LOS ANGELES — When it comes to the blue waters, brown seems to be the new black.

Swim retailers and manufacturers at ASR Trade Expo believe that chocolate and its sister shades will bring in plenty of green next spring, but are puzzled by its popularity.

From solids with natural novelty trims to prints accented with pink or blue, chocolate dominated much of the business at the 85 swim vendor booths. While Becca and Esprit showed new ways to wear brown with batik prints and crochet items, Billabong and L Space showed more sophisticated graphics.

"Chocolate brown is nice to see for a change, as are camel and orange," said Cindy Scott, owner of Sundance Sports in Stockton, Calif., who visited Becca, Raisins and Roxy on day one. "We cut back last year. But winter was big and we’ve had a good summer, so we’ve increased our open-to-buy. I think everyone’s back and ready to go."

At Girl Star, Amanda Moore of Rincon Designs, a Carpenteria, Calif., store, said she was "looking for suits that are flattering yet simple and don’t draw attention to the hips or butt with too much fabric." She said Girl Star’s slider tops and bottoms with pearlized beads fit the bill.

Over at Billabong’s booth, buyers filed in to grab seats for the fashion show.

"I’m starting to see interest for solids with beads," said Cheryl Weg, owner of Sportsworld in Lynden, Wash., nodding toward a tan suede and turquoise number heading down the runway. "Brown also seems big, but I think it’s just starting up."

Raisins marketing manager Kelly Ellingson was surprised that buyers reacted so strongly to solids because prints typically drive the business.

"They’ve been loving pastels, and of course, brown," she said.

Ditto at Manhattan Beachwear, where sales manager Lisa Keen said, "hippie brown and anything natural is trending in the Hot Kiss line."

Other key trends included more embellishment and novelty, now in the form of isolated embroidery on one triangle cup or the back of a bikini bottom; beaded string bottoms and side-ties; wooden rings and beads, and Swarovski crystal clusters dangling off side-ties or halter closures.

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