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Newness Thrives in Swimwear

NEW YORK — Instead of whistling the same old tune, swimwear makers struck some new chords to drum up interest in the $2 billion swimwear industry.<br><br>Nautica set sail under the Authentic Fitness team and Ralph Lauren swimwear bowed at the...

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NEW YORK — Instead of whistling the same old tune, swimwear makers struck some new chords to drum up interest in the $2 billion swimwear industry.

This story first appeared in the August 14, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Nautica set sail under the Authentic Fitness team and Ralph Lauren swimwear bowed at the Apparel Ventures showroom. Each brand was previously produced by the other licensee.

Reviewing the new Nautica swimwear at Authentic Fitness, David Chu, founder and designer of Nautica said the aim is to extend the swimwear into beachwear, making it more of a lifestyle brand, as evidenced by the mesh long-sleeve dress, low-waisted striped pants with a drawstring waistband, hooded lightweight sweaters and nylon pullovers that fold up into a bag.

“Nautica is really about being authentic and active and being yourself. These designs are for someone who is confident with herself,” said Chu, who draws inspiration from island getaways to far-off locales like Bora Bora and Martinique.

For Nautica signature, Authentic Fitness has dressed up the styles with plunging necklines, string bikinis and low-waisted bottoms adding more sex appeal. The color palette is more sophisticated, black and white being the dominant colors, with a dash of orange here and there.

The brand’s collection line has more of a sporty feel with mesh ribs and sweater-type ribs and is offered in more classic colors like cadet blue and yellow. To reinforce branding, images of sailboats and the Nautica name are also imprinted on swimwear, clasps and other hardware.

Surf-influenced styles are a big part of the Nautica Blue line of separates geared for women between the ages of 14 and 22. Chu’s 14-year-old daughter serves as a muse of sorts for that group. “She is my radar,” he said.

Apparel Ventures has tweaked the groups for Ralph Lauren swimwear. In addition to Ralph Lauren collection, Lauren by Ralph Lauren and Ralph by Ralph Lauren, the company is offering Ralph Lauren Blue, which is aimed at stores that used to buy Ralph Lauren Sport. The flirty Blue collection includes a madras string bikini with a coordinating pouch and a parachute-material miniskirt, and is intended for upper-tier better specialty stores, an Apparel Ventures spokeswoman said.

Apparel Ventures put the finishing touches on its new Ralph Lauren showroom, which has separate rooms for the designer’s swimwear collections.

The $90 million company was also talking up Playa by La Blanca, a new contemporary sportswear line designed by Rod Beattie, and OP’s Seven2 junior swimwear. It also produces La Blanca, Tommy Bahama, Anne Klein, AK, Sessa, OP and OP Classics swimwear.

At the Beach Patrol showroom, the buzz was about its new licensed Kenneth Cole and Reaction swimwear. Combined, the lines are expected to be carried in more than 1,000 doors this fall, said Alan Schwartz, executive vice president. Cole’s signature line will retail for $80 to $100 and is more understated than Reaction, which will retail between $70 and $90.

“The swimwear business has been very strong in junior and contemporary designs. There seems to be a big transition into more status-driven, casual product,” Schwartz said.

Torey Schulof was busy talking up her new swimwear showroom, which represents Lisa Curran Swim, Bella Brazil, Vix Swimwear, Lenny and Sofia by Vix. Named after her late grandfather, J. Rosen, the 700-square-foot showroom is located at 250 West 39th Street and opened in June. The company also reps Tina Coloda, a kitschy coverup line, and Havianas flip-flops, a favorite with beach goers.

Schulof worked in swimwear sales for two years before stepping out on her own and now sells her lines to 100 specialty stores and departments stores.

Unlike in years past, buyers are more interested in getting the bulk of their swimwear in January instead of November, and Schulof has changed her shipments accordingly. “Cruise is really slowing down and spring is so much stronger,” she said.

Beach Patrol’s Michelle Pisano, senior vice president of merchandising, said many buyers were writing orders during market instead of waiting until October as they usually do. The company’s Jag Swim Systems was attracting a lot of interest for its sexy, but sporty separates.

“The contemporary business is coming back,” she said.

Beach Patrol, a $55 million operation, also makes Esprit and L.E.I. swimwear.

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