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LOS ANGELES — With moderately priced swimwear inching toward even lower price points, 17-year designer veteran Robin Piccone is angling to get in on the action by offering her high-style sensibility to an increasing number of women looking for suits at less than $100 retail.
This story first appeared in the July 9, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Piccone streamlined her company four years ago when she gave up the Guess license to focus on her signature designer line. Now, she’s building her company’s portfolio back up again to include a junior label, Dr. Bombay, launched last year, and a new moderate Robin Piccone Swimwear line, which will bow at the Miami Swim Show next week.
“It’s the same sensibility as the designer line at a lower price point,” said Piccone from her West Los Angeles headquarters. The separates line, which averages $24 apiece wholesale or $48 for a one-piece suit, is part of the new wave of design-driven swimwear at lower prices hitting the market this season, and swimwear makers are expecting increased sales as a result. “The response to Dr. Bombay really opened our eyes to what was possible…for suits retailing under $100,” noted Piccone. By contrast, her designer line retails at $140 to $150 a suit. “I think the number of people who spend $200 on a suit is small.”
Clearly, her new line is still driven by style, but with a bigger emphasis on volume.
Robin Piccone Swimwear’s new vice president, Roy Schwartz, formerly a 20-year veteran at Apparel Ventures Inc., where he helped build the separates sales business, projects the line will bring in about $4 million in its first year. Eventually, he said, it should comprise about 50 percent of the company’s total portfolio, with the junior and designer lines generating 30 and 20 percent, respectively. “In that under-$100 category, you’re talking about the masses. That’s what’s important in big business,” he said.
“Buyers are looking for new resources. It’s not as much about licensed swimwear as it is about new things,” he continued, noting that department stores, once second to specialty stores in terms of prestige and novelty lines, are catching up. “A perfect example is Bebe and Becca. These separates lines are becoming staples in some department stores,” he said.
Piccone is hoping the details and simple silhouettes that have become her signature will attract those buyers. The line’s October delivery includes tankinis, one-pieces, halters and bra tops with soft inner construction, shorts bottoms and lower-riding bikini bottoms in saturated deep green and berry-eggplant with contrasting pastel piping. The later group will feature the same silhouettes in offbeat pastels, such as lighter versions of burnt orange or navy, not baby colors. The 12 groups comprising the line also will feature soft activewear pieces, like yoke pants, and casual sportswear, like zip-up jackets.
Unlike other fashiony misses’ lines, Piccone’s new group will focus on solids and subtle prints that almost appear solid. The trims and details, like a bikini bottom with asymmetric color blocking or ties on only one side, will add dimension.
“We’re just sticking with one special detail and not too many bells and whistles. I did that last season. This year I don’t want women jangling down the beach,” Piccone laughed. “And I do feel the future is separates. There is a designer customer who wants one specific suit but for a lot of women, there are size and versatility issues, so I can’t see why this line wouldn’t find its customers.”