16 July 2010

Swimwear Shows are Taking over in Miami Beach

Miami Herald

Think of it as the Art Basel of the swimwear world: dripping with international cache, spawning new events each year, filling Miami Beach hotels and dropping millions of dollars into the South Florida economy.

And even art collectors may agree it's sexier showcasing bikinis than Boteros.

Swimwear designers, models, retailers, fashion show producers and international press are all descending on Miami Beach this weekend for the largest and most important swimwear trade show in the world, SwimShow 2011 -- plus various fashion shows and ancillary events surrounding it.

The recognition they bring to Miami -- videos shown round the world, photos gracing the pages of magazines -- make the events the pinnacle of the summer, said Rolando Aedo, senior vice president of marketing at the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

``We're the epicenter of sensualness and sexiness on the global scale, and this further validates that point,'' he said.

SwimShow 2011 begins Saturday at the Miami Beach Convention Center and runs through Tuesday, as the opening show of the swimwear season worldwide, where 350 manufacturers, with 2,000 lines, will reveal for the first time next year's collections to more than 2,500 buyers.

In all, 7,500 people are expected to flow through the convention center for the show, said Judy Stein, executive director of the Swimwear Association of Florida, which has produced the trade show in the Miami area for more than two decades.

SwimShow 2011, which Aedo said brings in $1.2 million alone, is the forerunner for other events, and has cemented Miami Beach's position on the swimwear map.

``I absolutely feel that Miami Beach is the swimwear capital of the world,'' Stein said.

Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim, a series of sexy fashion shows at Miami Beach's Raleigh Hotel, kicked off its sixth year with a Trina Turk fashion show and party Thursday night. In all, 26 designers' fashions will parade on the runway during the evenings, by invitation only, through Monday.

The event, which brings in models, hair and makeup people, lighting and sound producers, and other planners who prepare for weeks, has tripled in size during the last three years, said Peter Levy, senior vice president and managing director of IMG Fashion Worldwide, which produces the show.

Plantation-based DHL is sponsoring the Beach Bunny Swimwear show, which features the design collaborations of Kourtney Kardashian, Kim Kardashian and Khloe Kardashian Odom.

And more fashion events are cropping up.

Salon Allure, a luxury trade show, is launching this year for the first time, featuring 19 swimwear brands showcasing their wares in a boutique setting inside the W Hotel South Beach, through Tuesday.

Among Salon Allure's designers is Ivana Sert, whose swimsuit, encrusted with Swarovski crystals, was worn by Kim Cattrall in the movie Sex and the City 2. Istanbul-based Sert will be showing 60 pieces to retail buyers in her Miami debut.

``To meet the buyers and show my brand and my designs and my talent, this is a very good step for me,'' said Sert, whose items are priced at wholesale between about $250 and $900.

So far, 250 buyers and retailers and 40 media organizations are expected to attend Salon Allure, said Rick Fatzinger, producer of the event.

``Miami Swim Week has boomed and created this week in the middle of the summer that is usually a slow time here,'' he said.

In fact, in the midst of the oppressive heat and downpours of July, beachfront hotels are sold out, restaurants are booked and Miami Beach's Collins Avenue is filled with traffic.

``Between last year and this year, we feel this has reached a critical mass,'' Aedo said.

Consumers can't attend the fashion shows, but organizers are hoping they will google the designers' names and watch the videos, which will probably be available online the day after the show.

Though the main Swim Week events are not open to the public, they represent the behind-the-scenes steps that take your maillot, swim trunks or cover-up from manufacturer to store rack.

Swimwear, a $4.5 billion industry in the United States, has been resilient during the recession, and is one of the three best performing categories in the apparel industry in the U.S., along with dresses and small leather goods, said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for the NPD Group, a market research company based in Port Washington, N.Y.

Unlike other segments of the apparel industry, whose sales were overall down 2.1 percent during the 12 months ended in May, swimwear sales were up 2.5 percent during that timeframe, NPD data shows.

Cohen said the main reasons are that swimwear has diversified uses, and people feel a need to buy a new suit, either because they want a new style or their old one has worn out or doesn't fit anymore.

``If it is too big, you are really in trouble,'' he said, ``and if it too small, you're showing things you don't want to show.''

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