DIVING IN: Not surprisingly, Speedo, the brand that helped rewrite swimming’s record book with its LZR Racer suit, is taking issue with the decision by FINA, the sport’s governing body, to ban high-tech, long-length swimsuits starting next year.

Under the new guidelines, women will not be able to wear suits that extend beyond their shoulders or knees, and men will not be allowed to wear suits that go below their knees. The bulk of medal winners at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games competed in LZR racer suits. TYR Sport, Jaked and Adidas also make their own variations of high-tech, polyurethane-based suits.

This story first appeared in the July 27, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In a statement issued Sunday, Speedo said, “As a forward thinking company, that has invested millions in R&D, we believe that technology — properly monitored and adhering to guidelines — does have a place in all sport. Any move which seems to take the sport back two decades — such as a possible return to the traditional female swimsuit and male jammer — is a retrograde step that could be detrimental to the future of swimming.

“We recognize the catastrophic effect and controversy that the introduction of fully nonpermeable wetsuits by certain manufacturers has had on the sport of swimming in recent months. Speedo has always believed that there is no place in the sport for buoyancy aids.”

The ban is pending a final FINA vote Tuesday.

THE OSCAR GOES TO…: In October, Oscar de la Renta can add another prize to his list of accomplishments — the Superstar Award at The Fashion Group International’s 26th annual Night of Stars. “Oscar personifies the word ‘superstar,’” Margaret Hayes, president of The Fashion Group International, said. This year’s gala, which will take place at Cipriani 55 Wall Street in New York on Oct. 22, will be themed “The Storytellers,” and de la Renta seemed to fit the bill. “While this award honors his lifetime achievements, it is also in recognition of the vitality and creativity clearly apparent in his current collections,” Hayes said. “Oscar is truly a most accomplished and inspirational figure in our industry.” Barneys New York creative director Simon Doonan will once again emcee the gala. Lord & Taylor will be the night’s lead sponsor, with participating sponsors including Bebe, Arcade Marketing, Cotton Inc., Givaudan, The Taubman Co. and InStyle.

JERSEY NOISE: When the informant at the heart of a years-long probe into money laundering operations in Brooklyn and New Jersey needed to explain his sudden cash flow to its targets, he dropped two names: Gucci and Prada. According to court documents, the cooperating witness in the multipronged investigation, which last week resulted in the arrest of several businessmen, rabbis and New Jersey politicians, used a nonexistent counterfeit handbag business to gain several defendants’ trust. Of the 44 people arrested in the sting on Thursday, 15 face charges related to money laundering. Criminal complaints related to those arrests show that the FBI provided its witness tens of thousands of dollars, which he then gave to the defendants to launder. “We make ’em, we ship ’em, and we make money.…The money comes into New York and we ship it overseas to another bank — we wire it,” the witness told one suspect of his Brooklyn handbag operation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark confirmed Friday there were never any knockoffs. Still, the complaints show the witness took to his imaginary backstory with aplomb, even providing the occasional retail insight. “The business is very good now because the market’s down — economy’s down, and everyone wants to buy. Instead of spending $1,000 for a Prada bag, we sell it for $200; Gucci bag, $300. It’s $1,200 in the store,” he said in a June 2008 exchange. The government source is reported to be 36-year-old Solomon Dwek, the son of a prominent rabbi in the Syrian Jewish community in Deal, N.J. According to court records, Dwek was arrested in 2006 after he bounced a $25 million check at a New Jersey bank.


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