nd annual SwimShow & Lingerie Show plans its biggest event yet. It has added 150,000 square feet to 550,000 square feet, and expanded to all four halls (up from three) at the Miami Beach Convention Center from Saturday through Tuesday. Concurrent with Miami Spa Month, day-spa stations sponsored by the Swimwear Association of Florida premiere among new amenities to pamper 8,500 attendees in between perusing 450 booths with 3,000 collections.

“From new events to new lines to a complete redesign of our entire layout, this show will be bigger, bolder and better than ever,” said organizer Judy Stein.

The layout now groups lines by category and price point, like designer only, juniors surf or trends, among others.

Among the events are the annual runway show with a look for each brand participating in SwimShow, on Sunday at 6 p.m., with an after party and Peclers Paris is presenting the “Spring 2016 Colors & Influences” seminar on Friday at 12:30 p.m. and Monday at 11 a.m. Some amenities include social-media posting stations in the lounge areas for selfies, and digital artist Erin Una will snap live, 10-minute portraits as keepsakes.

Manhattan Beachwear, a multibrand manufacturer and licensee in Cypress, Calif., plans to be at SwimShow with its entire sales team. Howie Greller, vice president of merchandising, cited a stable economy and personal financial portfolios — with vacation reserves — as good signs for 2015 sales.

As an example, according to Visit Florida, 26.7 million visitors came to the Sunshine State in the first quarter of 2014, an increase of 2 percent over the same period in 2013. This represents the largest quarter for visitation Florida has ever experienced. Last year, visitors to the state totaled nearly 95 million, up from 2012’s 91.5 million.

Rather than introduce new lines this year, Manhattan Beachwear is repositioning its direction for a broader reach. La Blanca Swim has been changed to Resortwear; cover-ups are produced as stand-alone separates, not designed merely to match suits. More activewear collections, like Pink Lotus, an upscale yoga lifestyle brand in Los Angeles, are balancing the swim offering.

“Activewear is where it’s at,” said Greller, who looks to a woman’s suitcase for inspiration in merchandising his booth. “What does she put in there to go on vacation? Her swimsuit, a cover-up and workout gear.”

Despite the Standard Spa discontinuing its small trade show and Dive Swim Week’s postponing its launch until next year, satellite trade shows and viewings in hotel suites are bolstering a bona fide Miami swim week.

Salon Allure hosts it fifth annual show with 40 exhibitors at the W South Beach during the same dates as SwimShow, following an opening-night party and runway presentation on Friday. To stand out in the sea of fashion-show competition taking over local hotels and night clubs, organizers have hired bigger names in the modeling world like Anastasia Ashley and partnered with Molly Brown’s Swimwear, a specialty store chain in Newport Beach, Calif., for a shop-the-runway online initiative, allowing viewers to see the runway show in real time and purchase looks immediately afterward.

Of the latter, trade-show cofounder Rick Fatzinger said, “It’s the first time we’re working with a retailer — it’s not only a good way to create a bridge between the consumer and a traditionally trade-only event, but for brands and retailers to gauge preferences much earlier than the normal sales cycle.”

Across the street from Salon Allure and a few blocks east of SwimShow, Cabana hosts its second edition in two white tents from Saturday through Monday. Exhibitors double to 90 boutique brands such as Tori Praver Swimwear and Orlebar Brown. Equally curated buyer gifts are custom beach totes by Samudra and Coconut Cartel’s coconut water served in the shell.

For its 10th anniversary, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim plans a fuller, five-day schedule from Thursday through Monday, and celebratory collaborations.

Rather than feature a single swim designer’s signature print to wrap a new 2015 C-Class car, per MBFWS’ usual tradition, 10 designers were selected to create a wrap based on their notable contributions to the category, including innovative design and quality materials.

This year’s Designer Program features Beach Bunny, Carmen Marc Valvo, Cia.Maritima, L’Space by Monica Wise, Luli Fama, Mara Hoffman, Nanette Lepore, Red Carter, Suboo and We Are Handsome. Ten wrapped cars will rotate on display at the event’s entrance, where attendees are invited to photograph and post favorites online.

The same exclusive prints will appear on limited-edition caftans, which will make their debut at a retrospective fashion show during the kick-off party on July 17, before moving to the MBFW Swim Star Lounge for the remainder of the event, and finally being given away through social-media initiatives.

Another social-media platform — a contest for selfies of beach-ready bodies — has received thousands of entries from around the world for six winners to attend MBFWS as front-row ambassadors.

“We [give] brands an opportunity to showcase a lifestyle, not just a product,” said Jarrad Clark, vice president and global creative director for IMG Fashion Events and Properties, regarding the multifaceted bonanza to captivate the more than 10,000 attendees expected this week.

Since all the fashion shows will occur on the Raleigh Hotel’s property and side street as opposed to last year, when a number of shows were scattered at off-site locations, organizers reinstated the penthouse and added poolside presentations, in addition to main tents Cabana Grande and Oasis. The influence of IMG Worldwide’s new owner, William Morris Endeavor, is reflected in poolside concerts by up-and-coming bands between fashion shows.

Among 34 designers, a dozen including Mikoh, Clover Canyon, Belusso, Sinesia Karol and Frankie’s Bikinis are making their MBFWS debuts. Clark partially attributed the influx of new designers to recently appointed director of designer and brands Sara Maniatty, who was formerly manager of business affairs and membership at the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Though several high-end hotels are getting in on the action, Soho Beach House has emerged as a hot spot for runway presentations, dinners and parties. Acacia Swimwear, Lolli and Bianca Coletti, among others, host fashion shows, while Lenny Niemeyer is installing a pop-up shop. Tory Burch, Amuse Society and The Brazilian Association of Fashion Designers are also putting their mark on the venue.

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