MIAMI STAGES A REAL VARIETY SHOW

Byline: Georgia Lee

MIAMI — Projecting smooth sailing into the cruise season, buyers and vendors attending the Miami Cruise 2001 swimwear show applauded the increased options in the market that allow every consumer to find the right suit.
Along with high-fashion looks, manufacturers addressed baby boomers and misses’ customers wanting more figure control and large-size suits, by adding updated fashion for both.
The show reported a strong turnout among buyers and exhibitors and a splashy new South Beach fashion show. Running July 15-19 at the Miami Merchandise Mart and Radisson Center, it drew an estimated 2,000 buyers, compared with 1,500 last year, and featured around 300 exhibitors showing more than 1,000 lines, including 40 new ones. The show covered 135,000 square feet of exhibition space, 40,000 more than last year.
As the show continues to grow from its roots 18 years ago as a regional Florida event to a more national one, its sponsor, the Swimwear Association of Florida, a sales representatives’ organization, has joined forces with the New York-based Swimwear Industry Manufacturers Association. Just this year members of SWIM joined an advisory board to help organize the show, along with the event’s co-sponsor BASF.
In a major departure this year, the Monday night fashion show moved from its usual tent at the mart to a new venue — the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. The event drew more than 1,200 people, requiring extra tables for the overflow crowd.
For the first time, the Monday show included a live auction, a sit-down dinner, after-dinner entertainment by comedian David Brenner and a post-show bash at the Level nightclub. All this, plus the hour-long fashion show — which included 360 swimsuits — added up to a evening that lasted well after 11 p.m. With many guest making early exits, officials conceded that some editing would be in order for next year.
As for trends, animal prints, a range of embellishment and a bright color palette piqued buyer interest, along with innovative new fabric textures and treatments. Exotic and Middle-East influences were prevalent in prints and crocheted suits embellished with beading or mirrors.
Glam-rock influences showed up in gold metallic suits and in details such as rhinestones, fur or feathers. Color-blocking, spaced geometric prints and Americana looks were also represented.
Cleavage-enhancing bras, some filled with liquids or gels, were big news, along with seamless suits with more texture, color and styling. Separates continue to grow in all categories, adding more options and multiple sales, said retailers.
Exhibitors were pleased with traffic and sales, although many described the show as more of a “look-see,” rather than a serious order-writing event. Manufacturers debuted collections, getting buyer feedback in order to refine lines for the upcoming New York market.
Lynne Koplin, president and chief operating officer of Apparel Ventures, a multiline swimwear manufacturer, reported a sales increase of 20 percent. She said buyers responded to company efforts to offer more newness each month.
“After a mediocre year last year, with sales down over the holidays due to a disappointing millennium year, manufacturers are more on track, with more fashion and variety,” she said.
Buyers, projecting strong cruise seasons, shopped with increased budgets for new looks in a variety of categories.
“The market is very diverse now,” said Stacey Siegel, owner of Everything But Water, an Orlando-based national swimwear chain. “There’s no one trend, but that’s good, because we don’t have to buy the same thing for everybody. It allows us to focus on the customer and who they are.”
Siegel said she bought animal prints, such as snake, often with unusual trim. Her favorite new resource was Becca, designed by Rebecca Virtue, who was formerly a designer with Mossimo. Siegel bought Becca and Rebecca V, the designer’s more upscale division. She also picked up a new resource, Elena Lardi, that offered feathered, hand-crocheted and sueded suits.
She bought seamless suits and the “aqua bra,” a liquid-filled padded top, both by Christina, and more special-size suits.
“The market is more in touch with former voids like special sizes,” Siegel said. “They are working harder at solutions for special needs.”
Siegel shopped with an increased budget to beef up low inventories. Business had been up until July, when Florida store sales softened, partially due to low inventory, said Siegel.
Absolutely Suitable, a swimwear store with a location at the Breakers Hotel in West Palm Beach and a new Miami Beach store, shopped for good designer vendors. John Zoller, vice president of retail operations, said he bought matte gold suits from Anne Klein and colorful styles from Shan.
He also liked embellishment, including gold chains, jewelry and other sophisticated accents. He bought Becca and Calvin Klein and new separates from Anne Cole and Ralph Lauren. Zoller said suits at $100 retail and up had drawn no price resistance from consumers.
“Swimwear business can only get better,” he said. “People are traveling more, and women want a swimwear wardrobe, with a different suit to wear everyday.”
Mary Groninger, president of Swim City, a Sarasota, Fla., swimwear specialty store, said the market was vastly improved over last year.
“There’s more sizzle now, with more feminine looks, ruffles and good color,” she said.
Groninger bought Sixties-style hipster pants, bandeau tops and separates, her fastest growing category, from about 15 companies, she said. For her all-branded designer store, she bought several groups from Becca and a gold and bronze athletic-inspired group by DKNY.
She also bought Nautica, Anne Cole and Gottex, a must-have for her snowbird customers. Groninger said she also bought Jantzen and Diva, two brands that looked stronger than last year.
In terms of large-size suits, she bought some from Delta Burke, Elisabeth and Robby Len.
“Four years ago, we didn’t even do large size — now we’re launching a whole separate department,” she said.
Buyer Melissa Smith of Maui Nix, a Daytona Beach, Fla., swimwear store, increased her buy for an additional store, to open this month in Miami. She bought animal prints, reversible looks, geometric and colorful abstract prints, and bright solids.

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