Mara Hoffman recalls one reaction upon learning of her special designation at the upcoming Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim, set for July 18 to 22 at the Raleigh. “I was really stoked; it’s something I’ve wanted as long as I’ve been showing in Miami,” she says of being chosen this year’s Mercedes-Benz Presents designer, a highly coveted honor.

This is New York-based Hoffman’s fifth year of presenting her poolside-chic swim collections—the IMG-produced event is now in its ninth year. “What’s really awesome about showing in Miami is how well it correlates with sales. Your buyers are at the show, and then you see them the next day.”

Indeed, such a thought is integral to this annual showing, which has become collectively known as Swim Week, its components feeding one another to support the multibillion-dollar global swimwear industry. The roots of swim in Miami can be traced to 1982, when a group of sales reps at the Miami Merchandise Mart organized a swimwear trade show; out of that, the Swimwear Association of Florida and SwimShow, which this year takes place July 20 to 23 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, were born. Today SwimShow is considered the largest in the world, offering more than 2,500 brands—collections include giants such as Jantzen, Adidas, and Perry Ellis, as well as lines from designers such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, according to Judy Stein, executive director of the Swimwear Association of Florida. This year Stein will increase the offerings, opening up the show to an additional, nearly 400,000-square-foot hall in the convention center. “The [expanded] space will allow for growth in the men’s and children’s areas, as well as resort and lifestyles,” Stein says.

In 2004 IMG Fashion launched Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim at The Raleigh, its nighttime show schedule careful to not interfere with SwimShow’s convention business during the day. MBFW Swim has evolved into a great platform for designers. “I love this event,” says Christina Neault, executive producer of IMG Fashion. “We’ve definitely seen it grow since we first launched the concept; you see a lot more press than the early years, and also a better quality of model working the show.”

Combine bikini-clad models with the glamour of South Beach and high-wattage runway shows, and what might arise out of such a cocktail? “Maybe the next Kate Upton will be on the runway this year,” Neault says. “That’s one of the great things about Miami, you just never know.”

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