MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Next summer, women can be comfortable, feel glamorous and look trend-right in pants as beach cover-ups.
Bold-colored and printed pantsuits were one of the popular styles on the runway during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim 2012, which ended Monday. Slouchy pants in bright pink and black, and even a Spandex, bohemian-print legging, also might be coming soon to a beach near you.
Playful prints and vibrant hues -- hot pink, acid green, cobalt blue -- had their place on the catwalks in Miami Beach, as well as geometric shapes and animal-inspired prints, colors and stripes.
Some designers showed high-waisted bikini bottoms, while others included multi side-string swimwear, allowing for some skin to peek through.
Designer Normal Kamali said she's interested in "the evolution more than a trend" in swimwear.
Swimwear might be more like the bridal market than high fashion, in that there are more limitations in style, fabric and construction. That doesn't stop splashy runway shows, though.
Close to two dozen designers previewed looks for stylists, editors and retailers who used The Raleigh Hotel as their home base over five days. They saw collections inspired by the Amazon, Egypt and Pop Art, among other themes.
"It was important for me to address elegance," designer Red Carter said.
White Sands Australia
Two contrasting styles were on the runway at White Sands Australia: sweet floral vs. sexy zebra. Designer Leah Madden tried to pick between the two to show a cohesive collection, but ended up showing both.
"I realized that as women, we always have those two sides. Sometimes we're sweet. Sometimes we're not. And I loved it," Madden said. "And I thought, you know what, I'm going to do the collection revolving around that. One day you're sweet and pretty, very feminine. And then at other times we can be a little nasty, a little bit strong."
The collection began with its darker side in a black and white zebra print bikini followed by a soft white, almost lingerie style one-piece with ruching detail along the top and waist.
To enhance that contrast of soft vs. strong, models donned pearl bracelets and pink ballet-style heels with thick ribbon wrapped around their calves to represent the softer collection. Those same shoes were also shown in black when Madden wanted to change the mood.
Madden showed a broad mix of swimsuit styles as well as cover-ups, including a long floral dress followed by a black and white zebra print short dress. She continued her contrasts of zebra and floral in separate pantsuit designs.
"I'm a big resort girl," she said. And although the collection showed more bikinis, she loves a one-piece.
"It's fashion. I think it's special."
Brazilian designer Paola Robba incorporated her country's traditional colors, symbols, plant and wildlife into a 40-piece collection which included bikinis, kaftans, mini dresses, shirts, skirts and pantaloon pants in a multitude of colors: yellow, brown, red, green, turquoise, black and white.
The fun collection showed exotic prints reminiscent of the Amazon, beginning the show with a white bikini top in a large coconut print paired with a long, flowing skirt in a matching print.
Robba used leaves in place of polka dots in one bikini. Resembling Miami's palm tree, the guarana -- as the plant is called in Portuguese -- took over a white bikini top and slouchy pants. The same print was also seen on a monokini and shirt cover-up.
"I like fun things. I think a bikini can be fun," Robba said.
Robba also paid homage to Amazon wildlife, incorporating into the collection multicolored feathers inspired by a type of macaw and velvety coats patterned like jaguar. Using a macrame texture, Robba also mimicked the scales of fish on some leather pieces, including a pink corset-style tankini.
"They're very popular, this kind of fish in the Amazon. And I love the texture," Robba said of the fish skin leather.
The Poko Pano collection also included a monkey print, brown leather braids on the sides of bikini bottoms, and vibrant colors as well as a sophisticated one-piece in black, white and soft blue.
Spanish designer Dolores Font Cortes' collection was inspired by dreams of a remote, idyllic island.
"You are on a deserted island, because you want to, and you want to be beautiful and glamorous with what you have around you," the designer told the AP in Spanish.
Colors ranged from strawberry pink to the green tint from the bottom of the sea, and orange shades with tones mixed with black. Animal prints were reinvented in fluorescent shades and geometric shapes. Metal hardware was included in some swimsuits, including an orange monokini, essentially a one-piece with exaggerated cut-outs in the middle. A blue bikini top dazzled with jewels.
"A part of the collection reminds you of what you could do by hand," Cortes said, referring to some of the crochet pieces as well as bikini bottoms and one-pieces with multiple strings along the sides to show a sliver of skin.
The designer also paired a hot-pink pant paired with a multicolored bikini top, followed by a pantsuit in the same vibrant color pattern.
Some models carried a small coconut purse down the runway.
A generous mix of Egyptian and South American tribal influences were seen at the Mara Hoffman show in a multitude of vibrant colors.
"I love her really bright prints," designer and reality television star Whitney Port, seated in the front row, told AP. Although she is "more of a jean shorts kind of girl," Port said she was looking forward to seeing Hoffman's unique pieces.
Hoffman is known for her Bohemian style. Her collection touched on Egyptian inspiration such as the sarcophagus and King Tut.
The face of King Tut was put on an oversized beach bag, a maillot, a high-waisted bikini and maxi dress.
The 39-piece collection was the biggest showing for Hoffman yet. It included a cheetah print jumpsuit, Tiki modal (fiber) slouch pants, and a neon coral silk chiffon romper paired with bikini tops in tribal or animal prints. One of the long, flowing dresses was detailed with beads on the back of the neck.
An eye motif, although subtle, was seen throughout the show.
A black high-waisted bikini bottom was held together with multiple side strings for a slashed effect, as was a pistachio embroidered four-strap bikini.
Beading, macrame and sexy lattice cut-outs also were seen during the show, and Hoffman introduced her take on cotton voile.
The show ended with a Spandex legging in a vibrant coral Egyptian print.
So who is the Mara Hoffman woman?
"She's a journey person at heart even if she doesn't necessarily have the means to do so. She's inspired by other cultures," Hoffman said.
A special presentation of Norma Kamali's swimwear collection included a lace mesh combo on dresses and pants that are washable and wearable. A gown (originally designed for singer and actress Jennifer Lopez) had sparkling rhinestones. A nude fishtail pant creates a slimming effect.
For a sexy but feminine look, Kamali fans can mix and match bikini pieces with lingerie touches, including ruffles, in a palette of champagne, black, steel gray and sable.
The wrap and tie collection was inspired by Kamali's classic swimsuit silhouette from the '70s. The swimsuit was reintroduced into the collection using a soft material in cobalt blue, black and white stripes and an acid green one-piece.
Chiffon was used for a gypsy dress, breezy tops and skirts with a Kamali original print in black and white called the milk-panic pattern that resembles the letter C or a distorted leopard print. A unique plaid pattern was also seen on some of the cover-ups.
Flat, round studs on swimsuits with one-shoulder and a high-leg were also on display.
"I have a really broad customer range. The collection addresses the different age groups and different lifestyles," Kamali said in a phone interview.
"The interesting thing with swimwear is styles last, and prints never go out of style," Kamali said.
Lucite capes in bright jewel tones showed the adventurous side of Miami Beach-based designer Red Carter, who wanted "to make people feel we are moving forward with fashion these days."
His collection focused on two trends: One was African inspired with hand crochet and animal prints in neutral tones such as mocha; the other paid homage to Pop Art with color-blocking and eye-popping colors.
A snake print one-piece opened the show. Gold embellishments decorated a cheetah-print two-piece with pearl detailing and a black halter bikini with gold studs. Ruffles were seen on many suits, including a cream and black two-piece with animal print and a black and white one-piece with a zigzag print.
Cut-outs and creative knots added interesting detail to others, and a feather-print one-piece peeked through a purple bolero-style cover-up.
Fringe and gold embellished swimsuits with a butterfly print were seen at Cia.Maritima.
"The butterfly print is going to be one of the main prints in the collection," designer Patrizia Simonelli said in Portuguese through an interpreter.
The collection represents an effortless, boho chic look reminiscent of the '60s and the French Riviera. Animal print continued as a staple of the label: A blue leopard string bikini with pink trim was paired with a cropped T-shirt. A one-shoulder monokini was in a snake print, while a bandeau was worn with a pin-up ruched animal print bottom.
The animal print was also seen mixed with floral in a long-sleeve chiffon tunic over a blue string bottom and pink triangle top.
"Animal print is the DNA of our brand. We always have it. We always use it as a mix and match print," Simonelli said.
The show opened with a triangle beaded top and tie-side bottom. Several pieces had those gold fringe details, including a snake one-piece in blue and yellow.
The butterfly print was seen in a bandeau top with center gold hardware, as a vest over a triangle top and in a green and pink colored tunic.
Meanwhile, a studded triangle top in bright orange was paired with a denim string bottom -- memorable because denim is a rare sight at the swimwear shows.
Space-age pieces, as well as Aboriginal and whale designs, fueled Lisa Blue's first solo fashion show in the U.S.
The collection was quite different this year for Australian designer Lisa Burke, who described the story of her inspiration as being edgy but glamorous and with a Galactic feel.
For the first look, the model removed a velvety black cloak over a black one-piece with gold metallic panels on the sides. Burke said it was her favorite piece of the collection, which also took a lot of time to create.
Otherwise, though, whales dominated here, and her show was titled "Call of the Whale." (Twenty five percent of the net profit for Lisa Blue is donated to causes related to protecting whales and dolphins.)
A large prominent whale tail was outlined on a black one-piece. Whale tails were incorporated as charms on other designs.
Metallic panels of gold and silver were seen throughout the collection, along with studded patterns. Cut-outs were also on several of the pieces, including a bright purple one-piece with cut-outs also on the shoulder.
A reference to Cupid turned up in a monokini, with angles on the back of the bottom.
The collection transitioned to Aboriginal influences, with a mix of blues, turquoise and indigo pink for a celestial feel. A tribal print with gold foil highlighted the color of chocolate mixed with red, orange and yellow shells in some monokinis. Models walked barefoot.
High-waisted bottoms had underwater color tones.
The show ended with a model wearing a cape designed to look like feathered wings. The designer then walked down the runway herself, wearing a bikini from her latest collection.
Nonprofit Style Saves, which helps provide new outfits for children for their first day of school, hosted a separate fashion show Friday that included a collection from designer Trina Turk and the launch of men's swimwear for the male-brand Papi.