Playing It Safe! Keeping It Cool!

Athleisure trends and sun-protective wear dominate children’s beachwear for Seasons 2016 and 2017

The children’s swimwear market continues to evolve to be both fashionable and functional. Following the latest trends is key for kids—and so is being active. Whether on the beach or by the pool, designers are creating directional new looks to keep kids in style, comfortable and, of course, sun-protected.

The growing global athleisure trend is driving fashion in the contemporary market as well as for kids. Athletic, sporty silhouettes are hot styles for children’s swimwear this season, according to Debbie Naren, founder and design director for Limeapple. Rashguards and sporty looks, including halter tops and boy shorts, are at the top of the list for retailers. Long-sleeve one-piece suits and higher necklines as well as zipper details and color blocking are all directional going forward, says Naren.

“I think Lululemon is responsible for the fashion-forward bralet/sports bra, which has gone viral in the swim industry,” says Farley Boyle, owner and designer of Squirtini Bikini and Fresh Betty. “I think this is a permanent trend.” Styles such as the “Chase” halterkini top and boyshort are doing very well, according to Boyle. “It’s an active, fashionable yet modest silhouette. It’s easy to wear by diverse body types, and girls feel protected in it for many reasons,” she explains.

Ready-to-wear fashion trends are also inspiring children’s swimwear designers, who continue to emphasize silhouettes, prints and details. “What we are seeing in the fashion houses in Europe also extends to children’s swimwear, the fastest-growing category in the swimwear market,” says Julie Rich, director of sales and U.S. operations at Snapper Rock. “Fringes, bandeaus and halter styles are huge for Season 2016, and we love incorporating these girly looks into our sun-protection range. To be protected from the sun while still being fashion-forward is providing the best of both worlds.” Kaftans that complement the brand’s swimwear range are the most requested item from buyers. “We’ve extended our beachwear range this year, and the response has been fantastic,” says Rich.

Coordinating, eye-catching swimsuits and sport-tankinis as well as matching cover-ups, and fashionable vintage-inspired looks for tweens are the most directional looks, according to Dennise Ondina, USA sales for Platypus Australia. The brand’s new UV swim leggings offer a chic, forward look. For boys, nautical themes and surf-inspired styles are important.

Key trends, according to Sara Burick, sales director for Baby BanZ, are fashion-forward yet less sporty, and lean towards pieces that are versatile enough to wear in the water or on the playground. BanZ, she says, will feature floral prints, frogs, pineapples and sea monsters along with nautical-inspired prints in updated colors for 2016.

Colorful patterns and prints are indeed key for the children’s market. “Buyers want items with coordinating prints across swimwear and beachwear for boys, girls and babies,” says Snapper Rock’s Rich. The brand’s metallic gold flamingo design is proving to be a top seller for girls, she says, while animal prints mixed with neons are a standout for boys.

The hottest 2016 swim trends for boys are color block, plaid and stripe prints, according to Jennifer Weisman, founder and creator of Just Bones Boardwear. For girls, Weisman says florals and Aztec/tribal prints are trending. She is finding the strongest colors selling for boys’ swim are blues, aquas and sunset hues, such as red and oranges. For girls, pastels as well as vivid pops of color, such as pinks, purples and cobalt, are popular.

Ombre color effects, bold vintage-inspired prints, exotic Moroccan patterns and Sahara/tribal details, including fringe detailing, are also key trends, according to Limeapple’s Naren. What’s more, she says, sun-protection awareness continues to grow, and there are more styles that promote skin protection than just the basic rash guard; swim leggings are a hot new item for kids. “UPF [is] essential for all swim,” says Naren. While there are many specialized fabrics that incorporate UPF, she is seeing thicker fabrics with natural sun protection without chemicals.

According to Amber Schaub, CEO and founder of RuffleButts (for girls) and RuggedButts (for boys), sun protection is a trend that is here to stay, and swimwear with SPF 50+ is vitally important. “We love finding a way to keep little ones protected from the sun, while also keeping them adorably dressed at the beach,” she says. The collection includes trendy silhouettes, such as retro-inspired high-waisted bottoms, which provide great coverage for babies, especially those in diapers. RuffleButts’ ruffled rash guard bikinis and tunic-style terry cover-ups are the most requested styles.

For Platypus Australia, sun protection is a top priority. The most requested items by buyers in terms of cover-ups and beachwear accessories include the brand’s signature sun-protective hats, Lycra jackets and ruche-detail sunshirts, says Ondina. Coordinating short- and long-sleeve rash guards are not only fashionable, but also provide UPF+50 sun protection. “Parents await the release of our new baby sunsuits every year,” says Ondina. “Not only do these adorable print styles offer the highest-rated sun protection, but they also have snaps, making it very convenient for the little ones and parents alike.”

This Spring, UV Skinz is launching more varieties in its best-selling rash guards and swim shirts. Boys’ styles feature more panels and lines, and girls have added details such as ruffles and appliqués. “We keep seeing strong demands for our swim shirts and cover-ups, so we continue to bring out new silhouettes in these styles,” says Rhonda Sparks, founder and designer of UV Skinz. She also has been receiving requests for the brand’s new “swim tights,” which are launching for Spring.

Fashion and function are driving sales, but it’s also important to remember comfort. “It’s always about hand feel,” says Just Bones Boardwear’s Weisman. “Kids won’t wear something if it isn’t comfortable. We are very conscious about the fabrics we manufacture for our boardshorts and printables.”

Brands are continuing to add accessories to keep kids protected and in style. This season, Snapper Rock’s new cowboy hats are making a strong statement. “With sun protection being top of mind for Snapper Rock, we continue to develop a wider range of hats to ensure that kids are protected from top to toe,” Rich says. Baby BanZ offers UPF 50+ sun hats, UV protection eyewear and more, while RuffleButts’ matching swim hats have become best-sellers.