Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Makes An Enduring Swimwear Label?

I often ask myself this question...I have's my business to do so. As the New Year approaches, I'm going through our books, organizing, adding and deleting vendors and renewing our catalog for the upcoming season. It never surprises me which swimwear labels continue to make the grade over the years. It's's the honest ones; the companies that deliver as promised, offer superb workmanship and fit, continue to wow us with their creativity and always, ALWAYS put their customers first. Now, is that really any wonder? As retailers and consumers, I think that is what all of us are looking for, especially these days when a dollar is so hard to come by.

There have been many swimwear companies that were certainly honest and still didn't make it. It takes a lot these days to overcome the hurdles, not to mention plenty of capital reserves to weather the tides. Over the years, I've sadly had to cull out some very good companies with talented designers, only because they couldn't deliver early enough that season, or, "their loyal customer," has moved on to another label. Fashion is so fickle and this business is so tough.

Then, there have been the... how shall I say it... "Less than honest," ones. It's not that they actually lie about things; it's just that they can't seem to ring true with their potential followers. There's the cute, little designer that thinks she is the most gorgeous thing on the beach, therefore, she is the only one in the world with enough know-how to design a bikini. There's the trust fund baby with way too much money on her hands and not enough talent. There's the disorganized designer that does great work, but can't follow through. There's the high-powered glam girl that is all about greed and not about working together with everyone else. They all have another agenda and it's not producing and selling swimwear for market.

Karla Colletto's Ruching Skirted Bikini
But enough negativity...I'd much rather focus on the enduring brands. Take Karla Colletto, for example. Karla and her partner, Lisa Rovan, started out by designing and dishing up some pretty outrageous swimsuits in those early days. At that time, they catered to a younger crowd and they offered some wildly daring designs such as starfish cut-outs over the breasts, unusual piecing, embellishments, etc. Their swimsuits have become more conservative over the years, although, no less beautiful. What contributed to their underlying success through out the seasons was their attention to quality, fit and detail. They also kept up with the technological advancements of fabrics, findings and production. Most importantly, they made a point to deliver on time, season after season, just as promised. Their code rang true to all of their clientele: retailers, consumers, yesterday and today.

Melissa Odabash's Los Angeles Bikini

Melissa Odabash is another designer that comes to mind when searching for a swim label with longevity. For Ms. Odabash, it's all about relating to her customer. She makes and designs swimsuits and cover-ups that she, herself, would love to wear. As a former model, she definitely understands a thing or two about, "beauty on the beach," but she doesn't flaunt that. She's not trying to compete with her customer. Women are attracted to her swimsuits because her designs make the most of a woman's body, carefully crafted with love and sympathy. A girl knows what to expect when she orders a MO bikini...superb quality, classic styling and a true fit.

Salinas' Praiana Bikini

I can't continue this column without mentioning Salinas Swimwear.  How did this bikini label meteorically rise to the top of the swimwear heap, come crashing down from the mountain and rise back up again? I can tell you...they've been honest and true to both, their design and business ethics. Salinas will always be known as the teeny-tiny, teen, bikini sensation from Brazil, but what people don't always understand is that it's not just sexy, flash-in-the-pan glam here...There's some real creativity that goes into those Salinas swimsuits. Shortly after a generation of fit bodies passes through their doors, they must still be ready for the next, younger set of customers waiting in the wings. (Or shall I say water's edge?) Salinas is continually coming up with original, clever, new ideas for their bikinis and they aren't all teeny-tiny anymore either. But the consistent thread that runs through and through Salinas Swimwear is that it creates fun, innovative designs for the teen swimwear world. Their looks will always make you smile and, because they know and design for the teen market, kindly and justly, they've also tried to be kind to the teen wallet. Even though they're a celebrated name in the swimwear business, they've kept their prices very reasonable and within reach to their loyal following. Consumers love that...and so do retailers like us.

I could go on about a few other labels whose designers I admire, but I’m running out of room here. Such is the subject of another column and I promise that it will come soon; for they all deserve mention. I will say, however that all successful swimwear designers run tight ships, they keep it together when things get horribly bad, or crazy good and they never let it all go to their heads. It's never about them.  Everyone of these designers shares the mantra, “The customer comes first.” Thank you to you all. You’ve made us look wonderful and I hope that our little store can live up to your standards.

~ C.

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