WWD.com/fashion-news/fashion-features/scanning-the-globe-for-swim-trends-760480/

NEW YORK — To many, Iris LeBron’s job is one to envy.

This story first appeared in the July 18, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Three times a year she leaves this country to scour remote boutiques in Saint-Tropez and other romantic locales in search of swimwear trends. As fashion director of swimwear for DuPont, LeBron is the point person for dozens of swimwear manufacturers and textile mills to help them keep an eye on the next big trends.

Last month, she checked out the scene in Cannes and Saint-Tropez; in September, she will shop stores in Lyon, France, and in January, she heads to Monte Carlo. On the French Riviera, she scouted 25 stores and eyed swimwear on the beaches. Europeans tend to try out trends faster than Americans, and swimsuits seen in storefront windows on the French Riviera can often be seen on beaches that same day, LeBron noted.

During her most recent foray, she dug up swimsuits with graphic swirls, back details, surface texture, hardware and elegant touches like garter belts and pearl embellishments.

Her stops in stores take anywhere from five minutes to half an hour, depending on what she finds. A day at the beach generally stretches from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., with time off to take in the informal modeling that is generally shown at beachside pools. There, her photographer, David Flores, may capture one of the many looks LeBron will show during her trend presentations when she returns to New York.

“We might sneak a photo if we can or ask to take one,” she said. “I try to blend in and act like we’re vacationing, so we don’t stick out too much like a vulture.”

When LeBron does actually vacation, she tends to frequent beaches like those in Cancun and Puerto Rico, so she can keep an eye out for new trends.

During her most recent trip, she bought 55 swimsuits — 15 more than last year. This time around, her favorite find was a navy Jean Paul Gaultier one-piece with a white tattoo-inspired underlay that can be wrapped and tied to look like a two-piece suit. The $200 item also drapes and is Grecian-inspired.

“It’s not always as glamorous as it seems, but I do enjoy it,” she said. “It’s kind of scary, too. I don’t know what will be there and I have the responsibility of having to do the [trend] presentation when I come back.”

LeBron said she keeps her mill customers in mind when checking out the sites overseas.

“It’s almost like I’m the manager of a boutique keeping my little clients in mind and looking for what might work for them,” she said.

But it’s not just the foreign locales that hold her interest, she said. “I enjoy shopping even if it’s just looking.””