Industry professionals agree that the swimwear market is booming. The Curve Paris trade show, which presents the spring/summer 2024 swimwear, beachwear and resort wear collections, and Interfilière, which exhibits autumn/winter 2024/2025 materials (fabrics and accessories) and spring/summer 2024 restockings, are the perfect illustration of this.
If we are focusing on the swimwear market represented by such trade shows, it is not because of their weight in total business. By way of comparison, in France, consumers bought 315.5 million swimming costumes compared with 2.716 billion euros worth of lingerie (source Kantar, a figure that has been in place since 2013 and is even on the rise since Kantar stopped taking beachwear and resort wear into account in 2018).
Similarly, lingerie accounts for 12 percent of women's spending, while bathing suits only makes up 1.6 percent of purchases. No, if we are concentrating on this area of activity, it's because the industry agrees that "everything's hunky-dory" for the swimwear market.
Curve and Interfilière July 2023 bore witness to this. They brought together 37 percent of exhibitors dedicated to swimwear, beachwear and resort wear (36 percent lingerie, 27 percent related accessories), compared with the 10 percent in January. “With 15,000 visitors, the January show, 90 percent of which was dedicated to lingerie, is the benchmark for the entire world," said show director Matthieu Pinet. “There are no others, apart from Curve New York, which also belongs to WSN Development."
"In lingerie," he added, "we are not challenged, unlike swimwear, for which there are other shows in the world (Miami Swim Week, Cabana Miami Beach) and Mare di Moda for the upstream. This sector is competitive because, in practical terms, it's not very difficult to create a swimming costume.” In the past, there were specific players for each department.” Today, the communicating vessels convince him that the share of swimwear, among the offerings of the major lingerie brands, will increase.
The swimwear, beachwear and resort wear market is taking off
And with good reason, according to analyst ResearchandMarkets.com, the international market would grow from 22.6 billion dollars in 2022, to 28.84 billion dollars in 2027, an annual growth rate of 6.38 percent. Enough to reawaken the ardour of the main lingerie players, who currently devote just two to eight percent of their business to swimwear, according to information gathered at trade shows.
There are many reasons for this boom. For one thing, wellness (looking after your body) is on trend. According to the Outdoor Participation report, in the US in 2018, around 27.58 million people opted for swimming as a fitness routine, which in turn boosted sales of sports swimwear. As for the Chinese market, it is driven by the huge population that is passionate about water sports, considered to be the best form of physical exercise in China.
On the other hand, after being locked up for two years (and even longer for Asia), the whole population is keen to travel. Travel agents are making record sales, planes are full to bursting and the swimwear market is taking off with them. According to data provided by Kantar, French brands are enjoying double-digit growth, with sales of 232 million euros in women's products sold worldwide in 2022 (+13.1 percent vs. 2021) and 83.5 million euros in men's products (+25.4 percent vs. 2021). These percentages should be put into perspective, considering that in 2021 travel was still limited.
Last but not least, resort wear, often referred to as the "bikini apéritivo", which includes beachwear suitable for parties on the beach, in the style of Miami, Ibiza, Portofino Riviera or jet-set Saint-Tropez, is gaining a place in the sun. Popularised by luxury brands and their cruise collections, this style of clothing meets the expectations of a clientele that can't always go swimming, but it also has another advantage (so to speak): prices are higher and margins are therefore higher, similar to that of loungewear or activewear.
A show with an expanded offering to appeal to concept store buyers
More comfortable margins? This is enough to attract new distributors, especially as specialist lingerie shops in France have been suffering for some years now. The evolution of consumers and the questioning of genders are inviting us to rethink traditional patterns and imagine new stores.
To change the game, the organisers are surfing on the same credo as those chosen for Who's Next, for which they are also responsible: the offer must be widened to open it up to shops that present lingerie or swimwear in a conceptual environment. As a result, related accessories brands (shoes, jewellery, hats, etc.) are exhibiting with a view to opening up these new perspectives: 23 Degrés, Camalya, Bagt'elle (wholesaler), Hypnochic, etc.
“30 percent of new visitors come from Who's Next databases," said the director. “These developments meant that we had to reinvent the July event and give it a new dynamic. The brands were a little offended that the January edition had been postponed until July 2022. I went to see them and told them that we needed each other. If this show disappeared, the whole industry would be threatened.”
The result: a 35 percent increase in the visitor registration rate and, from the first half-day (Sunday 2 July 2023), a figure equivalent to the first day of the show in June 2022. This means an estimated 5,000/6,000 visitors for 135 exhibitors of finished products (compared with 250 in January) and 190 at Interfilière.
Spring/summer trends 2024: As long as it shines
Pamela Anderson can put away her red one-piece, and women can swap their timeless black swimming costumes (bikinis account for over two-thirds of sales), because the summer 2024 trends are showing a tendency towards bright prints, animal or floral motifs and glittering pieces in gold or silver lurex. “We've always done flashy prints and sequins, but this season we're going with the flow," said Annalisa Cristiani on the busy Lior stand (Interfilière). “We used to do lingerie, but there are fewer and fewer prints in that sector.” With a width of 145 cm and prices of around 15/16 euros per metre (depending on quantities), Lior appeals mainly to luxury brands and Russians, for whom the company offers exclusive designs.
Among the leading labels at the show were Goldbergh, with a sculptural gold one-piece swimming costume. Or Melissa Odabash, with a range of resort wear and accessories including flip-flops, slippers, hats and clutches.
And then there's Lenny Niemeyer. Founded 30 years ago by the wife of the nephew of the late architect Oscar Nemeyer, Lenny Nemeyer is number one in Brazil. It has even been commissioned to design the national team's shirts for the 2024 Olympics. With prices hovering around 300 euros (when the average shopping basket for a French woman is 30.12 euros, source Kantar), this brand is particularly appealing to the southern European market (Greece, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Côte d'Azur), where women are used to buying their swimwear.
We should also mention the Chantelle group, which is investing in inclusive fashion with an original proposal, unveiled at Curve, aimed at renewing the success of the best-selling SoftStrecht line of knickers. Chantelle Pulp is a range of polyester swimwear that adapts to all body shapes, available in four colours (orange, green, blue and black).
Mainly made from synthetic materials, swimwear is raising the question of sustainable beachwear
With prints on stretch polyamide (Rocle by Isabella), embossed and laminated polyesters (Eurostick), can beachwear adapt to changing demand for more eco-responsible materials? This is a very topical issue. Let's bet that technology will be able to supply the brands present at the show, like Peulh Fulaini, which already uses polyester recycled from marine waste for its swimwear.
Even if, unfortunately, only 10 percent of all fibre is made up of these famous plastics collected at sea or on beaches, this initiative deserves to be mentioned at a time when there is still one day left to go to Hall 5 of the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.