By  on August 2, 2007

In what is proving to be a fun niche in the swim industry, more designers are fashioning mother-daughter swimwear, tapping into what they say is a trend that had its genesis in street clothes and T-shirts, but has since overlapped into all categories.

Denise Richards and Kelly Ripa have shown up on the beach in crocheted Lyla Blu bikinis, their young daughters sporting the same style. Brooke Shields and her two baby girls have been spotted in Greta's Garden floral-print swim ensembles made by Aqua Swimwear, and actress/model-turned-designer Elizabeth Hurley has added to her swim line a sexy leopard print one-piece swimsuit featuring a daring lace-up front for mom and a sweet ruffle on a pint-size version for girls.

Natalie Walker, president of Aqua Swimwear in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., is among those who champion the trend. "I thought, wouldn't it be so cute to match my little girl's swimsuit to my own?" she said.

The brand launched five years ago with around five fabrics and a handful of styles, but has grown to include resortwear, cover-ups and dresses, and sells in approximately 50 stores nationwide. The collection features pretty, lively prints and colors — including lots of pink, fresh-looking whites and blues — and includes extras like dangling crystal hearts, embroideries and appliqués.

"We always have matching skirts for both mother and daughter that they can wear like a sun dress, as well as matching T-shirts," Walker said.

Wholesale prices are $21 to $24 for the children's line and $44 for the women's offerings. (All the adult-sized clothes are sold as separates.) Walker said the biggest challenge lies in merchandising: The ideal is to have both collections sold side-by-side, but most retailers aren't able to accommodate that.

Walker is building the business through family-friendly resort stores.

"We're also working with event people to bring back the idea of mother-daughter times," said Walker. "I remember the good-old days when moms and daughters would do things together. We'd like to incorporate teas, fashion shows, things that moms can bring their little girls to to have fun together."

Some designers say they started creating the mommy-and-me looks as a result of customer demand. Lyla Blu, an Oak Park, Calif., brand, originally started as a children's clothing line in 2005. But when designer Lisa Leija turned out an offering of cute, best-selling crocheted bikinis for children, mothers asked her to do identical pieces for them. Now going into its third season, the mother-daughter bikinis represent an increasingly important part of Lyla Blu's business. Leija estimates sales are up nearly 90 percent, with a significant online business and distribution through stores like Planet Blue.

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