Miami Swim Week, Miami Beach’s signature fashion marketplace, kicks off Thursday with the usual army of bikini-clad models, thousands of swimwear makers and buyers from dozens of countries. What it won’t have is its key sponsor.
The result is less central organization at the world’s largest beachwear trade event.
The three major trade shows, runway shows and glamorous poolside parties — most invitation-only events — are still on the schedule.
But instead of strutting beneath white tents outside the Raleigh Hotel, models will parade on runways inside hotel ballrooms and on al fresco catwalks scattered among nine Miami Beach locations. The only Swim Week tent this year will be the Main Funkshion Tent, set up in Collins Park.
In May, IMG, the New York-based global sports and media business that presented Swim Week’s main event for a decade, announced it was taking a hiatus after name sponsor Mercedes-Benz pulled out of fashion weeks around the world. IMG has promised to return next year with a redesigned show.
The company’s departure left local organizers scrambling to put together a show in only two months.
“It’s going to be different because of that change, but I think it’s going to be a strong week,” said Rick Fatzinger, a special events manager. His company, SBI / McNabb Roick, LDJ Productions and others stepped in to organize the trade event.
Some 10,000 people from 60 countries — including more than 3,000 buyers — attended SwimShow, Swim Week’s veteran trade show, last year. Organizers expect about 3,000 buyers again this year.
The biggest fallout after IMG’s announcement came from the press, Fatzinger said. SBI and LDJ production companies had to convince journalists that shows would still happen, so they quickly booked hotels as venues. They pushed for sponsors.
“This is what we do from the production side,” Fatzinger said. “This was just in a shorter time period.”
For many manufacturers and buyers, Swim Week is too important to skip.
The grandfather of the trade shows is the 33-year-old SwimShow, the world’s largest beachwear trade show and the event that served as the catalyst for expansion into Swim Week, said Judy Stein, executive director of the Swimwear Association of Florida, via email.
SwimShow’s exhibition space will be squeezed to 250,000 square feet this year — not because of any organizational changes, but because of upcoming renovations to the Miami Beach Convention Center.
“The business side of the industry — the actual financial component that will decide which buyers will see and/or buy a collection in the coming season — these decisions are made at our show for over 90 percent of the swimwear industry,” Stein wrote.
SwimShow is the only place buyers can see so many vendors in a weekend, said Shirley Lippincott, an independent buyer for 18 stores in the Caribbean.
“That’s your opportunity to see everything and plan out your season,” Lippincott said. “From there, we make all the decisions for the rest of the season as far as who we’re going to choose and what we’re going to put in our stores.”
Industry sales have grown over the last few years, according to research from the NPD Group, a market research company based in Port Washington, New York. Retail swimwear sales topped $4.4 billion last year, representing annual growth of 6 percent in women’s swimwear and 13 percent in men’s.
That growth is apparent in the number of emerging new brands and new product lines from established designers at Swim Week. Two other participating trade shows, Cabana and Hammock (formerly Salon Allure), also expect good numbers.
Lycra is returning for its sixth year of sponsoring the Hammock trade show. While Dianne Lober, brand manager for Lycra, said “there will be a different feel about Miami Swim Week without IMG,” participation was a given for the synthetic fabric company.
Others companies, including Mara Hoffman, considered skipping this year’s event after IMG’s cancellation. But the trade shows offer an opportunity to see customers who don’t live in New York, where the brand is headquartered, and to woo new buyers, said president and namesake Mara Hoffman.
The runway shows, typically staged by IMG, are better for drumming up press — publicity that Hoffman, whose bright, bohemian designs are a mainstay in national retailers such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, could go without.
“But then we kind of thought about it and realized a lot of press is still going down, and it’s a strong collection,” Hoffman said. “And why not?”
For up-and-comer Frankie’s Bikinis, last year’s Swim Week was a defining moment.
“We were able to grow our wholesale business and get a lot of great press,” owner and designer Francesca Aiello said. “We got great feedback, and a lot of stores were ordering. And if they had missed the show, there was a buzz about it so they came and saw us.” At 20, she’s one of the youngest designers to ever show at the event.
Presenting at this year’s runway shows was a natural move.
“We were under the impression that [IMG] would be a part of Swim Week, and we’d be under their umbrella,” Aiello said. “But I knew we’d be able to find a really good location to find a runway show.”