NEW YORK -- Silke Schalk, the 30-year-old German-born designer, objected to the frou-frou floral swimsuits and droopy, neon crocheted coverups she saw in the swimwear marketplace.
As an antidote to all of the seaside glitz, she developed the Blu line a year ago -- a collection of cotton and Lycra spandex swimsuits and mix-and-match separates. Looks range from long pencil-shaped sarongs and tubes to slim tank tops with yards of matching cord that can be wrapped, princess-style, around the midriff.
The color palette for the resort 1995 line consists of pale dusty blue, navy, brown, black and white -- colors and shades that flatter more skin types than the traditional beach neons, she said.
Blu was carried last year at Barneys Co-op, the downtown New York boutique Intermix, and Waterwear on Madison Avenue, she said. Wholesale prices range from $15 to $40 per piece.
Schalk is more or less a one-woman operation; she hired only one employee, and all Blu production is contracted out to a Long Island manufacturer.
"I want to allow women to look comfortable and fashionable without being flashy," said Schalk. "Beach culture has changed because women do not want to burn their skin. They want to walk around, protect their skin and look good. The line is beachwear, but it can also be worn on the street."
"Crossing over is something that's happening in a lot of different markets -- slipdresses with high heels and bras with jeans," she added.
Blu's future may hold an even greater movement toward transitional looks, she said, as evidenced by a few poplin pants, tops and dresses introduced last month for resort.
"A soft sweater or a great pair of loose pants makes a lot of sense for the beach," she said. "Separates also extend sales beyond the few months when buyers are looking for swimsuits."
One last wish for the future: "I'd love to open little Blu stores someday," mused Schalk. "I want to show customers how to mix and match my pieces."
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