NEW YORK--Swimwear has had a dry season this year. Makers blamed its poor performance mainly on a lack of inspiring fashions and unseasonably cool spring weather, which led to a glut at retail. But that scenario is not tempering the optimism of swimwear vendors for resort, who are counting on a number of trends to reverse their fortunes. They include: Bright pastels. Separates. Push-up bras. Americana looks, like stars and stripes. Novelty fabrics, such as woven Lycra spandex. A return to glamour, including retro Forties looks. "We are going through a major transition," said Brian Epstein, vice president of merchandising for Jantzen. "We are finding that you have to be all over the board and well-balanced." He noted that one major mistake the company--and the market in general--made was the oversaturation of the push-up bra. Jantzen, which markets such labels as Jantzen Sport, Jantzen Classic and Bolero, pushed the trend with a billboard in Times Square spotlighting its own version called "It Must Be Magic." Last season, it offered the Miracle Bra in 85 percent of its two-piece line. After experiencing lackluster sales, Jantzen has scaled down push-up looks to 40 percent. And, at the suggestion of retailers, the company is whipping up a removable version. "You have to offer the consumer more flexibility," he said. Epstein said Jantzen is using WWD/MAGIC International to boost its Bolero label, a contemporary line that was launched for preview and that is expected to generate $5 million to $6 million this year. It is also showing off its woven Lycra fabric, which is new to the swimwear market and which offers a dry hand. "We are very optimistic about 1996," said Barbara Henriquez, vice president of design at Darling Rio, a contemporary swimwear line."Brights are back, and there's a strong interest in big florals." The company is introducing an illusion bra, which is more sculpted than some other push-up bras in the market. "It's been a rough year, especially in the junior market," said Lara Gamel, designer for Hobie and Surfside, junior divisions of Manhattan Beachwear. "The whole market went very dark because everyone was following sportswear, but I think the swimwear market learned a lesson. It can never deviate from what it knows best." As a result of lackluster sales, Manhattan Beachwear consolidated its three lines into two, scrapping its higher-priced Amica junior contemporary label. The company had a number of suits that wholesaled over $50 last season, but now only sells suits under $50. Looks expected to drive business include crochet fabrics, textured stripes, tie-dyes and popcorn-texture fabrics. Ritchie Swimwear, a Miami-based firm that markets the junior label Pan Dulce, the bridge-price Ritchie's line, and Bacibella, a contemporary label, is counting on animal prints, zebra stripes and dalmatian prints to boost sales. "We are showing a lot of embellishment like gold trim, diamond studs and floral trim at MAGIC," said Jim Snee, regional sales manager for Ritchie. The company now offers its entire two-piece line as separates. Previously, half was separates. "It's been very popular," he said."Everybody's body is different--some have small tops and large bottoms; other consumers have the reverse." Carol Wior Slimsuits is diving into glamour with its resort collection. Its entire line is inspired by celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner, according to Nancy Cochran, merchandiser. The Marilyn Monroe collection has one-piece suits in white embroidered fabric, wholesaling for about $40. The Elizabeth Taylor group comprises white florals, accented with silver on a blue and green background. Its showroom, at 1411 Broadway here, is also being made over to look like a Forties-style night club, complete with a mural of band leader Harry James and his swing band.
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