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Byline: KIM-VAN DANG
LOS ANGELES -- Textured fabrics and suits with bust emphasis dominated buyers' interest as cruise 1995 swimwear kicked into high gear with the opening of the International Swimwear and Activewear Market here.
Many retailers shopping the show also said they favored maillots and were taken with back interest as well. As for colors, deep hues remained key; although some expressed excitement over the emergence of neon and metallic colors as well as tie-dye treatments, they said they would only buy those looks for their junior customers.
The three-day show, that runs through today at the California Mart, produced a steady flow of traffic for many showrooms, and Barbara Brady, ISAM coordinator, said she expected attendance to exceed that of a year ago.
Most retailers surveyed reported strong sales for June and seemed optimistic about third-quarter business. Buyers' budgets, though, were mixed, and many said they will wait another month before ordering cruise 1995 goods.
Marie Pitcher, swimwear and activewear buyer for ZCMI, a chain of 13 department stores based in Salt Lake City, was in search of textured suits in deep shades at $18 to $42 wholesale.
"I'm seeing a lot of texture -- puckers, ribs, puffed fabrications -- - and I like them," she said. Bra construction was also important to the retailer, who said that removable half-pads make up a significant part of her business.
With swimwear sales up an average 6 percent per store for the year so far, Pitcher said she would slightly increase her open-to-buy. She was enthusiastic about fish-print and denim-like print suits by Jag, "ladylike" suits by Elisabeth Stewart and La Bianca's nautical group. The buyer noted that some of the stores are remodeling, which would increase the size of their swimwear departments.
Alison Johnson, buyer for Diane's -- a swimwear chain based in Manhattan Beach, Calif. with 12 stores statewide and two Midwest units, in Grand Haven, Mich. and Springfield, Mo. -- also favored dark colors, texture and bra construction.
"We'll always sell triangle tops, but the Wonderbra look is really hot," she said. "I think the look started in swimwear, though. For a couple of years now, swimwear manufacturers have been designing suits that make you look a whole size bigger. It's great."
Tactel suits in a textured weave in shades of brown, burgundy, hunter green and navy were at the top of her list, she said, adding that she was also intrigued by Mossimo's deep jewel tone group and some neon offerings in the market.
"Neons always look good with a tan," she said, "and they will sell well in the Midwest."
Johnson said her open-to-buy was flat with a year ago, adding "June sales made up for rotten weather we had all spring."
Sheila Gagne, an owner of La Wee Bikinis in Buena Park, Calif., said, "Brights are a reality. Most people who buy bathing suits are sun lovers." Still, her taste ran to dark two-piece suits that offer bust support.
"About 75 percent of our business is in suits with padded tops," she said, adding that the other 25 percent of sales is in E cup size suits."Women are less intimidated by their size these days," she said. Shopping for styles at $27 to $38 wholesale in a wide range of fabrics including stretch corduroy and velour, Gagne said her sales are up 25 percent for the year. She has enjoyed like increases over the past three years, she said, thanks to innovations in swimwear construction.
"Manufacturers are considering the needs of all women now, not just small-sized women," she said, adding that in her opinion, the best fitting suits in the market are made by De La Mer, Jantzen, Sunsets, Beach City Exit, Take Cover and Shok.
Jennifer Cox, buyer for Nordstrom in Anchorage, Alaska, looked for suits in neutral earth tones at $20 to $60 wholesale.
"Bust emphasis has been strong for a year now in Anchorage," she said. "Suits with removable pads are easy to sell because they are versatile."
The buyer liked textures including new crochet patterns in the market and said she also planned to place small orders of metallic and neon-colored suits.
Her swimwear business is strong, she said, but because of a store redesign, the swimwear department is being moved to a smaller area.
Sandra Jordan, owner of Sledz N Thredz, a two-year-old surf and skatewear store in Ramona, Calif. said she began carrying junior swimwear for the first time this summer. Jordan did not shy away from neon brights and expressed interest in "passion pink" suits by Why Things Burn. She also liked hunter green and lavender offerings from Tahchee.
Shopping price points of $15 to $35 wholesale, she preferred suits in easy-care fabrics that emphasized the bust, but still provided ample coverage. "It was surprising to me how much bust support many young girls needed and wanted," Jordan said. "Many of them shop with their mothers, too, who demand more coverage."