By and  on February 23, 1994

LOS ANGELES -- Traffic was thin at the Preview '95 edition of the International Swimwear and Activewear Market, but the buyers who turned up appeared ready for business.

They sought textured maillots in solid colors and fuller cuts and also small floral print bikinis to add variety to the continued strength in gingham suits, which have been popular for over a year.

The three-day event, which ended last Wednesday, featured goods from 36 California Mart showrooms. While she declined to release specific figures, ISAM coordinator Barbara Brady described traffic as "definitely down."

She noted that last month's earthquake and its strong aftershocks kept away some out-of-town buyers. Moreover, she said, because of the tough economy, fewer companies are producing preview collections.

Among the collections on view, the important gingham looks were updated with lattice detail, lace trim and new colorways, including green and white.

In other trends, gauzy cover-ups were plentiful, and several junior swimwear resources were spotlighting athletic stripes.

"I like crinkled textures," said Sandy Richman, an owner of Directives West, a buying service here. "It's the most important trend of the season."

Shopping for clients that included Saks Fifth Avenue, Carter Hawley Hale, Federated Department Stores and Gantos stores, Richman noted that, in colors, earth tones were important. She cited offerings by Anne Klein and Amber Bay as appealing.

Paul Killigrew, director of merchandise for The La Costa Spa Catalog, a national catalog based in Carlsbad, Calif., shopped for updated misses' swimwear. He favored classic looks, including nautical-theme suits with underwire bras and tank suits.

The buyer sought solid brights as well as all-American red, white and blue, but unlike many, Killigrew stayed away from textured fabrications.

"Textures do not show up well in photographs," he explained, adding that he was looking for smooth-finish nylon or cotton and Lycra spandex suits at $24 to $40 wholesale.

With his sales volume doubled in 1993, Killigrew said he increased his February open-to-buy 50 percent. He attributed the business's success to growing acceptance of swimwear shopping by catalog. The buyer said he was impressed with goods by Sirena, Anne Klein, Look & Sea, Amber Bay and Cazimi, but wished there were more preview lines at market.Ann Wenitsky, divisional merchandise manager for Beall's Outlet, in Bradenton, Fla., a chain of 80 stores, shopped for off-price swimwear wholesaling at $5 and $10. When it came to fashion, though, she cited both bright florals and textured solids as important.

Dawn Falgout, president of Do-Ops Inc., a buying service in Sherman Oaks, Calif., was at market to find full-figure swimwear for Hibiscus, a women's boutique opening later this month in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California South, Mexico. She gravitated to textured suits, including those with puffed fabrics, appliques and piping.

Small floral prints, vertical stripes and solids in neutral colors all made her list. Shopping price points up to $70 wholesale, she noted, "In the past three years, the population in Cabo has tripled. And the women there need swimsuits."

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