By  on May 8, 2006

LOS ANGELES — Patagonia, the action sportswear company that entered the apparel market in 1973 by outfitting mountain climbers, is hitting the beach.

The Ventura, Calif., company, which operates 45 stores, primarily in the U.S. and Asia, will open its first "ocean-based" store on June 2 in the small surf town of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif., near San Diego.

The estimated 4,000-square-foot unit will feature a range of new pieces, including unisex wet suits, rash guards (thin surf shirts), a new men's wear line and "anything an ocean athlete would want to wear when not in the water, like T-shirts, shorts and pants," said Jen Rapp, director of public relations.

Patagonia has previously sold a cross-section of surf items, including the Water Girl line of swimsuits and casualwear, which debuted in 2000, and surf boards designed by founder Yvon Chouinard's son, Fletcher Chouinard. Patagonia views its foray into an increasingly crowded market as an opportunity to bring its anti-trend aesthetics to the water sports apparel category. While the design team based the wet suits, board shorts and women's swimwear on a swimmer fit, Helena Barbour, product line director for the surf apparel, said, "There's a classicism and a timelessness that won't alienate our existing customer."

Violeta Villacorta, senior designer for Water Girl, said the women's line, which includes sundresses and easy-fitting pants and skirts cut from organic cotton, has been fully realized.

"We're really trying to target a more sophisticated woman," Villacorta said. "It's not your cute, stay-at-the-beach-and-parade-around-in-your-bikini [apparel]. The fit is for someone who has muscle."

Solid-colored bikini bottoms come in a range of styles, depending on the amount of coverage the wearer wants. Bikini tops are generously cut, with athletic movement in mind.

"We always want to make a line that is clean, that doesn't have too many gadgets," Villacorta said. "We will never be trendy, but we will have pieces that have good styling."

John Rapp, designer for Patagonia, which had revenue of $240 million last year, said there's room in the market for another surf brand. "I think the existing surf brands are almost a little bit of a different animal," he said. "They're so trendy, so quick moving, and they're going after a younger customer. They do that so elegantly, but maybe they lack that sense of timelessness."

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