RETRO LOOKS, BODY MOLDERS HIGHLIGHT LYON SHOW
Byline: Suzanne Lynch
LYON — Prospects for next summer’s beachwear looked bright and retro at the Lyon, Mode City show, as 168 international brands laid out the latest in versatile swimwear and accessories.
The trade show, which also spotlighted intimate apparel and fabrics, ran for three days through Sept. 8. It drew 14,605 visitors from 17 different countries and saw a generally lively give-and-take between buyers and vendors.
European and foreign buyers alike were weaving in and out of booths packed with vividly colored bikinis, one-piece suits, pareos, and coverups in colors like turquoise, lavender, and lemon yellow.
Exhibitors included such brands as Gottex, Banana Moon, Pascal Creations and Janine Robin. Niche brands such as Rondissimo Bains showed collections for larger women. There were also the French subsidiaries of large American groups like Vanity Fair’s Tropic line and Warnaco’s Rassurel.
Favored looks included nonrevealing swimsuits in one- or two-piece versions with romantic touches — a modernized Fifties starlet look. Exotic references and prints were integrated into scarf styles and draped sarongs in bright colors, and jeweled accessories were added to suits.
An athletic influence was apparent in T-back swimsuits jazzed up with geometric interplays — done with either cuts or prints — and colorblock treatments reinforced by finishing details, such as two-tone edging.
Along with color and silhouettes, fabrics were a matter of strong interest, particularly lightweight body-molding, tummy-flattening microfibers blended with Lycra or Dorlastan spandex. Shaping suits were attention-getters at the first-ever American Pavilion, where they shown by such firms as MiracleSuit by Swim Shaper and Carol Wior Swimsuits.
In all, a half-dozen U.S. swimwear companies displayed their wares at the Pavilion. Others included Ritchie Swimwear; Parisa by Amir; Malia Mills Swim Wear, and Authentic Fitness.
“Looking 10 pounds lighter is a universal desire,” said Bruce Waldman, executive vice president of MiracleSuit. “We’ve been getting a strong reaction to our product. The consumer with a larger build is tired of being put down, so there is a lot of demand.”
“We would have to change the slogan to ‘Lose five kilos in five minutes” instead of “Lose 10 pounds in 10 minutes,”‘ joked Michele Frotte, a buyer from the French department store Galeries Lafayette browsing the MiracleSuit booth, as she asked questions about the weight of the suit’s shapeholding Miratex fabric.
Mainly, the Americans were there to make contacts and find distributors or agents rather than expecting to write major orders, although the strength of the dollar against European currencies was seen as a hurdle by some.
“We’re here trying to expand our market,” said Ritchie Beger, owner of Miami-based The Ritchie Collection, which already sells some products in Switzerland, France, Germany, and Australia. “But the dollar’s rise makes things harder. It may curb the value of our exports into Europe. We may have to make a little price adjustment in 1998 for our European distributors.”
Showing independently from the American Pavilion was Peter Skelton, general manager of Raisins, the junior swimwear line from the U.S. produced by Quiksilver. The line was showing at Lyon, Mode City to further build on Quiksilver’s already established distribution network in Europe.
“I’m here just to introduce our products, and let people know we’re out here,.” said Skelton, “but I haven’t seen many French buyers yet. Mainly Italians and Eastern Europeans.”
Among the European exhibitors, Hans Spaan, marketing director for BeachLife, an Amsterdam-based company that does 50 percent of its $15 million (30 million guilder) volume via exports to the Mideast, Northern Europe and Korea, said, “The fair has been good for us, much better than last year. Last year people were buying less because they were overstocked, but now the stores are more or less empty and they need a new collection.”
Accessories such as dresses, pareos, skirts and tops have become increasingly popular, he noted, as have larger busted suits. “Five years ago the B-cup was in demand,” he said, “but now we are getting more demand for C and D cups.”
As for selling to the U.S., Spaan noted, “Because of import duties it’s very hard to enter the market. Right now, we sell to a few speciality shops near Miami but we don’t have any regular business.”
According to Uccello Mario, manager of Il Gabbiano, an Italian company featuring inexpensive, brightly colored swimsuits, the show this time around was “a little better than last year.”