Swimwear makes a splash with runway inspiration

Swimwear with high-fashion inspiration is making waves this season. Divia Harilela picks out the favourites

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 2:24pm

While sandy white beaches are far away from the fashion capitals of Paris and Milan, this year's swimwear trends are very much inspired by what was shown on the catwalks.

Several ready-to-wear designers, including the likes of Versace, have started to incorporate swimwear into their collections, signalling the return of more stylish designs.

Board shorts are also popular...It's a feminine take on a retro menswear style
Holli rogers,

"We are now seeing some of the runway trends reinterpreted for swimwear. There are a lot of graphic elements coming into play, including leopard print by Dolce & Gabbana, camouflage-print swimsuits by Beth Richards and floral prints at Zimmermann," says Holli Rogers, fashion director at

Leading the way is the glamorous one-piece, which has been a strong trend since last year.

Zhu Ru, designer of New York-based swimwear line Estuaries, says there is still a strong demand for minimalist, clean styles and colours compared to the heavily embellished designs of the past.

Rogers recommends that women invest in a timeless, all-black one-piece which can go from poolside to dinner with ease.

And while you can't beat understated elegance, designers have put original touches to create a more contemporary look. Go for subtle details such as colour-blocking and textured fabrics.

Highlights include Mara Hoffman with her universally flattering halter-style swimsuits and American designer Lisa Marie Fernandez, who uses innovative neoprene fabric and chunky zips to create structured, glamorous silhouettes. Canadian designer Beth Richards has inserted sexy mesh panels in her one-piece suits - a nod to the sheer trend that dominated the spring-summer collections this year.

Function also comes into play, which is why sportswear is another strong look this summer.

"We like the '90s - the sexy, healthy, all-American beach girl look as proposed by Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford. As such, we propose solids in bold colours, with sporty cuts that flatter womanly figures," says Lulu Zhang and Jen Choi, co-founders of Papeete, a new swimwear brand based in Hong Kong.

"Board shorts are also proving popular - so much so that we asked Zimmermann to create an exclusive collection for us," says Rogers. "It's a feminine take on a retro menswear style, plus their loose fit makes them perfect for slipping over your favourite bikini."

She also highlights Orlebar Brown's first swimwear collection for women, which, in addition to a series of sleek triangle bikinis, includes patterned board shorts for women featuring his signature wicker print.

Bikinis are still on trend. Lane Crawford's fashion director, Sarah Rutson, points out the twist bandeau bikini for its more flattering fit. "It gives a fuller bust with a hint of sexiness," she says.

While knowing the trends is all well and good, the most important part of choosing your swimwear wardrobe is the fit.

While skinny or petite figures suit most swimsuit styles, Ru suggests bandeau tops and string bikinis. One-pieces with cut outs are also sexy and flattering.

Curvy girls should look for styles with halter necks and higher waistlines to elongate the body.

Ruching - such as in pleated or ruffled fabrics - can hide a multitude of sins, as do retro styles as put forward by American swimwear designer Norma Kamali.

Zhang and Choi recommend their Alice in Red suit, which comes with a built-in underwire and light padded cups for extra support.

"Women should try on different suits to decide which fabrics are right for them. Also, sizes and fits vary between brands, which is another important reason to try on as many suits as you can.

"The fit should hug the contours of your body - it should be snug, but comfortable enough to move around in. Never buy a suit that is too tight or too loose. A well-made swimsuit has very good seam construction, it stretches well in areas that might need more coverage," says Ru.

Once you have selected the right swimwear, another integral part of your holiday arsenal is your resort wear and accessories. Cover-ups are as much about style as they are about function, and ideally should be versatile enough to go from lounging by the beach to a night out.

While Rutson is an advocate of the maxi dress, Rogers suggests the kimono - another trend from the catwalks - as an unexpected but no less chic cover-up.

Tania Mohan, founder of Tabla in Prince's Building, recommends her goddess dress, a simple blouson style that is decorated with intricate embroidery in various colour combinations.

"A resort dress which can carry you from day to night is becoming very popular as they can be accessorised up or down depending on the occasion. Pure fabrics like silk georgette and cotton are hugely popular at the moment. They don't stick to you like a viscose or synthetics so you really feel breezy and free.

"As far as colours go, nautical always works well [navy, whites and reds] as do all shades of blue," she says.

Finally, accessories can take up your glam quotient in an instant. Rather than opt for heels, choose wedges or gladiator sandals in metallic shades of gold and silver. Statement jewellery is also essential - a chunky gold bracelet or necklace can instantly add a high-fashion edge.

Hammered gold earrings from brands such as Ippolita create a bohemian vibe and will match with your newly acquired tan. Other popular jewellery looks include wrists stacked with bracelets - go for woven thread styles or Carolina Bucci's gold tassel bracelets.

Finally, don't forget a pair of sunglasses - mirrored lenses and cat's-eye shapes are proving popular again this summer.

"Statement sunglasses are essential. I always take two pairs, one aviator and one Jackie O style, as they both express a different look so you can mix them with your holiday to create different moods," Mohan says.

"Heavy make-up, too much jewellery and super-high stilettos should be left at home."

... and something for the boys:

Orlebar Brown

Founded by Adam Brown, this New York-based label is known for its flattering and modern fits. There is also a range of chic polo shirts, sweatshirts and tailored fit blazers.

Dan Ward

Former fashion executive Dan Ward has created a line of modern swimwear, must-have sandals and other necessities - all made in Italy.


Founded in Saint-Tropez in 1971, Vilebrequin is known for its bold patterns and matching styles for both men and boys.

Robinson Les Bains

Retro-inspired men's swimwear, updated with a French, sporty twist. Bestsellers include the cropped shorts.

J. Crew

The American retailer offers affordable, chic essentials such as rash guards and board shorts in classic fabrics such as seersucker.




Send to a friend

To forward this article using your default email client (e.g. Outlook), click here.

Enter multiple addresses separated by commas(,)

Related topics

For unlimited access to: SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive