DESIGNER ’95: ONGOING GAINS

Byline: ANNE D’INNOCENZIO

NEW YORK — Swimwear designers, buoyed by strong sales increases last year, are revving up for even bigger gains for cruise 1995, many with plans to broaden their styles and update their repertoire with new prints.
The renewed interest in designer swimwear, manufacturers say, is due to several factors. The brutally cold winter jolted the 1994 cruise season, and many retailers, including R.H. Macy and Bloomingdale’s, expanded their swimwear designer departments this past season to capitalize on the expanded business.
Another factor is that swimwear is evolving into streetwear, with many consumers looking for status brand swimwear labels for their durability and cachet.
“Swimwear is becoming more like sportswear,” said Linda Wachner, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Warnaco Inc., which holds the swimwear licenses of Anne Cole and Oscar de la Renta. “Swimwear is taking on an interest that bras have. There’s this whole new sexy feeling taking place. What’s happening is that people are throwing on a pair of pants with a strapless swimsuit.”
Capitalizing on this new trend is Liza Bruce, who is including more swimwear pieces that can cross over into streetwear. “For cruise, about 40 percent of the collection can be used for streetwear,” noted Lisa Salisbury, a spokeswoman at Moda & Co., the sales agent for the Liza Bruce line. “We are definitely seeing more of a demand from consumers who want this cross-over look.”
The Liza Bruce swimwear line, which carries wholesale prices from $36 to $75, is primarily in crepe Lycra spandex and features mostly solids and tie-dye colors in silver metallics, icy blues and flesh tones. Pieces include a two-piece suit that features a black bottom and a white cropped bustier, as well as linen coverups that could also be used as dresses.
Returning to the swimwear scene is Adrienne Vittadini, who signed a licensing agreement with O.A.S. Industries. A year ago, the designer had discontinued a licensing agreement with Cole of California, which is now owned by Authentic Fitness.
The agreement ran from December 1984 to August 1993. “It used to be just print-driven,” said Vittadini. “But now it is more contemporary, expanding into various trends like athletic-inspired tanks and knit suits.” The collection, which will feature suits in tricot, tactel rib fabrics and microfibers, will wholesale for $30 to $45, about even with the previous collections. It is expected to generate more sales than the previous line, with projections of $3 million to $5 million in its first year.
Calvin Klein is also aggressively expanding swimwear for cruise 1995. “We had a great season,” noted Gabriel Colasante, president of Gabar and Calvin Klein Swimwear.
The Calvin Klein business increased by more than 70 percent last year, Colasante said, because of management’s aggressive push to broaden the line. Colasante said he is looking for gains of about 30 to 50 percent for cruise 1995. “Consumers are looking for recognizable labels,” he noted.
The Calvin Klein swimwear license generated more than $10 million last year, and Colasante said he sees the possibility of doubling that figure over the next year or so.
While keeping prices stable with last year, the designer is offering new silhouettes and widening the customer base by adding new novelty prints and putting more emphasis on construction in the suits, like push-up bras. Colasante added that he is looking into getting more in-store shops at department stores starting October. Currently, there are about a dozen Calvin Klein swimwear shop-in-shops, and he noted that he’d like to double that number this year.
Calvin Klein’s color palette for cruise will include vegetable colors, in addition to blacks, browns and navies. The average wholesale price is $39.
While some swimsuit designers are aggressively expanding their lines, others are merely fine-tuning their strategies.
“We are continuing to do a lot of Moroccan prints, balancing them with beautiful solids,” said Miriam Ruzow, president of Gottex Industries.
“The excitement of the stores and the customers gave us a really good feeling,” noted Ruzow, who saw stores increase real estate of Gottex swimsuit merchandise by 15 to 20 percent. She noted that sales were up 20 percent for cruise 1994, and she expects sales gains of another 20 percent for cruise 1995. “We are broadening all of our print groups,” noted Bud Konheim, president of Nicole Miller. Miller is shipping its swimsuits earlier — at the end of October instead of at the end of November.
For 1994 season, the swimsuit collection generated about $1.5 million and is expected to reap $3.5 million for cruise 1995, said Konheim.
“We definitely noticed a real increase,” noted Karla Colletto, swimwear designer of her own firm. She said that her company’s 1994 season, ended earlier this month, is winding up with a 20 percent sales increase. Colleto said she is expecting sales gains of about 30 percent for the 1995 season, which will begin in October. Colletto’s 1994 season, which is ending this month, is expected to generate a little over $1 million in sales. Swimwear designer Anne Cole, who is having success with her newly launched Faux Fitness line, noted that she foresees a 20 percent increase for cruise 1995.
“I’m thinking about doing some clever marketing plans,” she noted, adding that one possibility is to do a film to be shown in stores in October or November. “It’s going to be a little more product-oriented than my other videos, and very fashion-oriented,” Cole said, adding that she will be also making an aggressive push, with new print ads in fashion magazines.

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