Models tattooed to look like mermaids. Latin America-inspired, sexily cheeky bikinis. Sheer tunics sizzling on catwalks. And thousands of buyers and designers looking to cash in on the season’s must-have trends.
That’s the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim and its partner industry event SwimShow. And when the first pair of perfectly tanned legs makes its way down the runway Thursday in the Raleigh Hotel’s backyard, it will mark 10 years of celebrating — and marketing — the nylon, spandex and polyester creations paraded along the world’s beaches.
Many industry insiders view Miami Swim Week as a must-visit.
“It’s like the best day of the year outside of my birthday and Christmas,” said Monica Wise, creative director for the Irvine, Calif.-based L*SPACE by Monica Wise, which will participate in Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim for the fifth year.
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“The sheer amount of global media exposure this event brings is amazing,” said Fashion Week Swim spokesperson Cece Feinberg. “A young swimwear brand can be catapulted into overnight stardom — and an established brand can be reinvigorated. It’s that buzz of expectation — of seeing the best and the newest that keeps the energy level high every year.”
IMG Fashion first brought its runway acumen to South Beach in 2004. By offering a platform for swim designers to debut their resort collections at private, invite-only shows, the ongoing partnership between IMG and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week has turned Miami into a hub for both emerging and established labels.
This year, the runway lineup includes designers such as Beach Bunny, Dolores Cortés, Frankie’s Bikinis, Luli Fama, Maaji, MIKOH, We Are Handsome, Suboo, 6 Shore Road, Mara Hoffman, Wildfox Swim, Poko Pano and more.
Over the course of its lifetime, designers have unveiled their swim collections on the runway in front of nearly 100,000 attendees. This year, 10,000 guests from more than 60 countries are expected to attend the whirlwind week of runway shows along with late-night parties, poolside soirées and satellite events peppered throughout Miami Beach.
So what’s this season’s most popular trend on the catwalks? Think surfer girl-meets-boudoir.
“Sporty silhouettes such as rash guards and long-sleeve pieces in onesies and two-pieces are trending,” said Maaji Swimwear head designer Juliana Londoño. “Structured swimsuits such as body cons are also strong for this season, as well as underwire tops, strappy backs, lingerie-inspired elastics and trims.”
Designer Mara Hoffman, a Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim regular, has a new set of swimsuits inspired by a trip to Guatemala that will feature the bright colors and prints that are true to her brand’s DNA while incorporating new shapes, she said.
Skimpier styles will make a splash at this year’s L*SPACE by Monica Wise show. The Saturday event promises more skin, wrap styles and reversible swimsuits in pastels, bright colors and tribal prints.
Models will emulate mermaids through the show’s “The Water is Waiting” theme, emerging with water-slicked hair and skin and sporting custom-made, scale-like tattoos by Flash Tattoos.
Six months of work for Wise will culminate with the adjacent SwimShow at the Miami Beach Convention Center, the business end of the week-long swimwear extravaganza.
Now in its 32nd year, the trade show runs Saturday to Tuesday. The brainchild of The Swimwear Association of Florida, SwimShow is the industry’s most celebrated and established trade show. It is expected this year to attract more than 450 exhibitors showcasing more than 3,000 global swimwear brands and more than 4,500 buyers from across the world.
Wise said that in terms of selling her brand, SwimShow is the biggest event of the year, annually pulling buyers to her designs.
“Anyone in the swimwear business that doesn’t believe in the Miami SwimShow is making a huge mistake,” she said. “It’s the biggest show of the year for swim vendors, all the way from South America to Europe.”
In 10th-anniversary, bigger-than-ever style, the trade show is expanding to cover almost 550,000 square feet of exhibition space and filling all four halls at the convention center.
Attending will be Miami-based online brand swimsuit company ISHINE365. The business, started in 2012 by Miami natives Christina Pino and Katrina Silva, sells internationally and recently opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Little Haiti.
Pino said ISHINE365, which sells high-end brands like MIKOH, Mandalynn and Acacia, has attended the tradeshow for the last two years and uses it as a major platform for choosing which brands to feature on its website. The business once showcased only five brands; through exposure at events like the SwimShow, it now sells about 50 and expects to look at adding more at this year’s show.
“We brought in some great designers last year, and we hope to do the same for 2015,” Pino said.
Sneak peeks Pino received from designers have revealed that neon colors, itty-bitty bottoms and cutouts will be trending this year, she said.
More and more, she is seeing bikini tops that can transition from the beach to day and night outings.
“I feel like Swim Week is the best way to stay up to date with everything and stay on trend,” Pino said. “It’s pretty crazy how the industry is changing.”
The expansion of the event comes in line with a strong market for swimwear in today’s economy, with about 10 percent growth rate in sales every year, said Judy Stein, executive director of the Swimwear Association of Florida.
“Our expectations are for this to be a tremendously successful season,” she said. “We also see its popularity growing exponentially each year through the number of new brands entering the marketplace and new product lines being developed by existing brands.”
As celebrities and world-renowned designers descend upon Miami, the pressure is on to deliver not just the latest, but the next great trend in the swimsuit industry.
“We understand that the benchmarks of a successful show are measured by its quality, quantity and convenience, and we look forward to not just meeting, but superseding these expectations with the top brands and the most significant buyers all under one roof,” Stein said.