The 2015 Swimwear Market Trend Report
Editors Note: As seen in the Transworld Business 2014 Summer Issue, this in-depth trend report features individual interviews with brand designers and sales directors. Click on the brands below to take a closer look at each collection, or visit our 2015 Swimwear Preview page.
Evolving Buying Cycles, Innovative Designs, And Unconventional Fabrics Spawn Fresh Brands & Ignite Overall Growth
THE RESOUNDING MESSAGE AND WORD ON THE STREET AROUND swimwear these days is that it's an unstoppable force. Not only are women adopting healthier lifestyles—think Crossfit, yoga, and bootcamps— and syncing their diets around the farm-to-table phenomena—farmers markets, detox cleanses, and juicing—but on top of all that, rocking a bikini under oversized, wide-arm tanks and beach inspired dresses has reached critical mass popularity and the trend isn't going away anytime soon. This trifecta is fueling the fire behind start-ups and established brands within the industry, and the result is a high-stakes marketplace that is driving a higher level of innovation with design, materials, and craftsmanship.
For a complete look at all the swimwear brands we previewed, check out our 2015 Swimwear Preview page, and our 2015 Swimwear Showroom.
THE RISE OF THE HIGH NECK HALTERS & SPORTY SUITS
The sporty, active market is where it's at for 2015, according to an overwhelming consensus amongst brands. Billabong, Volcom, O'Neill, Acacia, Body Glove, B.Swim, L*Space, prAna, and Roxy are focused on fits that transcend the beach, yoga, and SUP lifestyles. One of the common threads for fit moving into 2015 is deconstructed sillhoutes, giving tops and bottoms a more organic feel with less wire and seams.
"There is a move-on from the bralette styling of last year into a new high-neck halter," says Jenna Sufficool, Senior Swim Designer for O'Neill women’s.
Cheeky and brazilian bottoms, laser cutouts, and strappy-back and flounce tops continue to do well at retail, and will be present in major brands' collections next year. Surfside was successful with Volcom's revamped line, and RipCurl's Surf Siren flounce top has been a best-seller, according to Surfside Women's Buyer Meredith Peterson. Rip Curl and O'Neill have been standouts at Heritage Surf and Sport, according to owner Jamie Heritage.
Next season brings a resurgence of fem- inine florals and strong prints, mesh and other textured fabrics, and nods to the 80s and 90s with bright pops and urban street vibes. Colorblocking, and cohesive color and print stories, will surface across the board. High-waist, retro bottoms are sticking around, and updated details include zippers, metallics, and transparent materials. One-pieces remain "statement suits" in most brands' collections. Overall, brands are moving away from excessive fringe and frill, as well as tie-side bottoms.
"I really try to pay attention to the hand, or how it feels against your skin," says Largo Drive Senior Buyer Sophie Taub. "Fabric is hugely important to my buying." Accordingly, brands at higher pricepoints like Mikoh are succeeding for the LA-based, online-only retailer, and fun-standouts from Tavik are being added to the store's roster, says Taub.
THE EVER-EVOLVING BUYING CYCLE
The market continues to morph into a year-round business, keeping companies on their toes to produce the right amount of new styles and skus, while ensuring timing is on-point with consumer demand.
"One of the main things that I will change for next season is bringing in swim earlier," says Surfside's Peterson. The shop is considering moving its swim buy up several months to get product in the store at the beginning of the year, as opposed to the traditional timing of March/April.
Swim brands are cognizant of the change and are seeing success with altering production schedules, as well.
"There is definitely a shift happening where the spring season is becoming less important, and summer is becoming more important," says Volcom Women's Sales Director Erin Hawley. "You still have your snowbird territories, but you're seeing this big shift to 'wear now' and setting up floorsets means less to the consumers. They are dictating their puchases based on when they need some- thing, not necessarily what the retail floor is telling them to buy."
Body Glove echoes those sentiments: "We're seeing a lot of retailers order less up front and reorder through the season," says Swimwear Design Director Carolyne Deshaies. "We focus on independent accounts that might not be able to forecast what the season will bring, so we're always here to support them with reorder stock." The Long Beach-based brand's collections are also expanding during the latter half of the year.
"We offered a much larger collection in our Fall season this year than we had in previous years, and we received a very positive response," says O'Neill's Sufficool. "The retailer wants to see new swimwear product offering every month."
Despite attempts to accommodate this morph in the marketplace, there are still plenty of challenges in production; "If we could make an October delivery date many of our accounts would be all over it, but it is a challenging date to make," says Boys + Arrows Founder and Designer Meagan Howard, citing late trade show dates as the main obstacle impairing buyers from placing orders soon enough, thus interfering with proper timing and upping costs around production and material sourcing.
On the East Coast, particularly the northeast, buying is dictated heavily by seasonality. "I cut back on my swim dollars for 2014 for several reasons," says Heritage Surf and Sport's Jamie Heritage. "Last year, June was super cold here in New Jersey, causing a shorter season for selling. We sat heavy on sale swim during the winter months." Heritage is confident in her product mix this time around, and will keep her 2015 strategy similar.
While many indicated a growing collection, several of the larger brands are holding steady with their offering and some are even pulling back as a "quality over quantity" approach.
"Our overall brand strategy is fewer, bigger, better, and as a result our swim sku count has been reduced," says Susan Branch, GM, Billabong Women's.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Besides an expanded and diverse offering, the market is also growing its core consumer demo- graphic. "Swim is becoming increasingly important to younger girls," says Surfside's Peterson. "I see 13 year old girls choosing some of our most expensive pieces on the floor."
Key to speaking to this audience is understanding their langugae. L*Space is one brand doing a good job with that on social media, says Peterson, citing its constant effort to "re-gram" photos of customers wearing their suits as a way to build loyalty and instill confidence.
Largo Drive plays off Instagram giveaways and "takeovers" with specific bloggers and "it" models in the space, who not only lend authentic credibility and drive traffic, but also help the retailer stay ahead of trends: "Youth culture is obsessed with visual imagery and instant, up-to-date ideas," says Taub. "Instagram has become a great way for our customers to see what cool new brands we are offering and what their role models and favorite bloggers are wearing."
At the brick-and-mortar level, L*Space and O'Neill are using GWP, or gift with purchase programs to win over in-store customers, says Heritage. Overall, brands and retailers that are getting creative around product and merchandising seem to be reaping the benefits in this space.
"The swimwear market remains challenging for brands and businesses who have focused primarily on competing at price," says Billabong's Branch. "For brands that are focused on design innovation and newness, there continues to be opportunity."