ORLANDO, Fla. — Loud colors are out and textured fabrics are in for surf and activewear. That was the message at the Surf Expo trade show held at the Orange County Convention Center here earlier this month.
Over 700 exhibitors showed 1,300 lines, and about 9,000 buyers and guests attended the three-day show, which ended Sunday, Jan. 16.
The general mood was up despite worries about the California economy; a concern even before last week’s earthquake.
Bright hues and wild designs were not a complete washout for wear on shore. They seemed to still be playing an important role in some younger segments of the market, such as volleyball gear. But the emphasis was on muted blends of new materials and plushes, softer colors and weaves that gently steered surfwear toward the outdoor and activewear markets.
For example, Shok, Los Angeles, a maker of sportswear and young women’s swimwear, featured plaids, stripes and textures in softened shades, replacing the traditional floral and Hawaiian prints of the past. Tony Johnson, vice president of sales, noted key colors are hunter green, wine and burgundy trimmed with cream or off-white. Nylon and spandex is a base fiber, he noted, and a sueded version has been doing well. The firm is also using rayon and acetate for vintage looks.
Pointing to the growing scope of Surf Expo, Johnson said: “Major stores shop this market now, and they don’t just look at surfwear.”
New materials were getting a play. Jag Swimwear, designed by DeWeese Fashions of Los Angeles, introduced a new range of suits it called Cordokinetic — featuring what’s claimed to be an exceptionally durable material made of DuPont’s Cordura nylon and Lyrca spandex by H. Warshow & Sons. A company rep demonstrated its toughness by pulling a pin across a swimsuit with no damage. The group comes in earth tones, such as onyx, copper and turquoise.
For men and women who want all-over tans, Medusa Imports Inc., Tampa, offered a 70 percent nylon, 30 percent Lycra knit in Germany, printed in Italy and allows tanning rays through the material. The suits are not see-through. The suits use vibrant prints in many cases, and must be fitted. The manufacturer suggests using number 10 sun block on exposed areas, because the material itself is equivalent to the lotion.
Among the retailers, Lisa Mullens, a swimwear buyer for Sunshine Shops, St. Augustine, Fla., endorsed the trend to softer tones. “I haven’t bought anything in loud colors,” she said. She favored hunter greens, muted pastels, blues and earth tones.
Mark Taylor, owner of Ship and Shore Mercantile Inc. in Panama City Beach, Fla., said he was looking for mid-priced women’s swimwear and sportswear.
“I’m up in spring break territory, so I stick with what college kids want,” he said. “Clustered patterns, more muted than last year, and a combination of fabrics, crochets and knits — even vests. I can sell T-shirts faster than elegant activewear.”