By  on July 27, 2011

Miami swim week has reached a new high-water mark.

As attendees navigated last week’s zenith of collections at Swim Association of Florida’s 29th annual SwimShow at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Salon Allure at the W hotel from July 16-19, runway shows around Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim at the Raleigh, off-site showrooms and all sorts of events, the term tossed around most was “overwhelming.” There was a lot of innovation and variety to digest from one of the strongest selections in seasons.

“Retailers are having a hard time narrowing down the newness,” said Paulette Thompson, swimwear analyst for trend forecasting firm The Doneger Group.

“We’re having a field day with all these trends,” agreed Howie Greller, vice president of merchandising for Manhattan Beachwear, which licenses 17 brands such as Modern Amusement, a new preppy line from the creator of Mossimo, and a repositioned Puma.

SAF executive director Judy Stein said this was SwimShow’s largest turnout with 8,200 attendees, a 15 percent increase from last year, and more buyers from the U.K. and Europe. Exhibitors also hit a new high, with 400 showing 2,500 brands including 100 new vendors. She said she hadn’t seen this level of enthusiasm since 2008.

“There was a positive atmosphere and the feeling of a rebounding retail market,” she said. “Buyers [appreciated] that designers are designing again, and it translated to sales.”

Melisa Belinger, director of merchandising for Everything but Water, an Orlando-based specialty chain with 58 stores, was among them: “[There was] an abundance of fresh product and a cohesive color palette.”

Salon Allure hosted 350 visitors, 130 of which were new, according to event producer Rick Fatzinger. Approximately 1,100 people came out for opening-night runway shows over the pool for Melissa Odabash and Julien MacDonald’s new collaboration, followed by a group presentation of 30 designers.

At the two trade shows, any vestiges from swim’s frumpy or run-of-the-mill past had been erased. Like many categories, it’s been overhauled for a fitter consumer with a youthful attitude who favors the same contemporary styles as in apparel.

“Even our conservative customer goes for statement one- pieces,” said Gottex creative director Molly Grad.

Other key trends like saturated color, ethnic looks, tribal prints, fringe, crochet, lace, color blocking, tea rose florals, nautical, wild print mixes, high-waisted retro bottoms and bandeaus came across as modern.

Mother Nature is playing her part, too. Last year’s cold, rainy spring and June gloom gave way to heat wave or perfect holiday conditions across the country this year — driving consumers to the nearest swimming hole.

Laurel Jones, owner of Swimwear Solution boutique near Kansas City, Mo., reported “fantastic” sales. “June increased 16 percent from last year, and July, which usually wanes, is still going strong because of the heat,” she said, though her buying budget remains the same.

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