PARIS — Lingerie influences were all over the spring ready-to-wear runways and now they are headed to the beach and making their mark on the swimwear market.

This story first appeared in the December 28, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Among brands already blurring the innerwear-swimwear divide for spring is Eres, an upscale lingerie and swimwear brand that has reinterpreted its Lydia triangle bra as a bikini.

“I’ve also used a lot of nude, which is traditionally a lingerie color,” said the brand’s head designer, Valérie Delafosse. “I loved the idea of seeing nudes against the sand.”

Jean Paul Gaultier is adding pizzazz to the beachwear category with a new bathing suit version of his iconic, flesh-tone, corsetry-inspired bodysuit for spring.

Fifi Chachnil, who has developed a cultlike following in France, said, “Swimwear is often based on triangles or knotted pieces that move around, but to me it’s always seemed obvious that it should be even more structured than lingerie if you’re going to be parading around the beach.”

Chachnil noted she has long applied lingerie techniques to swimwear. Highlights from Chachnil’s spring line include a high-cut, corsetry-inspired panty with ribbon fastening and a separate bra-inspired top that together gives the allure of a one-piece style.

Chachnil said she often uses swimwear fabric bases with lingerie trims such as ribbon on lace.

“The trend will soon catch on,” she said. “It always takes a while.”

Anna Maria La Bianca, a former intimates designer for Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein Underwear who has just launched a signature lingerie and swimwear brand, predicted the trend will be “major,” likely to be explored first by creative luxury brands before being adopted by the mass market.

Elements of La Bianca’s lingerie-flavored beachwear range, produced in collaboration with Italian mill Piave Maitex, was selected for Interfiliere’s “Beach Innovation” trend forum in September. Highlights from La Bianca include a maillot with a hidden bra, placed prints and flocked lace-inspired motifs applied to a Lycra spandex and polyester fabric that is anti-UV and resistant to the inclusion of sand particles.

A number of directional, hybrid lingerie-beachwear prototypes by designer-fabric supplier ventures appeared at the Interfiliere show, including a lace beach dress by Natex and Jonquil, a warp and weft one-piece suit by ESF and Eva Rachline, and a woven swimsuit by Boselli and Ritratti.

Experts said a new generation of high-end, lingerie-inspired fabrics has recently entered the swimwear market. These include beachwear-friendly jacquards, passementerie, warp and weft weaves, and raised devoré finishes, as well as Eurojersey’s Sensitive range of “shape and drape” layered fabrics in ultralight, quick-drying microfibers that are meant to lend a tailored aspect to swimwear.

Eyeing swimwear as a robust category, several innerwear textiles specialists are said to be entering a sector many consider untapped territory for innovation. Among them, Italian embroidery specialist Junior by Adele Zibetti, which invested in state-of-the-art laser machines that have helped to introduce embroidery into the swimwear market.

“Lingerie and corsetry have seen tremendous developments in creativity, but lately stagnation is in demand,” said Enrico Serafini, export director of Piave Maitex, known for its allover burnout fabrics and flocking. “On the other hand, swimwear has not been explored enough. This could be the beginning of a more fashion-forward direction for swimwear.”

With a trend toward ultralight, fine-gauge yet highly resistant swimwear fabrics, one of the challenges faced by firms is to deliver fashion-forward designs that remain resistant to suntan oils and UV degradation, said Ninabeth Sowell, global marketing director of Invista, maker of Lycra.

“The beach is the harshest environment for apparel other than what firemen’s uniforms are exposed to,” Sowell said.

Opening up new seamless horizons for the beachwear category, Sowell said Lycra has developed a swimwear prototype with bonded seam technology that would allow for a new take on “big dramatic one shoulders” for swimwear.

“The most exciting thing I’ve seen in swimwear is the change in silhouettes,” said Sowell, citing one style with dramatic cutouts, one-shoulder possibilities and the use of multiple straps.

“It’s about giving more visual added value,” said Nello Marelli, head of design and creativity for Eurojersey. “Brands are no longer interested in developing a garment solely for staying in the water for swimming, but real beachwear — dressing the body for the pool and the beach.”


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