NEW YORK--The cleavage wars appear to be moving from the boudoir to the beach. Amid much hoopla, Beach Patrol Inc., which markets such swimwear labels as Baja Blue and Tango Rose, launched its own push-up, push-out version at Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship Wednesday morning with a breakfast showing for the press. "It is certainly the year of the cleavage," said Arnold Gale, executive vice president of Beach Patrol, surrounded by five models wearing two-piece swimsuits with the Mighty Bra. "Everywhere you are seeing it," Gale continued. "It was first in lingerie, then the designers began showing a lot of it. So, it is only a natural extension to have it in swimwear." Beach Patrol and other swimsuit firms have been adding padding and underwire over the past couple of years to accentuate the bust, but they are taking it one step further for cruise 1995. Victoria's Secret has launched the Miracle Bra in its swimsuit line; Jantzen Inc., which offered its Magic bra last season in Electric Beach, its junior line, is bringing it to its other lines this year with a major marketing push; La Blanca, a division of Apparel Ventures, is offering a W bra; Mainstream has its Wonderlift, and Sara Lee Foundations, the maker of the Wonderbra, is whipping up its own swimwear version, its first foray in swimsuits since the late Seventies. The Wonderbra suits will be manufactured by Christina, a Montreal-based swimwear firm, said a Sara Lee spokeswoman. She said the suits will be in 1,000 specialty and department store doors by early March. Gale of Beach Patrol said the Mighty Bra, which boasts foam cups, removable push-up pads and a special underwire that pushes the breasts together, is being offered in its junior lines--Tango Rose and Rebel Beach--as well as its contemporary Swim Systems and Baja Blue lines. The suits, which wholesale from $34 to $37, will be in all 49 branches of Saks Fifth Avenue this week. They are expected to be on the shelves of other retailers in the next month or so, Gale said. The look will not be offered in Beach Patrol's classic line, Amber Bay. Gale said the look perfectly fits the company's image, since 45 percent of the firm's line is two-piece suits. The Mighty Bra initially will be offered only in two-piece suits, but is expected to hit the one-piece line for spring, he said. "It takes a lot more technology to offer the look in one-piece suits because you have to consider various torso lengths," Gale said. Other swimsuit firms are playing up their own assets. "Nobody knows the bra business like we do. We know how a bra is supposed to fit," said the spokeswoman at Sara Lee, which is offering its Wonderbra in two-piece and one-piece styles for spring selling. "We are going to deliver more dramatic cleavage than anyone else." The Wonderbra swimsuits, made by Christina, wholesale for $30 for the two-piece and $35 for the one-piece. Peter Rubin, president of Mainstream Swimwear, which is shipping the line for late November delivery, said he has more one-piece suits with the Wonderlift bra than two-piece versions. "Our customer is a misses' customer, but yet she is sophisticated," Rubin said. "She has a fluffy tummy, and so she doesn't want two-piece suits, yet she still wants cleavage." The line wholesales from $27 to $30. Jantzen is doing a promotional partnership program with Vanity Fair Mills, a sister division, according to Robert Yost, vice president of advertising and event marketing. Starting in August, the firm is launching print campaigns and in-store posters that say, "In the dressing room it's uplifting. On the beach it's Magic." Yost said he attributed a 30 percent increase in sales in the Electric Beach line last year partly to the Miracle Bra. "At first, we though it was the plaids, but then we realized that the reason for our increase in sales was because we were offering more cleavage," he said. "There is definitely a lot of hype, but it is working," said Gale, noting that he expects the Mighty Bra to add about 20 percent to sales this year. Cleavage enhancement also pumps up the price, adding about $3 to $5 at retail per swimsuit, but manufacturers say consumers are willing to pay the difference. "I think that is a small price to pay to look good," said Rubin. "When she goes out on the beach, there is nothing between her and the world except her swimsuit."
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