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Byline: GEORGIA LEE
ATLANTA -- Lingerie looks, bra treatments, textured fabrics, ethnic prints and schoolgirl looks will highlight the Cruise '95 swimwear show, sponsored by the Swimwear Association of Florida.
The show, which runs July 16-22 at the Miami International Merchandise Mart, will feature more than 100 exhibitors, compared with 90 last year, and is expected to draw between 700 and 800 buyers.
"It is evolving into a national show," said Jerry Fleisher, president of SAF and a sales representative for Gabar, Calvin Klein and Cazimi. "We're drawing more department stores from outside Florida and the Caribbean, but those areas are still our primary focus."
To honor Florida and Caribbean buyers, the mart is promoting "Florida/Caribbean Retailer's Appreciation Weekend," with parties at local attractions, such as the Miami Seaquarium. Fleisher said that approximately a dozen buyers were expected from Mexico, and that Central and South America had been increasingly represented in recent years.
Manufacturers often launch cruise lines at the show, where up to 80 percent of annual sales are generated.
Kathy Van Ness, president of Authentic Fitness Corp., which produces Cole, Catalina, Anne Cole and Oscar de la Renta lines, compared the market to "the runway shows in New York. It's a way to show our ideas and position ourselves for the season."
Van Ness noted that value had become increasingly important to the consumer.
"In some cases, we've come down in price, but mostly we're trying to put more value into a suit and educate the customer on why it's worth the price."
Price is also a consideration for Gillian Mitchell, co-owner of Twins, a Miami-based juniors and contemporary swimwear manufacturer. The company will introduce Les Jumelles, a new moderate division designed to retail at prices under $65.
In silhouettes, bras will be a focal point, with underwire styles and padding features inspired by innerwear markets. Twins has introduced a Super Push-up bra designed to add a size, as well as a Wonderful Bra, with removable side padding for extra cleavage.
Color is making a comeback in swimwear, just as in ready-to-wear, with more brights and pastels showing up among the earth tones. Athletic influences, such as racer backs, sporty bras and striping are important for swimwear as well as in coverups, where boy shorts, cycle shorts and pull-on knit T-shirts are adding versatility.
Barbara Henriquez, designer of Miami-based Darling Rio, is taking a back-to-basics approach, with clean, simple silhouettes in textured and print fabrics.
"The industry is burned out on straps and crosses," she said. "We're doing clean tanks with interesting textures that add dimension."
In juniors, manufacturers spotlight bare skimpy bikinis, padded and push-up bras, as well as ethnic and flag prints, tie-dyed looks and other whimsical patterns.
"The newest thing is the schoolgirl look, with ivy league influences such as argyle and houndstooth checks," said Howard Greller, executive vice president of Beach Patrol Inc., a Carson, Calif.-based junior and contemporary swimwear firm.
Beach Patrol will occupy 4,000 square feet at the show, to accommodate increased business, said Greller. Advance appointments are up to 500, compared with 400 last year, he added.
The misses' market continues to camouflage figure problems with control features, while updating styling. "This customer is in better shape and wants younger, fresher looks," said Gabar sales representative Jerry Fleisher.
Retailers report improved business over the past year, partially due to fashion that they feel was on target. Stacey Siegel, owner of Everything But Water, a swimwear specialty chain with 25 stores nationwide, reported a 42 percent increase in gross sales year to date over last year.
Siegel, who does the majority of buying at the Miami show, will shop with an increased budget for crochet, gingham, flannel plaid and textured looks, as well as bodywear influences and darker colors.
"We've had a tremendous response from our customers to fashion trends this year," she said. "We just want vendors to keep doing what they're doing, only to do it better."