By  on April 4, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Age 25 may be a bit long in the tooth by fashion standards, but swimwear staple Anne Cole is approaching the quarter-century mark with a revamped design team and renewed vigor amid a younger generation of rival swimsuit labels.

Previewed exclusively by WWD, the Anne Cole Collection for cruise 2008, set for an initial delivery in September, recalls the strengths that propelled the brand to the top of the swimwear heap in the Eighties and Nineties: strong prints, vibrant colors and sportswear-inspired accents.

"It was always competitive and running alongside sportswear in the past,'' said Claudia Cordic, Los Angeles-based Warnaco Swim Group's vice president of design for branded swimwear, a division that includes Michael Kors, Nautica, Calvin Klein and Op. "That's gotten lost a little bit, and we are trying to regain that position."

Three main groups — First Class, Newport and Glamourama — make up the one-piece-driven new collection, which totals about 150 looks. One-pieces wholesale for $46, tankinis for $33, bikini tops for $30 and bottoms $18 to $28, and cover-ups for $28 to $34.

A core style features a lace scallop trim made by a laser technique that Cordic emphasized is rare in swimwear, although common in dresses. "It took a long time to develop," Cordic said of the swimwear with the laser-cut trim. "Even our production manager who is like a 50-year-old man e-mailed me, 'I think you got a winner.'"

A multisized polkadot print was popular for Anne Cole about four seasons ago, and the brand is trying to recapture the polkadot audience with a daintier dot pattern for cruise in red and white, and navy and white. Other notable prints are a yellow chain design set against navy called Chain Gang, and a white nautical geometric design called Maze against black, cobalt and a green hue dubbed grass.

Fashion standouts are basket-weave adorned one-pieces, wrapped suits that Cordic described as "mummies," jacquards and sheer striped suits. White enameled hardware and gold logo hardware with chains decorate many pieces. Fabrics are a blend of nylon or polyester and spandex.

"Some of the folks that have been around for a long time thought I was crazy and said, 'What is she doing with that very forward mummy suit?'" Cordic said. "When you sprinkle in the fashion, you can gauge how far out on a limb you can go to grow the business."

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