Byline: Katherine Bowers

Profile of a baby boomer: more time to travel, a relaxed approach to social and business dressing and a penchant for “forgiving” silhouettes.
These factors are lining up in favor of the resortwear category, said vendors designing their spring-summer lines, which will favor lightweight and packable crinkle cottons, fluid silhouettes and multi-use pieces like pareos.
But the challenge is to balance the consistency for which the resortwear industry is famous — white linen shirts and floral pareos seem to be indefatigable sellers — with enough newness to give customers a reason to buy. Some likely candidates to coax dollars out of wallets: capris, which are still checking briskly at retail in lengths ranging from above the ankle to just below the knee.
“They’ve been selling 2 to 1 over other pants,” said Helmut Behensky, owner and president of the Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Bea’s Swimwear and Resortwear.
Vendors are also predicting that novelty prints, such as Pucci and western-themed prints, and a few Sixties-inspired florals and paisleys will spark the category at retail. Manufacturers expect to eke out one more good season of Hawaiian prints and colorful animal prints on pareos, shirts and dresses.

Sharon Kosabi, designer for Sarasota, Fla.-based International Trends Inc., said she’s negotiating the balance in her KosaBali line by offering plenty of solid pieces in salable blue and turquoise, in addition to new themed prints.
“We’re seeing an interest in unusual prints, like old car [prints] and cowboy prints with guns and holsters,” she said.
Kosabi said she thinks swirly, oversized florals with a Sixties flavor will retail well next summer.
“I’m seeing some of those florals come in for next year, especially with the bright colors mixed against white,” she said. “White is always so important in resortwear because it coordinates with separates.”
“I don’t know where all those pareos are going. They must be shipping them out of the galaxy,” joked Kosabi, who also fears consumer interest in pareos could flag if designers fail to give the silhouettes a fresh spin.

Maryline Reymond, vice president of Miami Beach-based Guilheim Enterprises, which offers pareos in more than 500 prints, said the company will introduce Roberto Cavalli-inspired leopard prints with flowers.
She said she also expects solid performance from new ombred rainbow pareos, a perfect match with the trendy and beachy look of waterproof, diamond-crusted watches from TechnoMarine, Reymond pointed out.
“They’re the fashion at the moment, and they go well with what we’re doing,” she said.

Alison Johnson, vice president of Torrance, Calif.-based swim and resortwear chain Diane’s, said she’s also planning to buy pareos, but is seeking out updates such as ruffled hems, beading and fringe.
“They can wear an embellished sarong with a tankini top. I think that’s a good look for this customer,” said Johnson, who thinks Pucci prints, paisleys and border prints on sarongs and capris will be strong.

Another trend: dressier two-piece looks, as resortwear manufacturers try to stretch the convenience and comfort of the category into other contexts, manufacturers said.
“We’re finding more and more people who want to do business at resorts, and what they want to do more than anything is get out of those business clothes,” said Joey Evans, director of merchandising at La Mirada, Calif.-based WEK Enterprises, referring to conferences and continuing education events that lure attendees with their exotic locations. “[But they] don’t want to look like they bought a souvenir….They want something they can build a wardrobe from.”
WEK will add a linen group to accommodate these customers, said Evans.
The company, which sees most of its business in garment-dyed twill basics, is promoting a palette of soothing colors: earth tones, pale greens, yellows and blues.
Evans said the company is also reintroducing a midlength short, suitable for a day at the golf course. “We’re doing a little more with tank tops and shorts for that customer who prefers to call herself contemporary instead of missy.”

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