For five days, the business behind beachwear unfolded in Miami Beach — under big top tents, on rooftops, on a catwalk built above a pool, in swank hotel lobbies and boutiques, even in the elegant salon of a private estate, where models strutted under stunning chandeliers.
The annual staged at the iconic Raleigh Hotel, the nearby trade show at the Miami Beach Convention Center and a growing constellation of smaller satellite shows collectively offered a peek into next year’s uniforms of the beach— a dazzling patchwork of bikinis and one-pieces, breezy caftans and tunics, rompers and cover-ups, peek-a-boo pants and skirts, exotic prints and the occasional cape for those headed more for lounging than swimming.
“I love doing swim,’’ said New York-based designer Mara Hoffman, who added swimwear to her brand four years ago. “It’s more whimsical and I think women are willing to take more risks with swim in terms of prints and cover-ups. Women have fun with swimwear, so its fun to cater to that.’’
The swimsuit industry, once an afterthought in the larger fashion world, has exploded. Swim week has grown to include an official lineup of 25 major international designers —including six labels this year — alongside satellites and trade shows, Salon Allure, Funkshion, MOD Swim Week and RAJ, all showcasing established and emerging designers. Another new satellite came to the beach this year: Miami Splash: Dive into Fashion, which offered a stage for black and Hispanic designers. And all over Miami Beach last week, designers presented independent swim, resort and fall collections to capitalize on the week’s gathering of buyers, a discerning audience and the media, not unlike fashion week in New York each fall.
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“We chose Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim to exclusively present our Fall 2011collection at the Setai South Beach as we feel this is the perfect atmosphere to strengthen the presence of Chloe with Miami local and international clients,’’ said Jose Manrique, Chloe boutique manager.The runways were brimming plunging necklines, cut-out maillots, one-shouldered styles and a sprinkling of bathing skirts. Add to that, lots of bikinis, with plenty of crochet, fringe and ruffles detailing, rope and leather belts and ribbon-like strings. Both tops and bottoms were accented with hardware, from Diesel’s denim-inspired leather straps to Luli Fama’s gold butterflies and coins and bejeweled broaches.
Animal prints, a designer favorite, were omnipresent, both in natural hues and re-interpreted in bold colors. In a nod to bohemian chic, Cia.Marítima mixed leopard and floral separates and showed a blue leopard string bikini with pink trim and a cropped tee. Inca, the Miami Beach-based brand by Stacy Josloff, showed flowing cheetah print dresses. And designer Liliana Montoya, who showed at Funkshion, used tiger and zebra patterns.
As in years past, many of the designers showed swimwear that blurs the lines between the beach and the bedroom. In a fitting move, the main trade show, called SwimShow, added lingerie to its lineup this year. Beach Bunny Swimwear even introduced a bridal swimwear collection, fashioned with hand-beaded pearls, Chantilly lace and Swarovski crystals. Other lines also indulged in water unfriendly details, most notably, feathers.
In a bit of theater, super feminine corsets also returned to runways, as shown in the collections of Poko Pano and L Space by Monica Wise and We Are Handsome, which showed at MOD Swim Week.
Among the most bold patterns was the handsome dark stripe, most often paired with soft creams and pastels, as shown in the collections of Diesel and Beach Bunny, whose blue and cream stripes trimmed in red lace conjured a naughty sailor image.
For retro lovers, Callula Lillibelle, Lisa Blue and Norma Kamali showed high-waisted two-pieces. Keva by Keva J, also showing at MOD, offered a high-waisted bikini perfect for Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw.
Designers drew inspiration from fond childhood memories, personal travels and exotic locations.
Hoffman’s muse continued on her nomadic worldly excursions, beginning with exploration of Egyptian ruins and ending in Mexico. The results: bold prints featuring totem poles, King Tut and ibis; details such as seed beading, macramé and lattice cutouts and colorful embroidery inspired by Mexican serapes.
“This woman is on a journey. She’s in Egypt and then somewhere in South America,’’ says Hoffman.
Blue turned to her Australian homeland for inspiration in her first U.S. show with a collection that included Aboriginal designs and artistic prints, while Crystal Jin took cues from the Southwestern motif.
Designers also offered looks designed to elicit feelings: sexiness, confidence, joy.
“I hope my bathing suits make women feel happy,’’ says Delores Cortés of her vibrant line of neon leopard prints. “The inspiration for this collection is the idea of a woman waking up on an island and being lost in paradise. I wanted the collection to look like something a woman could make from Mother Nature.’’
Staff writers Ina Cordle, Maria Tettamanti, Annie Vazques, Zara Castany and Matt Forman contributed to this report.