The Trends that Define Cruise 2018

The Swim Journal interviews suppliers, manufacturers and designers to get the skinny on fashion trends for beachwear this season

By N. Jayne Seward

Active lifestyles, female empowerment, and the desire to relax and revive are key concepts shaping the Cruise 2018 swimwear and beachwear markets. Trends for the season reflect the evolving needs of consumers and their high-tech lifestyles. “We live in a high-anxiety society, and we [manufacturers] provide a cheap form of anti-anxiety in the form of swimwear,” says Howie Greller, vice president of merchandising at Manhattan Beachwear. “When people get upset, they want to get away. Swimwear is a cheap form of escape. [It’s] the uniform for the sun.” Simplifying and paring down to clean minimal lines, and offering multipurpose swim and beachwear geared for active lifestyles is key. An increased interest in travel inspires a global aesthetic, and athleisure continues to propel the market. Femininity is another key theme, and sexy is back for Cruise ’18.

“The Women’s March was such an important movement for us, and I really believe it’s translating into the fashion world by inspiring bold strength and sophisticated sexiness,” says designer Melissa Odabash, who incorporates military color ways and camo prints into her collection. “The core of my designs have always centered around those things, and the importance of making a woman feel empowered physically and emotionally.”

From sexy cuts to alluring fabrics, the one-piece is the updated ’80s power suit for the beach. “It definitely is about the return of the hot, sexy one-piece—the absolute must-have swimsuit of the season,” says Rod Beattie, creative director for Bleu Rod Beattie.

The one-piece swimsuit is a key item for French luxury brand Lise Charmel. “It was a big trend last year, and it’s continuing,” says Sandra Jones, U.S. manager, Lise Charmel Group. The brand’s current top seller is a ballerina-style bodysuit with a deep plunging back. “I have people telling me they wear it with pants,” says Jones. “It’s really a ‘wow’ piece.”

The bodysuit silhouette is trending, according to Vitamin A founder Amahlia Stevens. “Bodysuits are still going strong, taking women from beach to brunch and beyond,” she says. “High leg cuts, off-the-shoulder silhouettes, and an overall focus on femininity and a woman’s natural shape are key.”

Feminine looks are running the gamut from sexy to soft and romantic. According to Diana Munoz, director of design and merchandising for Raj Swim, feminine silhouettes, ballerina-inspired trends, wrap bras, wrap one-pieces and draped styling details are trending. Ruffles—especially those emphasizing the shoulders—are also a key detail. Think millennial pink as a directional color.

Palettes this season range from pink to striking black and white to nude to neon brights. In fact, nude is a key color for this season. Vitamin A’s new “Naked Palette” for 2018 comes in a variety of skin tones that celebrate feminine beauty and embrace a sexy, sun-kissed glow. Colors include blush, dusty rose, rum and cocoa.

According to Como, Italy-based Lyma International, the top solid colors for 2018 include shades of blue, from navy to indigo to denim. The company, which is now represented by La Lame in the U.S., specializes in printing elastic jersey fabrics, technical fabrics and natural fibers for swimwear, beachwear, intimates and activewear. Classic colors the company says are still key include black, red, white, off-white, ecru and beige. Yellow is strong for 2018 as well as green, acid greens and mint tones; nudes, pinks and purples round out the season. Top-selling prints at Lyma for 2018 are florals, nautical, stripes, geometric/graphic and animal skins. Active lifestyles are inspiring new technical fabrics that incorporate sporty active prints as well as scuba printed fabrics, laser cuts and trims. Prints are intense, colorful and graphic.

Clearly, athleisure, activewear and wellness continue to be key influences in the swimwear and beachwear market. Creora is projecting the trend to continue well into 2019. Made by Hyosung Corporation, the largest spandex producer in the world, Creora expects the sporty swimwear trend to continue, as brands create more gym-to-swim pieces that appeal to the consumer’s multi-functional needs.

“The hottest trends for us in 2018 are the surf/sporty look, handmade detailing on the suits, zippers, tropical prints and high-neck tops,” says Octavio Quintana, vice president North America division for Leonisa. “From what I’ve observed, more people are aware of UV protection, so they are requesting more coverage, and this trend will continue.” Quintana adds that cover-ups have become very important and complete the swim look.

According to Profile Sport by Gottex designer Annie Markson, “the newest trends are all about incorporating sporty looks into the ‘sexy one-piece,’ with the additions of mesh inserts, cut-outs, side panels and laser details.” Key pieces include crossover items that go from beach to street and gym to pool, such as capris, crop tops, and long-sleeve rash guards and bodysuits, which also offer UV protection. Looking forward, Creora is projecting an eco-friendly “Surf-In” trend, in which a surfer influence inspires multi-functional beach-to-street looks utilizing recycled synthetics.

For Cruise ’18, ’80s silhouettes are also key. According to Isabella Rose designer Rebecca Virtue, “the high leg is definitely returning, along with asymmetrical silhouettes, cut-outs and high cut-out necks.”

The shoulder is swimwear’s new erogenous zone. From asymmetrical looks to one-shoulder silhouettes and off-the-shoulder styling, it’s all about the return of the sexy shoulder. “Off-the-shoulder and one-shoulder silhouettes accented by ruffles and novelty details define a modern visual point of interest,” says Beattie.

Floral prints and other inspirations from nature will be everywhere this season. “Dramatic placement prints, lush botanicals and patterns inspired by traditional craftsmanship, such as batiks, woodblocks and tie-dyes, are also trending,” says Trina Turk.

“Surface interest is finally getting some respect,” says Greller, who notes that key fabrics are velvet, ribs, washable swimwear suede and metallics. “Playing with texture is very important,” says Jones, who adds that the Lise Charmel collection includes textured fabrics such as a cotton burnout, geometric patterns that create a 3-D dimensional effect and leather that can be worn in the water. Embellishments and bling are trending, according to Munoz, who says pearls, metal studs, embroidery and beading are key. Textured fabrics are being done in several ways, including ribs, jacquards, laces and piques, as well as color-blocking effects. Hardware, including metal rings, sliders and zippers, are making a resurgence, adds Munoz.

Metallics are making a big impact in fabrications and prints as well as hardware details. Many brands have incorporated the trend. Key fabrics for Magicsuit include signature jersey, foiled metallics and novelty large-scale meshes, and the season’s prints range from graphic skins to soft and flowing tie-dyes filtered through a pop-art lens.

Alongside vibrant summer colors such as fuchsia, red, cobalt, and black and white, the hottest colors for the new season are high-shine, striking colors from the natural metallic palette, according to Gottex designer Keren Gasner. “The strongest and most important trends for 2018 are all about luxurious and glamorous designs, elegant fabrics, unique printing techniques, embroideries and lace in metallic black, gray, black, white, gold, bronze, silver and shades of ocean blues,” explains Gasner, who adds that the styles are extremely detailed, with interesting cuts and elements that flatter the figure. “It’s all about sexy but wearable.”