Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim | Summer 2012


A South Beach Splash

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim showcases the latest trends in beach couture.

By Lilibet Snellings

As if July in Miami isn’t hot enough, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim heats up South Beach with a nonstop parade of tanned legs and toned bodies. In its eighth year, Swim Week (as its often referred to) celebrates the world of beach couture in a weeklong series of fashion shows and festivities taking place July 19 – 23. And unlike its sister fashion week in New York—where rail-thin models in muted colors and matte makeup scowl at the end of the runway—the bikini-clad models at Swim Week are all smiles and sun-tousled tresses. While most front-row seats at Swim Week are reserved for members of the press, buyers, celebrities and VIPs, there’s still plenty of action for those not in the industry, with countless parties and events happening all week long, including the star-studded opening and closing night soirees at The Raleigh Hotel in South Beach’s Art Deco District.

“Fashion Week is the epicenter for all things swim,” says Kalani Miller, one half of the Orange County-based swimwear brand MIKOH, which she founded with her sister Oleema. “Miami is the perfect location for the event too: sun, sand, warm water and beautiful people.”

Providing designers with international exposure to the media, magazine editors, buyers, celebrities and style-makers who set their sales in motion, Swim Week is the world’s largest stage for swimwear designers around the world. “It’s a great platform to present our collection among industry peers, media and buyers,” says Reyhan Sofraci, the award-winning creative director of Aqua Di Lara, a luxury swimwear line based in Montreal. “Everyone and anyone swim is in Miami that week.”



2012 Trends

With loud, electric colors and vibrant, kaleidoscopic prints, this year’s swim styles make a bigger splash than ever before.


Color Blocking Brights

The pumped-up palettes of the ’90s make a comeback as designers unleash white-hot hues like “electric melon” and “highlighter.” Unlike some of the more dizzying neon combos of the ’90s, this season’s suits take a more sophisticated, clean-lined approach to the fluorescent trend by color-blocking bright, solid separates. Los Angeles-based A. Che does this flawlessly with its newest neon collection—thick bands of fuchsia and lime tightly layered alongside black. Beach Bunny’s latest campaign—Beach Bunny Neon—features fluorescent-clad model kate Upton (who was born in ’92) decked out with the appropriate ’80s/’90s accoutrements: a plastic poker dealer’s visor and a caution sign-yellow calculator watch.


Crown Jewel

Less electric, but still incandescent, jewel tones will make a strong showing this year. look for a royal array of gem- colored tones: ruby, emerald, amethyst and sapphire.


Going Global

From the Aztecs in Mexico to the bazaars of Marrakesh, swim week will be a bonanza of globally inspired designs: ikat, batik, tribal and tiki. New York-based designer Mara hoffman is the queen of fabric prints for swimwear. however, hoffman—who says her multi-chromatic geometrical collections are inspired by “world travel, nature, mythology and magic”—will only be one of many designers embracing the global aesthetic this year, as it is expected to be swimwear’s hottest trend.


Call of the Wild

Plants and animals from around the world will also provide inspiration for this year’s collections, with python, leopard and cheetah prints still in the mix, plus the flora and fauna that surround them. Reyhan Sofraci of Aqua di lara says, “expect a lot of exotic flowers, leaves and skins.” Swimwear’s soft and feminine floral patterns of the past are replaced by massive, unique “Jurassic Park”-inspired leaves.


Classic Vintage

Feminine, vintage looks will continue to be in style this season, with high-waist bottoms, stripes, polka dots, frills and ruffles coming together in retro combinations that hearken back to the bathing “costume” days of the 1920s. with plenty of ruching, New York swim legend Norma kamali’s high-waist throwback styles are both flattering and fashionable.


Solo Swim

Maillots, monokinis, or—more simply—one-pieces, are still a swim week staple. This year the sleek suits are halter-necked, one-shouldered and—though they create the most curious tan lines—cutout. A. Che’s Luna Maillot in lights of Ibiza embraces multiple swimwear trends at once: it’s a cutout monokini crisscrossed with thick bands of color-blocked fluorescents.

Lisa Vogel, founder of Orange County-based Luxe, says, “Swim Week is the biggest week of the year for us. It’s really when we kick off the season and debut the new collection to the world.”


Work and Play

While Swim Week is a major event for the swimwear business, it’s hardly all work, no play. “Showing at fashion week is only half the fun,” says Miller, who will bring MIKOH to Swim Week for the third time this year. “There’s also plenty of time to meet new people, have drinks and have fun dinners with friends.”

The runways shows, parties and after-parties are non-stop, as the bars, clubs and restaurants of South Beach host Swim Week’s elite all night long. A.Z. Araujo, of the swimwear line by the same name, says his favorite part of Swim Week is the parties. Araujo, who grew up in Boqueirao, Brazil, was a Brazilian soap opera star in the mid-’90s before befriending the wardrobe stylist and falling in love with fashion. “The people at Swim Week are really amazing,” he says. “When I am [in Miami], it’s a big party.”

For those in the swim business, Swim Week is like homecoming. “It’s the reunion of everyone in the industry,” Sofraci says. “It’s so nice to get together this one time a year to see old friends, meet new ones and celebrate beach fashion.”

The celebrating—and celebrities—are nonstop. Last year, “Gossip Girl” actress Jessica Szohr served as DJ for the opening night party, hosted by Diesel and Skyy Vodka, while Kristin Cavallari donned the world’s first glass bikini—a cutout monokini embellished with royal blue shards of glass (inspired by Skyy’s iconic cobalt blue bottle)—while fiancé Jay Cutler sat front row with fellow NFL star Chad Ochocinco. “Real Housewives of Miami” diva Adriana De Moura strutted the catwalk for designer A.Z. Araujo, with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl Kate Upton opening and closing the show.


Swimwear Mecca

With its endless miles of beaches and year- round tropical climate, Miami epitomizes the swim culture. Miller cites “the never-ending white sand beaches, perfect crystal clear blue waters, and lively and colorful Miami culture” as highlights of the event’s locations.

“Our company shows out of the penthouse at The Shore Club, and the rooftop view is gorgeous,” Vogel adds.

Designers travel to warm and sunny South Beach from around the globe, as swimwear is a rapidly growing market worldwide. Last year boasted the most internationally diverse roster of designers to date, hailing from such far-flung locales as Australia, Columbia, Peru, Spain, the French Caribbean—and, of course, beach fashion powerhouse Brazil.

Araujo says of his home country’s swimwear savvy: “We grew up in a very tropical country—we have amazing beaches, rivers—which really makes us comfortable with our bodies.” In addition to A.Z. Araujo, other international designers presenting their Spring 2012 collections at last year’s Swim Week included White Sands Australia, Barcelona- based Dolores Cortés, Cia.Marítima (the largest producer of beachwear in Brazil), DiNeila Brazil, Aguaclara from Lima, Peru and Kooey Swimwear from Australia.


Adventures in Style

For some designers, Swim Week is not only a chance to premiere their swim staples, but also try something new and exciting. Last year, Los Angeles-based Beach Bunny launched a bridal bikini line, “Beach Bunny Bride,” modeled by Upton and featuring bathing suits adorned with hand-beaded pearls, Chantilly lace and Swarovski crystals. At The Setai, a show devoted to saving the planet—one bikini at a time—a group of “eco- couture” designers created sustainable swimwear out of materials such as wood pulp, hemp, bamboo, recycled plastic bottles, factory scraps of cotton and nylon, and even repurposed military parachutes. Designer Linda Loudermilk debuted the world’s first fully compostable bathing suit.

For the last few years, new trends have emerged in swimwear couture: the classic maillot, the Brazilian bikini and last year’s high-waist bikini bottom. In 2012, look for a continuation of the color blocking trend featuring bright, solid separates as well as loud, exotic prints: tribal, animal, batik and floral. Araujo says, “This year I will use lots of color. Tropicali is my inspiration. Very Carmen Miranda.”

Newport Beach-based Vogel says this year’s Luxe line is inspired by a recent home renovation. “I moved into a new home, and a lot of my inspiration for the collection came from working on the interior design,” she explains. “The style is very luxury meets nature, with a little bit of ’70s glam.” There are, however, some swimwear shapes and styles—the string bikini, for instance—that continue to endure.

Swim Week is not just about women’s beach fashion, as men’s swimwear has an ever-growing presence at the event as well. Araujo, for instance, will be sending men down the catwalk. “When I design women’s swim I think about the curves and how a woman needs to look to feel beautiful and confident,” he says. “For men, I think of what I like and what my friends like. As a man I think that we don’t really have lots of options. I like to create what I don’t really find out there.”

With its nonstop parties and endless supply of beautiful people (as if Miami doesn’t already have enough), Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim has something for everyone. “While in Miami, I always feel like there is never enough time to see everyone and catch up as much as we’d like to,” Miller says. “It is definitely a nonstop week of fun and fashion.”