Bold, resort-quality fashions define Miami Beach Swim Week 2013

Miami Beach was swimming in fashion last week — from barely there bikinis to geometric cutout one-pieces and breezy cover-ups, all in vibrant prints, cabana stripes and solids, splashed in shades of orange, aqua and pastels.

Lanky models in high heels and suede booties strutted the runways, on pool platforms, in tents and hotel ballrooms, filling dozens of designer shows that brought next season’s beach and resort wear to life.

Centered around SwimShow, the largest swimwear trade show in the world, held each July at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Swim Week’s fashion shows, parties and other events lured buyers, fashionistas and international press to South Florida to eye the latest collections.

“It brings wonderful attention to what is happening in swimwear, and where else than in Miami?” said designer Anna Kosturova of Vancouver, who showed her crocheted swim and resort wear on the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim.

“This is the testing ground to know how good your product is,” Kosturova added Tuesday at her booth in the Convention Center, where buyers from the Four Seasons Punta Mita, Mexico and Harrods of London were browsing.

Inside two massive tents at the Raleigh Hotel, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim drew standing-room-only crowds for five days of fashion shows and events, featuring 33 designers. Other runway shows and satellite events were held at an array of venues, including the SLS Hotel South Beach and the Soho Beach House.

From boho chic to cheeky, and military tough to sophisticated cool, swimwear designers reinvented themselves yet again for the upcoming 2014 resort season.

For sheer drama, the Nicolita fashion show at Mercedes-Benz began with a white-suited detective and trench-coated models holding flashlights, showcasing the show’s theme: “The Search for the Perfect Booty.”

“It’s all about reinventing the bikini,” said Nicole Di Rocco, 33, owner and creator of Nicolita, based in Los Angeles.

Di Rocca’s designs incorporated lace and crochet inserts and ruffle trims, in vibrant mints, corals and polka dots, some with big bows — reminiscent of Betty Boop.

Agua Bendita’s collection ranged from grunge to Navajo-like prints, with additions like leggings, cargo pants and short shorts over bikinis.

Standout pieces included a one-piece swimsuit with a dangling camera design on the front, and cover-ups and maxi-dresses with large lion prints.

Dolores Cortés offered a sea of aqua, brightly colored prints and pastel snakeskin, on bikinis and maillots, with a variety of cutouts.

A chartreuse green pleated maxi skirt, purple bikini with mesh inserts, fuchsia two-pieces and items in a feminine impressionist-like print highlighted the show, whose finale featured a model wearing a bikini top made of gold plates with studs, atop a flowered bikini bottom.

L*Space by Monica Wise incorporated crystal blue Caribbean colors and sugary sand colors, in prints, and mix and match bikinis, often adorned in fringe or ruffles.

“It’s all about mixing and matching, all about bright colors, and a lot of bikinis that have movement,” Wise said. “I love movement in swimwear.”

Many suits, in color-blocking, were reversible for versatility, she said.

Her models wore their hair in plaited ponytails coated in glitter, and shimmery necklaces, showcasing fringed minidress cover-ups and maxi dresses in addition to bikinis and one-pieces with cutouts.

In fact, you could call it the year of cutouts, multiple strapping and mix and match. Accessories also captured the attention at several shows, with neckwear sometimes overtaking the swimwear.

“Colorful, sexy, imaginative,” said Deborah Bush, director of retail for Strategic Hotels & Resorts, describing the newest collections on the runway, noting more shorts, harem pants, fringe and high-low dresses.

Aqua di Lara charmed with vibrant print and orange bikinis, some with ruched sides or fastened with gold pins, along with flowing, bedazzled or appliquéd caftans.

One-pieces in a purple and white fleur de lis print, and in white with a halter top — both with cutouts — stood out, as did a high-waisted suit with a zigzag pattern and a black one-piece with lots of strapping in back, giving a bit of a bondage vibe.

Mara Hoffman delighted the audience with wild, colorful, psychedelic-type prints, in swimsuits and body-conscious short dresses, worn by models with multiple braids tied in dangly fringe.

One-pieces with cutouts or criss-crossed strapping in the back, two-pieces with ruched or high-waisted, side-strapped bottoms, as well as cropped tops, short rompers and laser-cut fabric added to the collection, which also included matching printed bags. Also a standout: an orange one-piece suit with crochet front and double-strapping in back.

At the SLS, Brazilian designer Sinesia Karol launched her second resort collection over the pool.

Karol, who lives in Boston, teamed up with Brazilian artist Ana Paula Castro on the designs, which featured colorful, silky fabrics and rich textures — with skimpy or high-waisted retro styles, jumpsuits and rompers.

“I was inspired by the birds of Brazil,” Karol said backstage before the show.

Standouts on the runway included a white, high-waisted two-piece with covered buttons on the side, a cabana-striped one-piece with cutouts in front, black harem pants with a bandeau top, as well as a variety of printed styles, like a royal blue bird print flowy jumpsuit and a green bird print strapless jumpsuit with an elastic waist.

At the Soho Beach House, Chloé made its U.S. debut of its nautical-themed Chloé Swim 2014 collection.

Wildfox Swim also drew a crowd at the Soho, including Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick, as models romped on the runway in playful designs.

Rainbow-striped bikinis and one-pieces, short shorts, a red one-piece with the words “Hello,” in front and “Charlie” in back, and several pieces in fruit or butterfly motifs and a pink and blue ombre fabric also summoned attention.

At W South Beach, Salon Allure offered a departure from its usual pool platform opening night fashion show, instead opting for a one-woman show starring Hannah Davis, who modeled five swimsuits in a ballroom of the hotel, with a video backdrop of her rocking the styles of more than two dozen Salon Allure designers.

A slew of other events and parties also drew revelers at Swim Week.

Torrential rains brought Peroni’s Emerging Designer Series indoors at the SLS, where nine South Florida designers showcased their Italian-inspired designs, naming Kim Nguyen and her label Quyen Dimension as the winner.

A kickoff party for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim at the Raleigh showcased Roxy, which celebrated its 25th anniversary with models perched on platforms above the crowd, wearing the Roxy Pop Surf collection.

The same night, female servers in gold minidresses and fur hats passed around drinks made with Russian Standard Vodka at Ocean Drive Magazine’s issue release party.

Back at the Raleigh fashion shows, Australian brand Suboo brought an air of sartorial wow to the runways with capped- and long-sleeved crop tops over bottoms and a bold color palette.

The show stood out for its calculated turn away from the ubiquitous flirty bikinis and mono-kinis into highly-stylized, avant-garde swimwear. Among the highlights: a crop top in a graphic blur of blues and oranges.

Minimale Animale wowed the crowd, showing particularly revealing athletic styles that recalled the ’90s. One-pieces with mesh bodices and mid-sections featured playful coverage on top with shapes of stars, palm trees and eagles. A favorite look was a pair of models wearing belly-bearing mesh football jerseys in orange and black with high-waisted bottoms.

Cia.Marítima designer Benny Rosset said this year’s swim collection was inspired by jet-setters. That translated to a resort-worthy, sophisticated line of animal prints, cutouts, flowing cover-ups and rich sunset tones.

“This is about the woman who has traveled the globe. She is someone who knows good things and where to go. She has great taste,” said the Brazilian designer. “We used a lot of deep orange, which represents summer. It is warm and vibrant and really works for Miami.”

Miami Herald staff writer Audra D.S. Burch and writer Ricardo Mor contributed to this report.

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