NEW YORK -- There's one simple, if unconventional, strategy behind Swim New York Ltd., a designer swimwear firm that was founded a year ago.
"We ignore the trends in swimwear," said Loren Laney, 29, a former fashion stylist. With his partner, Bradford Moody, 32, and a former designer of eveningwear, Laney has built the company into a $250,000 business.
"We are a real designer firm that looks to trends in ready-to-wear. We want our swimwear to reflect what is happening in fashion right now," said Laney.
For example, last August, the collection -- sold under the Swim label -- heavily featured silver before SA tapped into the look.
"Ready-to-wear designers were showing a lot of gold then, so we knew that silver would be next," said Laney, who said he gets his inspiration from a variety of sources, like the street, art books and travel.
For cruise 1995, the young design team is introducing lots of vinyl, patent leather and suede fashion looks that are hitting the ready-to-wear scene right now.
The Swim line, which primarily had featured Lycra spandex, has expanded to include french terry, sueded fabric and stretched leather. The collection, whose average wholesale price is $50, includes a black tank suit with a blend of Lycra and suede; a neon yellow and pink halter tank with mesh overlay, in a raschel knit of Lycra; a sueded leather high-neck halter belted suit in brown, black or burnt orange, and a black patent leather suit featuring a scooped back and front.
Tank suits account for 85 percent of the mix, with 10 percent in string bikinis and the remainder in two-pieces.
"We want to be sexy without being sleazy," said Laney, whose line is sold in 40 accounts, including Neiman Marcus and R.H. Macy & Co. Their designs have also been splashed on the covers of Cosmopolitan and Shape and have been featured in Vogue, Elle, Town & Country and GQ. The Swim label has also been showcased on MTV's House of Style with Cindy Crawford, The Rikki Lake Show, and ESPN's Hot Summer Night with Elle Macpherson. NBC's "Today" show recently did a 5-minute segment on the company."We have been shocked about our instant success," said Laney, who is also counting on overseas expansion to help double the company's sales within the next year. By yearend, international business will account for about 15 percent of overall sales.
In April, the firm started selling to Korea, nabbing its first account at a designer boutique called Troa. The Swim label is also being sold in 10 stores in the Caribbean Islands, including St. Martin, St. Barts and Nassau. The Swim label will also be carried in stores in Beruit and Kuwait, starting in early November.
Laney's swimsuit interest began when he was hired as a stylist for a Bain de Soleil suntan lotion layout in May 1993. His job included getting the model and providing the swimsuit. After bringing in about 100 suits, none got approved by the art director, who wanted a suit that was sexy but that wouldn't overwhelm the product message. So Laney and his friend, fashion designer Moody, designed a silver jumbo stretch satin tank and had a sample maker stitch it up for them. It made the ad.
That's when the calls started coming in. More than 400 women who saw the ad in April 1993 called Bain de Soleil headquarters in Cincinnati, asking where to find the suit.
Laney and Moody soon had churned out more than 100 replicas of the prototype, at $135 each. Laney's father, who is president of a Southern supermarket chain, kicked in some financial backing and the duo soon launched a collection.
"We are very happy with our success, but we still have a way to go before we are a major player in the designer swimwear market," said Laney.
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