Byline: Georgia Lee

October at AmericasMart is arguably the most exciting and busy time of the year. Niche players, international fashion shows and, of course, the DIVA awards are all big draws, in addition to the spring fashion on display. (See the DIVA special feature, starting on page 35, for a rundown of the winners.) Below, highlights of some of the action.

In the Swim
The Southeastern Swimwear and Resortwear show, which debuted last October, returns this year with approximately 40 exhibitors, double the number of last year. The show, on the third floor exhibition space, runs in partnership with the Swimwear Association of Florida (SAF), a Miami-based sales organization. SAF is responsible for Miami’s July swimwear show.
SAF members see great potential for Atlanta to become the next great national swimwear show. While the Miami show kicks off the season in July, October is a better time for actual buying, said officials.
“A lot of what’s shown in Miami is dropped from the line by the time it ships,” said Tod Thorne, principal, Tod Thorne & Associates, a Charlotte, N.C., multiline swimwear sales firm. “Independent specialty stores are just finishing up, clearing out and getting ready for fresh stock in October. Miami’s a time to see. Atlanta’s a time to buy.”
Thorne, a 21-year veteran in sales, will launch the new Jones New York swimwear line at the Atlanta show. At an average wholesale price of $78, the Jones line includes jersey fabrics, python, crocodile and tropical floral prints. It is manufactured by A&H Sportswear, New York.
Big-name sportswear brands have gotten into swimwear in a big way, boosting business in the sector overall. Recent additions include Ralph Lauren and Nautica, which will also be at the Atlanta show.
More established swimwear lines, such as Anne Klein, Gottex, Speedo and LaBlanca, are also focusing on brand building lately. All of the above will show in Atlanta.
Swimwear trends are following ready-to-wear more closely than ever. For cruise 2001, look for animal prints, embellishment of all kinds and bright Pucci-inspired color, along with innovative new fabric textures and treatments. Exotic, Mideastern influences include prints and crocheted suits embellished with beading or mirrors. Glam-rock Eighties is roaring back, with gold metallic suits and outrageous details such as rhinestones, fur and feathers. New innovations include cleavage-enhancing bras, some filled with liquids or gels, along with seamless suits.
But rather than being hinged on any one trend, the real excitement lies in the vast variety, with options that allow every consumer to find the right suit. Manufacturers are offering more figure-control and large-size suits, and updating the fashion quotient for both. It’s a way to address the needs of baby boomers and misses’ customers, vendors say.
Southeast retailers say they are pleased with swimwear’s performance, encountering little price resistance from consumers hungry for novelty and designer looks. Absolutely Suitable, a swimwear store with locations in Miami Beach and at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., is doing well with designer-priced lines such as Anne Klein, Calvin Klein, Anne Cole and Ralph Lauren.
“The swimwear business is great and can only get better,” John Zoller, vice president retail operations said. “People are traveling more and want a swimwear wardrobe, with a different suit to wear every day.”

Parlez-vous Canadian?
The Montreal Collections Fashion Show will showcase more than 30 Canadian lines, including women’s and children’s wear, with an atrium fashion show Thursday, Oct. 26, at 5:30.
The third annual show, sponsored by the Atlanta Quebec Trade Office, is co-sponsored by Cirque du Soleil. The event will include pre-show giveaways, such as two round-trip tickets to Montreal and a weekend stay at the Delta Hotel. Buyers can hear Quebecois musicians play, sample the province’s beer and enjoy crepe-making onsite.
Guest designer at the show is Margaret M, a sportswear and suitings house. The 11-year-old line recently launched Y2M, a contemporary division.
At wholesale prices ranging from $110 to $115, the line is considered better-to-bridge. However, no such distinctions exist in the Canadian market.
“Prices are categorized, but everything is just called ‘sportswear,”‘ explained Claude Fredj, co-owner, Margaret M. The line is known for stretch fabrics in Lycra/polyester and viscose blends. Each group has two jackets, two skirts and two pants, as well as a print coordinate piece, in two or three colors. Eight groups have 10 pieces per group.
For spring, the line abandons prior nods to minimalism. Its emphasis instead is on color and femininity as well as embellishment and hand-painted details.
Having first penetrated the U.S. market five years ago, Margaret M’s U.S. sales now account for 70 percent of total business.
The line has made adjustments for the U.S. customer. In addition to lighter-weight fabrics and more color, the line now delivers monthly, rather than twice-yearly, and trend direction is more updated.
“The U.S. understands and follows trends more closely than Canada, and the customer is more open to change,” he said. U.S. buyers appreciate European styling, inspired by designers such as Prada.
Other Canadian lines at the show include Louben, Cartisse and children’s line C’est la Vie. Apparel was the number one category among Canadian exports this year, according to the Ministere de l’Industrie et du Commerce. Quebec’s garment industry alone has grown from $211 million in 1990 to $1.5 billion in 1999.

October Brides
October is a major bridal market for AmericasMart.
With more than 90 products on the 10th floor, including gowns and accessories, the International Bridal Show features lines such as Venus and Alyce Designs. It stages fashion shows and seminars sponsored by the mart and the National Bridal Service (NBS), a Richmond, Va.-based organization of independently owned businesses that serve the bridal market. NBS will also hold a national meeting at AmericasMart on Sunday.
Marty Boikess, vice president, sales, at Del Ray Beach, Fla.-based Alfred Angelo Bridal collection, said bridal lines such as his are becoming more diverse. With 85 gowns, styling ranges from the most traditional to more contemporary looks.
Niche markets are also becoming more important, said Boikess. At his firm, a plus-size division, from 16W to 28W, was introduced four years ago and now includes the same sizing for bridesmaids. Many prom dresses are also available in large sizing, he added.
Boikess said the concentration on large-size gowns is in direct response to consumer demand, as letters and e-mails constantly request large sizes.