THE BATTLE FOR THE BULGES
Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio
NEW YORK — Swimwear makers are out to cash in on the flaws in women’s bodies.
From power panels to bra construction — and pushing these looks with big marketing and advertising campaigns — swimwear firms are going after the aging baby boomer, who is now clamoring for tummy control, power nets and A-line skirts.
All kinds of swimwear firms, regardless of fashion orientation or price structure, are going after women in the age group of approximately 35 to 45. These companies range from well-established makers of traditional misses’ swimsuits to junior and contemporary companies.
Here are some of the latest developments:
Fast-growing Beach Patrol Inc., which has specialized in junior and contemporary misses’ swimwear, is going after the traditional misses’ customer with its recent acquisition of DeWeese Inc., a Los Angeles-based firm. Beach Patrol wants to improve the DeWeese line, which caters to a traditional misses’ customer, with more construction features like tummy control.
“You have to go there; you have to go where the demographics are,” said Brian Zienteck, president and chief executive officer of Beach Patrol, adding that he expects the DeWeese label to generate $15 million in two years, compared to $9 million this year.
“DeWeese is going to be the vehicle through which we are going after the aging baby boomer,” said Zienteck. He added that the DeWeese label targets the 35-to-55-year-old customer, as opposed to its contemporary misses’ labels, Amber Bay and Baja Blue, both of which cater to a slightly younger age group. “We have the skills to address heavier construction in order to retain the customer base.”
Zienteck added that while Baja Blue and Amber Bay offer some construction, DeWeese will offer more serious coverage like boy-leg looks, skirted tunics and control panels.
DeWeese will advertise next year in the March and April issues of consumer magazines.
“Every year, we are evolving and aging with our consumer,” said Zienteck. “That’s what you have to do to be successful.”
Sirena Apparel Co., Los Angeles, which has the license for Anne Klein as well as such contemporary labels as Look and Sea, is going after the traditional misses’ customer with its acquisition last May of Rose Marie Reid. It is also merchandising its Sirena suits, another misses’ label, with hangtags that read: “Mother nature doesn’t necessarily treat every woman equally… Don’t worry…we will help you look fabulous.”
Body ID, a seven-year-old swimwear firm that made its name by addressing the problem areas of the female figure, is branching out. To deal with new competition, it launched a contemporary misses’ collection for cruise 1995, while whipping out a baby boomer version of the push-up bra. The Bust Builder, which is less revealing than some other push-up versions, is due in stores by summer 1996.
The increased competition from new players is forcing Body ID to improve its offerings, according to Patricia Burnes Kane, a founder of Body ID. She said she’s added bra-cup-sized swimwear to its mix-and-match program that began five years ago. The program, which includes such styles as underwires and bandeaus that can be mixed and matched, is expected to account for 25 percent of the firm’s sales, which last year came to a wholesale volume of $30 million.
Miracle Suit by Swimshaper, a four-year-old division of A&H, a swimwear company based in Stockertown, Pa., has seen sales double each year for its patented Miracle Suit, which is made of Miratex, a cloth developed by Liberty Fabrics. It is said to offer more support than most swimsuit fabrics. Last year, Miracle Suit began an aggressive campaign in such magazines as Elle, Glamour and Vogue with ads that say: “Look Ten Pounds Thinner in 30 Seconds.”
“The baby boomer group is a market that presents a lot of opportunity for us. They are aging, but they have a lot of spending power,” said Paula Michaels, president of Miracle Suit.
According to The NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y., the 35-to-44-year-old customer bought $368 million worth of swimwear, accounting for 29 percent of the $1.2 billion swimwear market at retail, in 1991. In 1994, that same age group purchased $496 million in swimwear, accounting for 33 percent of the market at retail, which last year totaled $1.5 billion.
The constructed movement is part of a general fashion trend in which ready-to-wear, sportswear and innerwear all reflect a growing body-consciousness.
“You are seeing the constructed influence everywhere, from lingerie to pantyhose,” said Colette Wong, adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, who specializes in swimwear and lingerie. “It is only natural for swimwear makers to jump in the fray.”
“When we started doing the Miracle Suit, the body shapers and Lycra spandex slips were just coming out,” said Michaels of Body Shapers. “Now, the movement is gaining momentum with the push-up bra and corsets.”
Swimsuit executives argue that the swimsuit is the one fashion item that is most revealing of body flaws.
“When you wear clothing, you can hide your bulges, but a swimsuit is different,” said Kane of Body ID. “There is nothing between you and your swimsuit.”
Keeping that in mind, swimwear firms are set on covering up any unbecoming bulge.
“Everyone wants to look better,” said Doug Arbetman, president of Sirena, which is expanding its Rose Marie Reid line by adding C- and D-sized cups as well as offering 64-inch-torso swimsuit bodies, three inches longer than what it had offered. He expects sales to jump to $7 million next year, from the current $4 million.
Sirena is launching an ad campaign that will run in the July issues of Cosmopolitan, Vogue and Glamour.
Given the size of the $50 million Sirena division, the company is breaking out the business with three lines: Sirena Concepts, which will cater to a contemporary misses’ customer; Sirena Signatures, which will target the more traditional customer, and Sirena Basics, a misses’ promotional line.