Last month, IMG announced that its annual fashion week event for swimwear — formerly called Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim— would not be returning to Miami this July, following the loss of its title sponsor in January. For the several dozen brands, publicists and production companies who consider Swim Week an essential part of their business strategy, it was a surprise blow.
"It really came out of left field for us," says CeCe Feinberg of Feinberg PR in Miami, whose firm represents designers including Dolores Cortes and Frankie’s Bikinis, the latter of which will still put on a show in Miami next month. “Our deposits had already been sent in, our contracts with times and deposits and everything. There had been rumblings months ago, but I had been on a call with IMG personally and was told, 'No, no, everything is moving forward.'"
In the weeks since the announcement, public relations agencies and production companies have scrambled to make Swim Week happen next month sans IMG. The effort has not been entirely cohesive.
"Things are definitely going to be different this year on many levels because there are two different production companies that really have taken the reins," says Feinberg. "One is LDJ which has worked with IMG in Miami for the past 10 years... they also help them with production for New York Fashion Week. There’s also Funkshion and they have been doing production in Miami Beach for 10 to 15 years.” Feinberg, too, has worked with IMG on Swim Week for the past decade, and this year pulled together a fashion calendar to serve as a schedule and media hub.
A glance at the calendar shows just how disjointed it is. Between LDJ (dubbed Swim Miami) and Funkshion, there are seven event venues spread over six hotels and one tent. Those venues are scheduled to host about 25 shows so far, though that number should climb over the next two weeks. Last year, the vast majority of shows took place at the Raleigh Hotel, either in one of two tents or in the penthouse, scheduled to prevent overlap.
"I really think it’s going to be chaos," says Jeremy Somers of the Australia-based brand We Are Handsome, which has been showing on the runway in Miami for the past three years. Following IMG’s withdrawal, the brands’ founders decided to sit out a runway presentation next month. "When you have the IMG schedule, you have key time slots and there’s only one show at a time. What we’re going to find is now those time slots are going to have six different shows at different venues." One of key times, 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 18, is already triple booked with Caffe Swimwear, Luli Fama and Maxim’s impending swimwear launch, all happening at different venues.
Though he's opting out of Swim Week this season, Somers doesn't think it will hurt We Are Handsome's bottom line, though he says it could injure some of its sponsor relations, particularly sponsors that had signed on for the first time this season. In lieu of a Swim Week show, the Australian label is planning to host a press breakfast and show at one of the swimwear-focused trade shows happening nearby.
For those that are showing, most do not expect buyer and press turnout to be any different. "[The buyers] will see the runway shows but that’s not the core of what they come for," says Feinberg. “They really come for the trade shows, so they would be here regardless to do business and write orders.” Miami hosts the largest and most influential of the swim category’s trade shows in the world during that same week. SwimShow will be celebrating its 33rd year, but younger shows, like Cabana and Hammock, are also taking place. Because of the trade show activity, all runway shows are held after 5 p.m.
“[With press] right at the beginning, right after the IMG announcement, when I was in touch with our usual contacts things were iffy,” Feinberg adds. “Now that the schedule has filled in and people are starting to feel better about it, I have to say we have a good portion of the national editors who are coming so I’m really excited. It might not be the same numbers as it was last year, but I don’t think it’s going to be a significant decrease."
But for most, this year is set to be a one-off. Feinberg expects IMG will indeed be back next year, and there will be no need for her to put together another independent calendar.
And when IMG is back, it will return stronger than before, says a source familiar with IMG's plans. There will be a greater variety in venue and show formats, and involvement from IMG's WME roster of on-air talent, directors and producers. Fantastic news for bikini lovers everywhere.
Swim Week will take place in Miami Beach from July 15 to July 21.