Swim Collective Report and Photos
Swim and resort buyers were treated to plenty of newness in the latest installment of the Swim Collective trade show, which ended its two-day run Wednesday.
The Huntington Beach show drew about 120 brands, with a four-to-one ratio of booths to buyers, according to Rachel Nobles, senior manager of sales and buyer relations for The Collective Trade Shows.
“We love new brands that come to the show. We usually like to keep about a quarter of the brands coming to the show as new. We have a lot of brands that return every time or return per season,” Nobles said.
The Collective Trade Shows are part of Emerald, which also owns Shop Eat Surf.
According to Noble, the recently ended swimwear confab continues a revival of trade shows as buyers and brands ditch virtual meetings for in-person dealmaking with supply chains largely normalized.
“Things are stabilizing a bit in terms of manufacturing and shipping,” Nobles said. “All of that was a huge problem during COVID and people coming back on the scene last year even, thought ‘I probably won’t have samples, I can’t get stuff delivered on time.’ Delivery dates were a mess, and things are now starting to stabilize.”
There’s also a welcome trend to meet in real life, said Alli Jackson, senior marketing manager of the show.
“As we first came out of COVID, people were very excited to get back to in-person events because I think they realized that there’s no better way to experience the products, feeling them and seeing them in person on a body,” Jackson said. “I think people were pretty burnt out from Zoom.”
To Jackson and Nobles’ points, Swim Collective is set to expand for the summer show season to New York, where its sister trade show Active Collective has been since 2017 (in addition to a West Coast iteration of the activewear event).
At the same time, details on creating greater synergies between the two shows are set to be announced next year.
“We’re working to co-locate the shows going forward because we do see that crossover between retailers buying swim and active. It’s just a better experience to have both categories together,” Jackson said.
Growth and expansion were the major themes among swim brands in Huntington Beach this week.
While strategies differed by brand, many of those showing turned to Swim Collective to grow, whether that be a budding business or more established players seeking new accounts.
Ximena Castillo, designer of her namesake jewelry brand, was showing her handmade jewelry, belts and bags at the show. She may not have gotten the exposure she had hoped for, but still counted it as a success.
“They’re (buyers) interested, but it’s not what I was expecting,” Castillo said. “The West Coast is really important for me to open up. It’s not easy to open a market, but I’m still here.”
Swimwear brand OneOne was another line looking to make inroads on the West Coast and in wholesale more broadly.
“Our focus is on the U.S. We entered the U.S. in 2016. We started as e-commerce only and three or four years ago we opened wholesale. So, we’re really focusing on that now,” said OneOne sales rep Valentina Correa.
The swimsuit brand was called out by Quiet Storm’s Jaci Schroeder earlier this year as part of an ever-increasing mix of fashion labels making up the Fort Lauderdale store’s assortment. OneOne in particular, Schroeder said, is something the retailer has had a hard time keeping in stock.
For New York-based coastal-inspired brand Faherty, the brand’s expansion isn’t so much about geographic growth as it is about growth in the resort sector globally.
“We really have a solid foundation already in the resort business, but we really want to grow the brand experience,” said Faherty Director of Global Resort & Travel Katia Segal.
That could mean anything from standalone stores within resorts and pushing the brand into more mountain and coastal accounts, to creating branded outfitting for hotels. The Caribbean is also a major focus for the business, according to Segal.
Marriott International, a few Northern California boutique owners, and a rep for multiple spas and resorts were just a few of the visitors to Faherty’s booth during the show, Segal said.
Face Time with Buyers
Even if orders weren’t necessarily being written at a rapid rate for some brands, reps and founders noted the exposure they were getting to not only retailers but other lines at the show.
Lee Laura, of Swim by Lee Laura, is looking to bring back more modest designs to swimwear in addition to having a give-back component with each sale of her swim and resort pieces.
The label attracted a buyer from R.E.I., who stopped by the booth.
“It’s the perfect way for a brand to set themselves up for success,” the designer said of showing at Swim Collective, adding that it allows business owners to glean market insights.
A sales rep for Cleonie, which is sold in a number of majors, said buyers from Pacsun and Diane’s stopped by to peruse the brand’s swimwear that turns ocean waste into a crinkle fabrication.
Case for Nearshoring
Meanwhile, the country of Colombia was looking to make a big push on the West Coast, and helped bring three swimwear lines and an accessories brand to the show.
Sebastian Echavarria, senior textiles and apparel representative for ProColombia, a government agency charged with promoting international tourism, foreign investment, and exports, said more than a decade ago he had to chase businesses to manufacture in the country. It’s different now.
“It was still a misconception about Latin American culture and Colombia, not for the good things,” Echavarria said. “Nowadays people come to us, and we are well known especially for the swimwear industry. We are not the cheapest place, so if a company wants only to find a replacement for China, Vietnam, or Bangladesh that’s not Colombia. We are well known for high quality and high-end products so the more value a garment may have, the better we can do.”
The pandemic led to an uptick in interest in Colombian manufacturing for brands looking to reduce transportation costs and diversify sourcing, Echavarria said.
Reel Skipper, a women’s performance fishing brand, had been manufacturing in Miami up until about a year ago when it moved production to Colombia
The company’s rashguard and matching boardshorts turned buyers’ heads during the show, which co-founder Michelle Jessica Lynn said bore out in “good meetings” and relationship building.
Moving production to Colombia made a lot of sense for the Miami brand.
“It got too expensive,” Lynn said of domestic production. “The people we’re working with in Colombia are really on their game and reliable, so it was a pretty seamless transition. We started off with only half of the production going to Colombia to make sure it would work out, and then this year this collection that you’re seeing here (at Swim Collective) is going to be 100% made in Colombia.”
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at email@example.com.