Byline: Neal Turnage

SARASOTA, Fla. — Sirena Apparel Group, an El Monte, Calif., firm that has long focused on the misses’ consumer, is banking on 26-year-old Jamie Paul Holahan, a beach fanatic and veteran of the Gulf War, to push its Hot Water division to the front lines of junior swimwear.
Holahan came on board in March as the designer for Hot Water, which bowed in stores earlier this month. The line is expected to generate about $1 million in wholesale volume in its first year and hit $6 million within the next three years, according to Doug Arbetman, Sirena’s chief executive officer.
“We can see building this area to be a significant part of our business,” said Arbetman. “The fresh new looks Holahan is giving the division are the perfect way to take the company to the next level. We have never sold in the junior areas of department stores before.”
Sirena’s stable also includes Sirena, Rosemarie Reid and Whereabouts, its coverup line for Sirena. It also makes the Anne Klein line under license.
Hot Water’s accounts include Burdines, Just Add Water in Dallas, Outrigger Shops in Hawaii and Swim ‘n Sport, Miami. The line will also be shipped to Jacobson’s soon. Wholesale price points range from $25 to $32.
Holahan’s first cruise collection is inspired by his military background and his passion for the beach. The collection has a group of military-inspired styles in camouflage colors that feature plastic fasteners similar to those found on military belts. The group, which is in cotton and Lycra spandex, includes HotPants, triangle bras and sarongs and accounts for less than 10 percent of the collection.
“I was looking for a way to combine my combat background with the military trend,” Holahan said.
Similarly, he says his “fishbowl print” is the fusion of his love for the beach and sportswear’s current trend toward texture. The suit is made of pannA velvet, actually a brushed polyester, with textured tropical fish seemingly “swimming” on the fabric.
“The look [of the overall collection] is very new,” said Jennifer Reznack, assistant buyer at Glick’s, a specialty retailer based in Granite City, Ill., which picked up the line for cruise. “It was one of the first orders we wrote. We’re hoping that some of the new bodies he’s come out with will set the styles for ’97 and inspire trend-conscious consumers who already have five suits to buy another.”
What some industry sources find most fascinating about Holahan, however, is how quickly he found his way to a top post in an already crowded swimwear field.
“I grew up in Orange County, Calif., in Laguna Beach, and have always been interested in swimwear and what people wear to the beach,” he explained. After he returned from the Gulf War, where he served in an artillery unit, he enrolled in a two-year program at the Orange County campus of Fashion Institute Design Merchandising School in 1992, transferring a year later to the Los Angeles campus, from which he was graduated in 1994. It was then he received the Fred Hayman scholarship to enter FIDM’s third year “Debut ’95” program, an intensive one-year course where 10 students are selected to design a collection on their own.
Holahan designed a collection of “ocean wear,” swimwear and beachwear with hand-painted designs. Following its runway show last March, it was named the collection with the “most commercial potential.”
Sirena’s Arbetman happened to be at the show and liked what he saw. He took Holahan to company headquarters to introduce him to Hot Water president Linda Minjares. A month later, Holahan began work on Hot Water’s debut collection.
“It was hectic because I only had three months to do the line,” said Holahan, who did his research on the beach every weekend, checking out what girls were wearing and talking to them about what they wanted.
“I also hit all the hot shopping areas to talk to retailers about styles that were selling and what girls were asking for,” he added.
His conclusion?
“Juniors now are looking for suits that have attitude, that make a strong statement. They either want to look just like the girls in the magazines, or they want to look totally authentic and individual,” he said.