By  on September 26, 2007

Men's wear brand Modern Amusement for the first time is trying to build a women's business with a swimwear collection that heralds the kickoff of women's sportswear next year.

The target customer for the swimwear, which launched for spring 2008 last month at Project Global Tradeshows in Las Vegas, is the female counterpart of Modern Amusement's core male devotee — a fashion-conscious twenty- to fortysomething. This shopper frequents stores such as Barneys New York and Lisa Kline in Los Angeles, both among the boutiques and better stores in which Modern Amusement wants to sell the swimsuits.

"She is sexy first and foremost, but we always want to keep to the taste level that we have established with our Modern Amusement men's line," creative director John Moore said. "Swimwear just seemed like a great canvas to showcase our Modern Amusement signature as being attention to detail, eclectic prints and patterns, dynamic color."

The compact swimwear collection's six design groups feature classic black-and-white, solids, geometric circle prints, railroad stripes, suspenders and appliquéd crow brand icons, said Patricia Osmanson, a senior vice president at swimwear maker Lunada Bay, which produces the suits under a license agreement with Modern Amusement. Atypical touches differentiate the line, including a bag of interchangeable snaps that goes with one style and an upside-down triangle inset paneling on the bottoms of another. Pink, charcoal gray, green, black and white are prominent colors.

"It is such a contemporary, clean line, but there is such a whimsy to it and sophistication," Osmanson said.

"There are a lot of things out there in the swimwear world,'' Moore said. "We didn't want to go over the top with unnecessary and frivolous design. We wanted the print and the color to speak for themselves."

The entry of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Modern Amusement to the women's market via swimwear has a familiar feel to Osmanson. About 18 years ago, she noted, Mossimo kicked off its women's business the same way with Lunada Bay. That brand's namesake, Mossimo Giannulli, bought Modern Amusement in 2004 for $375,000 from its founder, Jeff Yokoyama, who went on to establish sportswear label Generic Youth. Giannulli bought the brand a second time last year for $4.8 million from Iconix Brand Group Inc. after Iconix's $119 million purchase of Mossimo."I feel very much like I did when we first launched Mossimo, and we were the number-one contemporary line in the United States,'' Osmanson said. "It has just been all so easy and so natural. I have a whole explosion going forward [with Modern Amusement]. We are going to watch and be in sync with women's sportswear."

A majority of the suits in the Modern Amusement swimwear collection are reversible, and at least a single one-piece is offered in each group. Bottoms are available in two silhouettes: a cut dubbed Modern Classic with basic coverage, and a Modern Muse cut that's slimmer than a standard Brazilian. Bikini tops revolve around halters, triangles and bandeaux, and select styles come in D cups.

Wholesale prices for the line, sold as separates, range from $36 to $109. Moore and Osmanson declined to project first-year sales. "We have always just exceeded expectations every time we have a new little child, as I call it, that we take to the market," Osmanson said.

Modern Amusement had been developing a women's sportswear collection before the swimwear introduction, but Moore held back the sportswear, now scheduled to drop in fall next year, because more time was needed to perfect it.

"Once you establish yourself in one category, which we have in men's wear, it is important that what you put out into the market is on par or better," he said. "The swimwear is undoubtedly ready, and we will keep working on a collection in sportswear."

Although Moore insisted it was difficult to draw parallels between a spring collection and a fall collection, he said "the ingredients are the same" in the women's swimwear and in sportswear. He pointed out that innovative elements — for example, the brand pioneered reversibility in boardshorts — that have set Modern Amusement apart in the men's arena will continue in women's swimwear and sportswear.

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