NEW YORK — The ocean of swimwear brands is about to get more crowded, and the new players jumping into the mix couldn’t be more different.
Izod swimwear, part of a major launch of the brand into women’s wear, is aimed at those who favor preppy styles with a misses’ cut. Mama by Lisa Curran is designed for style-conscious pregnant women, while Lustythreads is an Australian label known for its spare silhouettes.
They’re all hoping to get their piece of the estimated $1.8 billion market.
Last month, Kellwood Co. signed a deal with Phillips-Van Heusen Corp. to develop a women’s swimwear collection under the Izod brand. Kellwood executives said this will be the brand’s debut in swimwear, even though Izod has used swimwear in its advertising and has provided swimsuits to a few lifeguard crews.
“We started this great partnership in women’s sportswear and we knew we could work together on very exciting brand extensions,” said Robert Skinner, corporate vice president for Kellwood, referring to the PVH deal to license Izod women’s wear to Kellwood, which has set a spring rollout. “It’s youthful and action-oriented and set to do good things at retail.”
Yacht club texture, tennis club terry and collegiate stripe are among the groups in the 60-style collection that bows next month during the New York swimwear market. Block Island, the Breakers Hotel and Izod’s new home furnishings line provided some inspiration for the line.
Distribution will focus on department and specialty stores, and retail prices will range from$68 to $74. Highlights include a halter swim dress with a circular bamboo clasp on the back, a matte striped two-piece with a ribbon tie and a white signature terry tennis dress.
Aimed at women between the ages of 30 and 45, as well as those 45 to 55 with a younger attitude, the swimwear has an athletic influence, but will reflect current trends, said Lori Oscher, vice president of swimwear. Within two or three years, annual wholesale volume is expected to be $10 million, Skinner said.
To get consumers revved up about the new swimwear, Izod will mail “hundreds of thousands” of postcards carrying a photo of a woman running on the shore in an Izod tank.“People have different views about how to spend their money,” Skinner said. “Ours leans more toward advertising to drive sales than having special events.”
Mama by Lisa Curran will also debut during next month’s market week. Curran said she designed hew own swimsuit when she was expecting her second child a few years back.
“No one was making trendy maternity swimwear,” she said. “That customer wants something to be fashionable, feminine and sexy at the same time, without looking matronly.”
An apron-style tankini, a tank with lingerie straps and a two-piece halter are among the key styles, which will wholesale for about $55. Curran designs her own prints and will also use them for the maternity line. In the U.S., 25 stores will carry the Mama line and Curran hopes to double that figure before the end of the year.
She said she has not “pushed” the newest component of her business, but news of it has spread by word-of-mouth. Specialty stores, especially new maternity boutiques, have contacted her about the new group. Curran sees maternity swimwear as more of a year-round business, since pregnant women don’t have the option of wearing an old swimsuit when they go to warm climates in the off season.
On another note, the company has hired sales reps in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Europe to build sales overseas.
Known for its barely there bikinis, Lustythreads is at the other end of the spectrum. The Australian company has 80 bikini styles in unlikely fabrics and colors like velvet and nude. Last month, it launched an e-commerce site, lustythreads.com.
Half of the brand’s sales are generated from its stars-and-stripes G-string bikini, according to Victoria Brown, who cofounded the company with Jennifer St. George in a garage in Brisbane, Australia. The duo worked together in Internet marketing and founded the business last December.
“Our major point of difference is that we are a bold Internet-only company, producing the tiniest bikinis on the Web in the latest fashion fabrics,” Brown said.
Other swimwear labels are pursuing various avenues to bolster sales.
Liz Claiborne will show off its new mix-and-match separates collection at the swimwear show in Miami, July 19-24. Tops are offered in bra sizes and bottoms are offered in petite, small, medium and large.Manuel Canovas has introduced children’s and men’s swimwear. Les Touts Petits, a Ridgefield, N.J.-based brand, is launching a pre-teen and junior line at the Miami show.
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