MAGS DIVE INTO SWIMWEAR
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue is undoubtedly a favorite read with many men, and fashion magazine editors are hoping their current swimwear-laden editions will capture women’s attention to the same degree.
May means swimwear month for Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, but this time around Elle and Bazaar also splashed swimsuits in their fashion spreads. Bazaar suited up cover girl Gisele in a Dolce & Gabbana bikini and even Sports Illustrated for Women decked out Olympic swimmer Dara Torres in a Prada two-piece number. But SIFW editor Susan Casey explained the pick in her editor’s note: “Around here we know that strong is good.”
Other editors were more concerned about helping readers find their perfect suit and toned down the razzle-dazzle in favor of more straightforward spreads. Patrick Demarchelier’s “Black, White & Bold” shoot in Marie Claire features eight full-length shots of the same model in essentially the same pose, and Glamour ran its first “Dos & Don’ts of swimsuits.”
Glamour editor Cindi Leive said, “Basically, our swimsuit issue is a huge hit with retailers. We get letters earlier in the year, saying, ‘Please tell us you’re doing the swimsuit issue.’ There is no experience more grim than going into a dressing room under those God-awful lights and trying on 872 swimsuits.”
Glamour staffers also took figure flaws into their own hands by pulling women in ill-fitting swimsuits off Miami’s South Beach and into its “bikini bus” for swimwear makeovers. The results appear in the May issue. Staffers tried on a total of 904 swimsuits — the most samples ever tested by the crew — before whittling down the ones for the top trends, said Leive. Keiko NYC, H&M, Anne Cole and Aerin Rose are some that made the final cut.
Glamour went so far to pick the best suits for expectant mothers and the best strategy for the fitting room and a one pager entitled “Yikes I Wore a See-Through Suit.”
Swimwear makers were also game and were “literally throwing suits” at fashion editors to try to get them in, Leive said. Brands have also seen a jump in phone orders and Web site hits, after Leive talked up the issue on “The View” last week. The issue helped land an eight-page insert from DuPont.
Elle’s decision to give swimwear more play than in years past was due primarily to the winds of fashion, said fashion director Nina Garcia.
“This year for spring, there were a lot of suits on the runway,” Garcia said. “A lot of the big guys showed them…Versace and Missoni showed them. Roberto Cavalli, Alberta Ferretti and Chloe introduced them. It was newsworthy, with all the beading, fringes and animal prints. I don’t think it was a business standpoint. It was more of a fashion standpoint.”
But should readers need a suit, they’re in business.
“We make it very easy with 800 numbers and details about stores,” she said. “That’s our aim: to get women to pick up the phone or have them go to the store and pick it up.”
Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Kate White pointed out that her publication’s swimsuit issue has been five years running. After seeing so many bikinis on other magazine covers come May, she decided to yank swimwear from the issue’s cover a few years back and has stuck with it.
“I felt the beach was too crowded and there was no place for me to put my towel,” White said. “We still give swimwear as much play inside.”
This time, Cosmo has “narrowed its focus” to present suits that are sexy and glamorous. The typical Cosmo girl might not look like a surfer, but the magazine tries to lure her into the ocean with sexy suits you can actually surf in from James, Rygy for Vix Swimwear and Double Happiness, as shown in the “Hip Surfer Chick” spread.
“One thing that’s different about our approach is that we don’t try to present every suit in the world,” she said.
From reader e-mails and polls, it’s clear they’re not “insane” about shopping for the perfect suit, White said. Trying to ease up on women’s stereotypical anxieties, White noted she has removed the magazine’s diet column and steers away from running articles about losing weight.
Given that, when it comes to swimwear, White said, “Our starting point is always: This is a suit you will look good in and feel good in.”
Marie Claire also kept swimwear off the cover. This time around, the magazine simplified its fashion spreads to make it easier for readers to find looks that will work for them. Unlike last year’s suits, which featured a “Survivor”-inspired spread where swimwear was tough to see up close, this year’s fashion spreads have 17 full-length shots of women. Styles from XOXO, Soleil by Jean Paul Gaultier and Gottex were some that made the cut.
Editor Lesley Jane Seymour said, “I look at swimwear as something you want to buy and shop for. These photos are so striking and bold that they make you want to buy [the swimsuits].”