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Hot Kiss Gets Set for the Beach

LOS ANGELES -- Hot Kiss hopes to make a $5 million splash with its new licensed swimwear.<P>As reported, six-year-old junior brand has partnered with Commerce, Calif.-based Manhattan Beachwear on a 50-piece inaugural cruise 2003 line, bowing at the...

LOS ANGELES — Hot Kiss hopes to make a $5 million splash with its new licensed swimwear.

As reported, six-year-old junior brand has partnered with Commerce, Calif.-based Manhattan Beachwear on a 50-piece inaugural cruise 2003 line, bowing at the Miami Swim show July 20-24.

The collection’s 12 groups mirror Hot Kiss’ trend-driven approach to sportswear, including a logo group that the company expects to be key in establishing the brand. “It’s very important for any of our licensed products to look like Hot Kiss,” said owner Moshe Tsabag. “Our name stands for a certain look, and this is what drives our sales.”

In fact, with a reported $40 million in net volume in 2001, Hot Kiss’ rising status is what sealed the deal for Manhattan Beachwear. “We were looking to get on somebody’s bandwagon that could get us some exposure,” he said. “And Hot Kiss, which already has such a great distribution, seemed about to take off.”

Allan Colvin, president of Manhattan Beachwear, said he’s hoping to follow Hot Kiss’ sportswear distribution into Federated, Nordstrom and Dayton stores and to sell to specialty swim stores. He projected the brand would generate $3 million to $5 million in the first year.

Lisa Keen, Manhattan Beachwear’s director of sales, said, “We’d been watching how Hot Kiss had aggressively made a name for itself in fashion denim, without realizing it had already started to license the name. It was a happy coincidence.”

Tsabag said he trusted 14-year-old Manhattan Beachwear, which owns three local factories and does most of its production in-house, to similarly forge his brand’s reputation in the competitive swim arena.

He singled out what he believes will be an important look for the company: the lip-print bikini, which bears the same pattern that appears in the pocket linings of Hot Kiss denim. A Louis Vuitton-inspired initial logo will also bow in Miami.

But Keen is banking that those are only two of many looks that will take off in 2003. “As a swimwear maker, you have to incorporate as many of the sportswear trends as possible into the smallest amount of fabric possible,” she said.

Some examples: animal, floral and tropical prints woven into one fabric, and suede-like suits with bohemian embroidery and rhinestones.

The line sports such other embellishments as faux turquoise accents, braided suede, beads, lip-shaped hardware and coconut-shell hoops. Key groups are mixed prints, ditsy florals, stripes, hibiscus and faux leather.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Hot Kiss without denim. A stitched pocket embellishes an indigo triangle top. There are also denim details like fringe, grommets and trendy washes.

But brand doesn’t necessarily drive purchases, according to Stephanie Rogers, manager of Everything But Water in Beverly Hills, who said that it’s the suit itself, not the brand. Hot Kiss, though, may be in luck because “the denim look is in,” she noted.

Silhouettes include the key-wrap halter and variations on it, the trikini, low-rise bikini bottoms and abbreviated boy briefs. Separates will range from $16 to $24 wholesale, sets for $32 to $40.

Keen noted the more contemporary cuts and sophisticated, muted color palette are new territory for Manhattan Beachwear, which produces junior and misses’ styles under the Hobie, Surfside, Ocean Avenue and VM Sport labels.”