Tefron's 'Just Pretend' collection

Bikini bottoms seemingly inspired by the ring costume of a sumo wrestler, and bandeau bra tops which could have stepped straight from a mural of the Minoan fashion current in 2002 BC, were among the more novel beach wear styles which made their debut at the 2002 Lyon Mode City trade fair.

The sumo pants were one of the highlights of the collection presented by the Dutch house of Y'rus Beach Cocktails. But the bandeau bra made its bow in ranges from almost every nation of the 29 taking part in the show. It was most often allied to 'little boy' shorts cut straight across the waistband and finished with either a mock belt or a drawstring waist.

The drawstring waist was also a detail that re-appeared in many of the men's wear ranges on show.

For both sexes too, the old maxim that "blue n' green should never been seen" was swept away in a tide of prints which brought together this colour combination.

Golden Beach swimwear

Meanwhile many feminine swimsuit prints borrowed their looks from curtaining chintzes - the impression of plundering a soft furnishings section being underlined by the frequent use of what appeared to be coarsely crocheted curtaining netting as the fabric of choice for seaside cover-ups.

Fishnet shawls and beach jackets are also tipped to enjoy a vogue in summer 2003, a season when the sarong, although still around, seems a far less important beachwear accessory.

What many manufacturers are adding as a follow-up sales item for swimwear is a see-through fabric head square. Those in the know will, however, be wearing the scarf not on their heads but tied around their upper arm.

Patterned fabrics
In patterned fabrics with woven-in designs, the coin spot makes a welcome return, as does gingham check. The choice in checks at the avant garde end of the market, however, centres around the houndstooth designs more usually associated with men's suiting than with swimwear. This fabric is a 2003 favourite with the German designer label Cris Cris, and forms part of a collection dominated by variations on a black and white theme.

Blue and green colourways on the catwalk

For whereas the volume swimwear trade is focusing on bright colour including vividly fluorescent lime greens and oranges, the couture end is retrenching into neutrals. At Valentino and Nina Ricci the choice is chocolate, while Dior opts for an inky blue-black.

Beyond the charmed circle of the designer label market leaders a 'Carnival in Rio' feeling pervades the international swimwear scene. In such a climate it is therefore not surprising that this year's Mode City Fair attracted more Brazilian exhibitors than ever before.

International turnout
Both in ready-made garments and in lines displayed at the companion Interfiliere fabric fair there was a notable increase in the number of exhibitors from Eastern Europe as well as from various parts of the Far East.

Also present in greater numbers were specialist trimmings houses.

For in the season ahead, trimmings are piled on trimmings. Swimwear styles introduce opalescent and pearl beading alongside sequins and diamante stud work. Another important detail is adding beads or bobbles as the finishing touch to the rouleau ties that form the sides of thongs or link deep cleavage bra cups.

Patterns and brights dominate

Bra tops meanwhile sport lace edging below the bustline or are deckle or dagged around the edges - another detail emerging as topically important to both swimwear and lingerie ranges for the year ahead.

Similarly, in both the lingerie and the swimwear market elasticated straps become ever more decorative, sporting diamante dewdrops, glitter dusting or low relief guipure decorations.

Fabric front
On the technical side, last year's chlorine resistance has been overtaken by UV protective swimwear fabrics as a key talking point.

Obviously fabric treatments that reduce the risk of sunburn, and its even more serious long-term consequences, aren't new - they first appeared nearly a decade ago. However this whole niche market has become revitalised by the recent publicity given to the dangers of intemperate sunbathing.

In the underwear and active sportswear sectors demand for anti-bacteria treated fabrics continues to gather momentum, with the new technique of electron bombardment tipped to take over from more conventional chemical treatments designed to repel or at least dispel bacterially created odours.

International visitor numbers were up

But even as the market for such fibres and fabrics expands, experts are expressing worries about its long-term future.

Among textile technologists there is a fear that the over-use of such treatments could result in the bacteria themselves becoming immune to all currently known antibacterial agents.

And in answer to those who regard such fears as merely the stuff of science fiction, the pessimists point to what has already happened in the medical field. There over reliance on antibiotics as the cure-all for bodily infections has resulted in a mutation of bacteria into a super strain gifted with antibiotic immunity.

Meanwhile, in both lingerie and foundation garments, seamless construction as a means of reducing and possibly totally eliminating the need for sewing continues to be a major story.

Expert Analysis

This report provides a review the UK market. It examines areas such as buying behaviour, market size, competitors, company profiles, forecasts and much more. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis is included along with 25 tables of essential data.

Moulded bra cups are now becoming the norm, not just for sport but for every corsetry occasion. They are offered in a wide range of colourways and with surfaces capable of directly receiving print, encouraging the idea that at all but the very top end of the market manufacturers will soon be able to further cut costs by eliminating a covering layer of fabric.

And just what can be achieved design by a combination of stretch fabric, seamless construction and trompe l'oeil print was dramatically demonstrated in Lyon by the Israel based Tefron group. The star attraction of its aptly named Just Pretend collection was a garment which at first appeared to recreate both the l9th century's love of tight lacing and the mid 20th century's fascination with conically shaped breasts. Tefron produced an illusion of this look simply by over-printing a seamlessly comfy stretch body stocking.

By Sonia Roberts.