By  on January 7, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- Resortwear favorite Tommy Bahama is hitting the water.

Its swimwear line bows at market in New York this week, and buyers can expect faithful interpretations of the brand's signature sportswear, as well as sexier, contemporary pieces duly suited for collegians on spring break and more mature women opting for a cruise.

The nine-year-old brand, with headquarters in New York and Seattle, chose fit-conscious Apparel Ventures as its swim licensee last October to turn its signature jacquard prints, sueded fabrics and muted colors into true-to-size swimwear that would appeal to its core 35- to 55-year-old customer base as well as a wider range of consumers, including a younger crowd.

"They did a great job of hitting the center of the target, but appealing to the contemporary woman is important, too," said Tommy Bahama chief executive officer Tony Margolis of Apparel Ventures. "If you don't have some of that, you paint yourself into a box." Margolis emphasized that a solid color line is integral to business success. But he believes the jacquard print will be important for the brand. "Without that, you can dance at the party but you will never be the center attraction," he added.

Apparel Ventures president Lynn Koplin didn't blink at having just three months to produce the spring collection. It's one of three per year. And she insisted that the timing of the deliveries is on target.

"With the 9/11 events, the resort business was a little off this season, so shipping for late-February/early-March will work because that's when people will start traveling again," she said. "When you ship for spring, you appeal to the young customer who's just now taking her vacation. She's not a winter resort person, she's spring break."

One-piece maillots account for about 60 percent of the line. Leather belts, bamboo hoops and wooden beads are among the details defining the line. Suits are merchandised with matching cover-ups, such as pareos and tops.

The line is priced to retail from $80-$100.

Also indicative of Tommy Bahama's reach for a younger customer is the decision to split the line into half constructed and half unconstructed suits.Noting that it takes about three seasons for a line to prove itself, Margolis insists he doesn't have a "magic number in mind, in terms of sales."

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