By  on January 17, 2002

NEW YORK -- In an attempt to cheer up buyers and consumers, swimwear makers showed off scores of colorful swimsuits, a departure from the more muted and sophisticated tones of past seasons.

Interest in vivid florals and preppy tones brought life last week to what is typically a quiet market for summer fill-ins. Having underestimated the resort swimwear business, some buyers scrambled to try to write immediate orders at brands such as Liz Claiborne and Manuel Canovas.

There were plenty of vibrant-print swimsuits geared for lazy days at the pool or beach. More conservative swimsuits, especially one-piece styles, seem primed to make a comeback this summer, given the new conservatism and the plethora of looks showcased last week. Tankinis also took on a more tasteful look, with longer tops that nearly covered the midriff, hinting at consumers buttoning-up their attire.

Monokinis, cutouts, mesh insets and maillots were front and center in a variety of showrooms, including Anne Cole, La Blanca, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren, Speedo and Manuel Canovas. There were also plenty of Marimekko-inspired prints -- vivid oversized florals. Founded in Finland 51 years ago, Marimekko's original business concept of clothing and textile design emerged from a desire to create something uplifting and long-lasting for postwar Finland.

"Everyone wants happy colors like lime green and blues instead of gloomy tones like browns," said Donna Corey, merchandise manager for swimwear maker Gottex. "They also want one-pieces. After Sept. 11, people want to enjoy their lives a little bit more. They want to be comfortable and they don't want to deal with what it takes to wear a two-piece."

Miraclesuit president Jay Feigenbaum, a 30-year-plus veteran of the swimwear industry, said: "Needless to say, with the questionability of the world situation and where the economy is in the recovery cycle, we have to be creative to attract customers."

What Miraclesuit came up with were spliced fabrics with solids and prints, laser cuts and vibrant colors such as glacier blue, yellow and burnt orange. Flexibility is also a must, with some retailers pushing their deliveries back a month or two, Feigenbaum said.

David Burnett, president of Liz Claiborne Swim, and Patricia Ratut, the U.S. sales representative for Manuel Canovas, both noted that stores are still holding off on chasing trends and are frequently disappointed to learn makers are out of stock on key items.

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