Safe & Savvy Kids

Sun protection, mini-me styles and techno fabrics top this season’s innovations in children’s beachwear

By Suzanne Bernhardt

In children’s swimwear and beachwear, innovations in style, fit and textiles are popping up all over the market, with sun protection, parent-child look-alike styling, comfort features and environmentally responsible fabrics leading the way. We spoke with some of the industry’s leaders in the manufacture of children’s beachwear to find out what styles are on parents’ and buyers’ most-wanted lists, what is trending now for Season 2018, and what future developments are planned for their labels.

KRIO + COLOR, co-founded by Pilar and Monica Ceballos and Giovanna Iannazzone in 2014, is a line of UPF 50+ sun-protective swimwear and accessories for women and children, with headquarters in Florida. Krio + Color is attention-getting, conversation-starting, bright and colorful wearable art. The designs feature such circus characters as Cotton Candy Elefante, Ringmaster Pinguino and the Intrepid Unicyclist. The kid-friendly styles are designed with brightly colored graphics and bold elements; buyers are looking for styles that make a statement, and Krio +Color definitely delivers.

According to the trio of entrepreneurs, parents want sun-protective suits for all ages of children, and are increasingly concerned about protection from damaging rays. Fashionable coverage is important, as are durable chlorine-resistant fabrics. For the future, they see full-body sun suits and surf-style fashions growing in importance, along with more kid-inspired graphics over traditional prints. The label will be debuting at SwimShow this season with a new line of trunk styles for boys, matching “Dad-and-me” swim trunks and “Mom-and-me” rash guards, water-resistant zip-up beach bags and swim caps. Plans are underway to develop a men’s line of UV-protective beachwear.

UV SKINZ’ president and CEO, Rhonda Sparks, founded the company in 2006 after losing her husband to melanoma. Hers was a personal mission to create superior sun-protective wear for the entire family. “Sun protection is the driving force behind our brand,” explains Sparks. “It is our mission to make high-quality, fashionable UPF 50+ swimwear, clothing and accessories (hats, beach totes and sun sleeves) that people want to wear, so that they can feel free to live and have fun in the sun.”

For Season 2018, UV Skinz will feature bright colors and prints in their best-selling styles—kids’ swim shirts, baby sun suits and water jackets. The line offers “Mom-and-me,” “Dad-and-me” and family-coordinated styling, which they see as a trend that will continue to develop.

According to Sparks, parents are requesting fun colors and prints that kids are excited to wear. They also want options: tops and bottoms in varying lengths, and styles that can be mixed-and-matched. Buyers are requesting styles that offer coverage—the more, the better.

“It doesn’t look like sun-protective clothing is a trend,” says Sparks. “I think it is here to stay, and I love that because it means that parents are seeing it as a necessity that kids are protected from the dangers of the sun. I see more innovative UPF fabrics in our future.”

Since 2002, LIMEAPPLE has been producing sun-protective UPF 50+ swimwear for children and preteens. According to Debbie Naren, founder and design director for the Canadian-based company, for Spring 2018, cover-ups and popular mermaid blankets will be available in the line, and natural-straw hats for girls will be introduced. They will also feature little-sister/big-sister matching suits. Limeapple swimwear is sporty and athletic for active girls. Styles include off-shoulder silhouettes, cut-outs and trendy one-pieces featured in florals, nautical stripes and emoji prints.

According to Naren, parents and buyers are requesting sun-protective rash guards, trendy one-pieces, larger sizes and more modest age-appropriate swimwear. For the future, she predicts that fabrics will continue to get more technologically advanced. Plans are in the works to add larger sizes 18 and 20 for bigger girls who don’t want to buy junior or women’s swimwear.

Since 2003, SNAPPER ROCK has been on a fast track of growth and development, starting with children’s and expanding into preteens, missy and men’s, with accessories like hats, bags and towels. “This season we are delighted to announce our collaboration with one of Australia’s leading kid’s sunglass brands—Frankie Ray,” says Julie Rich, vice president of sales. “This is an exciting addition, to offer UV50+ sunglasses for babies and kids that coordinate with our swimwear collection.”

Soon after their initial launch, Snapper Rock quickly gained global recognition for their outstanding 99% UVA/UVB sun protection, fashionable styling and exclusive prints. As Rich explains, “Our mission is to provide the safest sun protection for the entire family with chemical-free fabrics.”

This season, the company will continue to expand their “Mom-and-me” and “Dad-and-me” styling. “We see this trend increasing and staying for a while,” says Rich. “We like the mix-and-match aspect to feel part of a family collection.” The line will feature the tropical flora trend, summer fruit story, Boho island prints, classic stripes, and strong nautical themes for kids and adults. They have expanded the beachwear collection, offering lounge pants and matching mother-daughter dresses.

According to Rich, parents still favor one-piece suits, along with halter-neck styles, fun swim shorts and mix-and-match styles. Adjustable fit is also very important, as are beach-to-street styles. Buyers are requesting halter bikinis with matching or coordinating pieces.

All styles in the Brazilian PLANET SEA line—including swimwear, rompers, skirts, skorts, tunics, sun dresses and beach hats—are constructed with UV-protective fabrics for children sizes 4X to 16, according to Adriana Dranoff, founder and designer since the line was launched in 2000. Flip-flops and beach bags are also available.

This season, a new line of waterproof shoes for girls and boys will be introduced. The flip-flops and cover-ups are in matching “Mom-and-me” styles, which Dranoff sees as a trend that will grow stronger every year.

Other children’s beachwear trends that she predicts will be big for this season are off-shoulder styles, strappy tops and bottoms, high-neck tops, tankinis and one-piece suits, rashguards and long-sleeved cover-ups. Tassels, pompoms and lace, bold colors and graphic prints, cut-outs and crochet are prevalent. In color terms, look for brights to be important, especially orange, red, coral, teal, pink, blue and neons. Prints will be tie-dye, stripes, geometrics, florals, Boho and patchwork.

According to Dranoff, parents and buyers alike are looking for trendy but comfortable beachwear for kids, with UV protection and matching cover-ups.

MOLO has offered a complete line of children’s wear and a wide range of accessories since 2003. Sun-protective clothing is a specialty, especially in the swimwear collection, which ranges from 0 to 16 years. “We are turning our swimwear collection into more of a cruise collection, with products not only for swimming but for wearing to and from the beach, like beach dresses, T-shirts, tank tops, hats and more,” says Rikke Jepsen, product and marketing director.

For Season 2018, the collection will feature oversized ruffles, which they report is a big trend for girls’ swimwear. For boys, they are introducing a mid-length boardie that has big-boy appeal. “Molo is embracing the color-blocking trend, which complements our iconic all-over prints like the ‘wave’ print for boys and the ‘palm and glitter’ prints for girls,” explains Noemi Dalby, senior designer. “One of the guiding themes this season was inspired by Africa and its strong colors.”

According to Jepsen, parents and buyers alike are requesting fun and funky beachwear as well as styles with more coverage, so kids can stay out in the sun all day and not worry about getting sunburned. Jepsen also notes that the next big thing in children’s beachwear is year-round demand.

Sarah Buxton, co-owner and designer of TUTUBLUE—introduced just last season for women—has already expanded the line to include children’s and now men’s fashions. Tutublue’s signature full-body suit is constructed with lightweight fabric that dries quickly and protects the skin from harmful sun rays. “The Skin Cancer Foundation says that sun-protective apparel is the best way to protect the skin. It is also better for the environment, since sunscreen can be very toxic,” says Buxton.

For Season 2018, prints (particularly in bright blues and yellows) will be strong for the line, and a collection in black, white and gray will be offered. “Mom-and-me” styles will continue to be available.

According to Buxton, parents are requesting full beach suits for kids, because it eliminates the battle of having to consistently put sunscreen on them. Buyers are liking both the short and long versions of the beach suits.

Karel Wheen, director and designer for PLATYPUS AUSTRALIA since 1996, is introducing many styles for Season 2018, with some surprising plans for the future of the label. This season the baby range with all-in-ones has been expanded, and more long-sleeved options have been added. A new leotard swimsuit has been introduced. For older girls, a kimono-style cover-up is now available, and for boys, the boardshort takes on a more tailored look, with a flat front and leaner legs in a super-comfy, four-way-stretch sustainable fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. Father-and-son matching boardshorts will be launched this season. “It is extremely important to protect the environment as it is to protect our children from harmful UV rays,” says Wheen. Platypus Australia combines trendy styling with environmentally friendly fabrics with chlorine resistance and UPF+50 fabrics, guaranteeing maximum sun protection for children sized 0 to 14. Wheen predicts that prints featuring birds, tropical plants, sea life and summer fruits with bright trims will be trending for both girls and boys. Colorful and practical scuba-like fabrics will also continue to strengthen.

Asked what parents are requesting, Wheen reports more age-appropriate conservative styling with higher neck lines. Fringing details, back interest with lacing and multi-strap styling on bikini briefs are also trending. Buyers are requesting more athletic styles as well as cute fashion frills like fringe, pompoms and webbing. Color is an important aspect for boys’ shorts and rash guards.

“We will see more innovative designs with edgier, directional, fashion-forward, sun-protective clothing, and more beach-to-sport-to-street styles, meeting the demands of busy active lifestyles,” predicts Wheen. “Sustainable fabrics and sourcing will continue to be a focus for both designers and the market, in addition to ensuring a healthy and safe working environment for manufacturing.” Wheen plans to add a “Mom-and-me” collection soon, as well as a line for women and men.

SLIPINS sun-protective apparel, founded in 2014, combines extreme comfort with sun protection in unique and proprietary styles and prints. Full-length and shorter sun suits, “Mom-and-me” styles, sun shirts and shorts are offered for missy, women, children and pre-teens. “Our biggest request from parents and buyers alike are for sun shirts (rash guards) and shorts,” says Rick Rickman, co-owner.