Michael Gould and Joseph Gromek with Olympic stars Rowdy Gaines and Janet Evans.

NEW YORK — Speedo, which has sponsored the U.S. swim team since 1984, showcased its new Fastskin FS II U.S. Olympic team uniforms at the Bloomingdale’s flagship here Monday.<BR><BR>Former Olympians and gold-medal winners Janet Evans and...

NEW YORK — Speedo, which has sponsored the U.S. swim team since 1984, showcased its new Fastskin FS II U.S. Olympic team uniforms at the Bloomingdale’s flagship here Monday.

Former Olympians and gold-medal winners Janet Evans and Rowdy Gaines modeled the red, white and blue swimsuits, which are made of a sharkskin-like material and have features such as bumps on the chest and shoulder blades to minimize drag. A gray, white and lime green version is available for women and men exclusively at Bloomingdale’s, in full-body and sleeveless styles.

“The things consumers are asking for is uniqueness and technology, and not sameness,” said Craig Brommers, vice president of marketing for Speedo, explaining why non-Olympians would be interested in a high-priced, advanced suit. The FS II, at $400 retail, is the first Fastskin to be offered at a department store.

The introduction of the consumer suit marks the brand’s reentry into Bloomingdale’s swim department after about a two-year absence. The Platinum Collection by Speedo, a line of superpremium women’s swimwear priced at $200 retail, also will be carried by the retailer.

“What Bloomingdale’s tries to do is separate itself from the competition by providing newness and excitement,” said Michael Gould, the chain’s chairman and chief executive.

Bloomingdale’s officials declined to discuss how much business they expect to do with the FS II swimwear.

There is a buzz surrounding U.S. Olympic swimming this year as Michael Phelps makes a run at breaking Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals at the Athens Games next month.

“Phelps is creating quite a bit of excitement,” said Joseph Gromek, president and ceo of the Warnaco Group, which holds the Speedo swimwear license. Speedo will award Phelps $1 million should he eclipse Spitz.

The former Olympians said they wished they had the Fastskin advantage during their competitive careers.

“When I was swimming, it was the smaller the suit, the better,” said Gaines, 45.

Evans, 32, who was recently inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame, agreed. “Things change in sports and technology,” she said. “Making people faster is part of that whole process.”

This story first appeared in the July 20, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Speedo will provide Fastskin swimsuits for almost 130 countries, including the Netherlands, whose suits will be orange and blue, and Australia, whose suits will be green and yellow.

“From a fashion perspective, seeing the bright colors adds a fashion element that’s been lacking in recent years,” Brommers said. “Traditional swim uniforms have leaned on black, blues and navy. Visually, this will be the most impressive swimming competition ever.”