Sun Smart, Beach Cool

Sun protection, grown-up style and playful prints allow kids to rock the beach this season

By N. Jayne Seward

With trendy athleisure styles and beach-to-street dressing, children’s swimwear is making a functional yet fashionable statement for Season 2017. Designers are following trends in the adult market and translating them into age-appropriate looks for children.

“Fashion beachwear has grabbed the attention of our customers,” says Karel Wheen, designer for PLATYPUS AUSTRALIA, whose 2017 collection includes active-inspired looks and mix-and-match rompers and dresses. “This range extension makes the transition from beach to street simple while maintaining on-trend style, further simplifying life for parents.” The result is both fashionable and functional beachwear for kids. And, of course, sun-protective options top the list of priorities by the pool and on the beach.

“Children’s swimwear often follows the lead from women’s swimwear from the season before, but this year it is particularly the case,” says Julie Rich, vice president of sales and U.S. operations for SNAPPER ROCK. “One of the strongest styles has been the halter neck—whether it’s a halter neck one-piece or two-piece swimsuit.” Rich points to such new silhouettes for 2017 as crop-tops, swim leggings, and an A-line dress that can be worn in and out of the water. The sun-protective line also features colorful, mix-and-match prints, ranging from soft pastels to tropical brights. Details are key, and Rich notes the brand’s caftans and swim shorts trimmed with pom poms continue to be popular.

According to Debbie Naren, founder and design director of LIMEAPPLE, there is a much stronger emphasis and focus on prints for Season 2017. “There are a lot of patterns and colors reminiscent of exotic adventures and fashion,” explains Naren, whose 2017 collection takes inspiration from Tibet. The athleisure trend is also strong moving forward, according to Naren. “This season, we have a larger offering and variety of rash guards, high-neck cropped bikinis and a new collection of board shorts to cater to the increasing demand for sportier options with sun protection,” she explains.

Indeed, the athleisure trend continues to make an impact. “The strength of the emerging athleisure trend is a critical direction that should be on both buyers’ and retailers’ radar,” says Wheen, who added that Platypus Australia is seeing a stronger trend toward fashion within performance collections. New on-trend swimwear styles in the brand’s 2017 collection include a T-shirt rash guard with a pocket for boys, and cropped rash guards, capped sleeve one-pieces and flounce bikinis for girls.

Fashion and sun protection are at the top of the list for many brands. “Sun protection continues to be our focus, and we are hearing more and more parents starting to ask for it specifically,” says Shari Murphy, USA director at BABY BANZ. The brand’s 2017 collection is its most sophisticated yet. It features trendy, bold prints with frogs, pineapples and sea monsters, and updated classics such as nautical stripes and anchors. Small sophisticated florals and large tropical leaves round out the mix-and-match collection.

For 2017, RUFFLEBUTTS has expanded its girls’ rash guard silhouettes to continue its focus on sun-protective styles. “This year we are continuing to see the major trend of sun protection throughout children’s swim,” says Amber Schaub, founder and CEO. “For 2017 we have combined the tradition of classic fabrics, such as seersucker, with the modern requirement of sun protection.”

UV SKINZ is expanding its offerings for 2017 to include everyday leisure and travel wear. “Buyers are wanting silhouettes that stand out and are different, but that continue to provide the sun protection that parents demand,” says Rhonda Sparks, founder and CEO. New styles made in the brand’s signature bright, vibrant colors include UPF 50+ knot dresses and everyday tees for girls, and getaway beach pants and half-zip sun shirts for boys.

Swimwear and cover-up options that go beyond the beach and translate to the street are becoming more and more popular. “Everything I’m seeing in clothing, I’m trying to apply in swimwear,” says Adriana Dranoff, PLANET SEA founder and designer. This season, she says, fashion-forward styles include high-neck tops, off-the-shoulder looks and lingerie-inspired strappy bras. She is also incorporating mesh fabrics and trend-driven digital prints, such as photo-real crochet and distressed denim, into her collection. Cover-ups, she adds, are more popular than ever. “The sales in cover-ups are tripling every year,” says Dranoff, who has more than 30 cover-up styles in her collection. “I see some stores in malls that are selling resortwear and cover-ups all year round.”