Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — There’ll be plenty of unconstructed looks at the nation’s beaches and pools next season, if the recent edition of ISAM — the International Swimwear and Activewear Market here — is an indication.
Unconstructed halter tops, bandeaus, camisoles and tube tops were spotlighted in many showrooms, matched with boy cuts, skirts and traditional bikini bottoms. Two-piece suits outpaced tanks, although one-piece suits made a strong showing with halter and dress bodies.
In patterns and detailing, the ethnic prints and athletic influences in sportswear were translated into swim.
The show, which ran for four days through Oct. 9 at the California Mart, drew a good number of major retailers and key swimwear specialty chains, who did serious planning for the season ahead. There was even some writing for spring, but many buyers primarily previewed the season’s offerings, with orders to be written later.
Anne Spangenberg, a swimwear buyer for Macy’s West, placed orders for early cruise and took notes on the rest of the season.
In junior swimwear, Spangenberg said lines are mirroring junior sportswear lines in terms of ethnic prints and embroidered details and athletic looks.
“The whole trend that was popular last year — the surf thing with bright colors and floral patterns — will still be key but in toned-down shades and edgier details,” Spangenberg said. “This year is a little more classic Hawaiian while last year was a little sweeter.”
Standouts in the junior swimwear category were Beach Patrol’s Rebel Beach, Daffy and Tango Rose, she noted. In contemporary swim, Spangenberg noted Studio La Blanca’s Citrus and Sassafras lines.
She said she has 50 vendors in her matrix and tries to buy from each for Macy’s West’s 90 stores. She also does regional buys and looks for different trends in different areas.
“One of the best markets is the Mall of America in Minnesota, which is more conservative, while San Diego is the biggest surf-driven market, and Los Angeles is more contemporary and sexy,” she said.
In the misses’ market the most important trend is texture, including macrame and velvets, she said. Brights are still important, but the newness is in toned-down colors.
Kathleen Mudd, owner of Canyon Beachwear, which is based in Santa Monica, Calif., and operates eight stores, said she just took notes at ISAM but planned to write orders with at least two new resources: BCBG, which just launched its swimwear line, and Delta Burke. She was also interested in Body Glove looks for juniors.
Her volume has been even with last year’s, though she said summer was “phenomenal.”
“BCBG looked good in terms of the styling and fabrics that were used,” said Mudd. “It has the old Norma Kamali look, and there is definitely a customer out there that has not been addressed for a while,” she said, adding that this is a customer who is upscale and body-conscious.
Mudd said the Delta Burke large-size line had a sexy look as opposed to a misses’ look.
“It used nice fabrics for young large-size customers, with novelty treatments like zippers and meshes,” Mudd said.
In juniors, Mudd predicted the boy-leg will be a key bottom, though it won’t be as hot as last season. She also expects halters and sports bras to be strong for spring.
For Linda Meyer, manager and buyer of Bikini Factory in Santa Barbara, Calif., unconstructed tops were high on her list. She said she was looking for fill-ins, early cruise and spring and suits with which she had success last year.
She pointed to the less-constructed bras and sportier looks of Beach Patrol as well as to designer looks. Meyer said she was also interested in Raisins and Sunset Beach.
“My customers range from the 80-year-old lady who does water aerobics to the trendy teens,” she said of her 32-year-old company. She expects her annual volume of $350,000 to $400,000 to be up 25 percent this year based on the fact that her “customer has gotten used to the $70 bathing suit.”
Meyer said textured fabrics in the Baja Blue and Jag lines will also carry over into spring, as will retro looks and pastels.
Exhibitors said business was steady during the show.
Howie Greller, president of Beach Patrol Inc., said this ISAM show was the best he’s had in five years.
“In California, this is the biggest show, because we see a lot of management — presidents and general merchandise managers — from the majors,” Greller said, adding that he expects business to be up 20 to 30 percent at this market.
In the junior swimwear category, he said, halter tops, boy-legs and triangle bikinis have been among the best-selling silhouettes, while tanks with high necks and back details, such as X-backs and horseshoe backs, have been strong in contemporary swim.
Greller said the company has done well with athletic looks in the Daffy line, tie-dyes in Rebel Beach and crochets in Tango Rose, all three of which are junior labels.
Baja Blue, a contemporary label, has focused on African prints in suede and velvet. Jag, another contemporary line, has focused on color blocking.
“The newest trend is cleavage-revealing,” said Greller. “We believe in sexy looks.”
Raisin Co., a division of Quiksilver, is banking on feminine, softer constructions. The company has two junior swimwear labels, Raisins and Radio Fiji; one contemporary label, Leilani, and one girls’ label, Raisins. Junior swimwear wholesales for $30 to $33, and contemporary wholesales between $34 and $35.
“There has been a softening of construction,” said Rick Kuhn, vice president of sales and marketing for Raisin. “But we’ve done construction as well, and we have opted to offer both heavier construction and new bra constructions.”
In junior swimwear, textures and novelty fabrics are key in bright colors, Kuhn said. He also pointed to printed mesh-over-mesh suits and athletic looks with racer backs.
“This is the best year we have experienced at retail in juniors in the last five years,” Kuhn said. “Based on early selling, we are expecting a strong momentum.”

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