Amanda Del Duca Surveys Miami’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim

Style Saves at Soho Beach House

The eighth annual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim dove into Miami Beach last week, showcasing the latest designer swimwear and resort collections at the iconic Raleigh hotel. I’ve covered MBFW Swim for years, and, as one would expect, each permutation brings on a new set of both challenges and delights.

The majority of the shows take place at The Raleigh, but many other fine hotels also spend the week playing host to exclusive designer presentations. At The Raleigh, the action occurs in two tents situated between the legendary art deco pool and the beach—an optimal venue for catwalk-to-cabana access. Journalists, buyers, stylists and models mingle around the pool sipping omnipresent Moët on ice with muddled fruit or herbs. It truly is an ideal set-up for the sexiest week in fashion.

Backstage at iShine365 for Style Saves

Backstage at Style Saves

Where MBFW Swim falls short is not in the charming poolside locale and certainly not the free-flowing cocktails, but in the details. Specifically, timing and air flow. After years of semi-outdoor fashion shows in consistent 95-degree heat, fans and misters should be a top priority. A dozen devices spraying a light cooling mist scattered from the pool to the beach would make a world of difference to those dressed for Fashion Week. (Or maybe my reaction to the heat was induced by the decision to wear a lambskin mini.)

Models lined up to walk catwalk at Trina Turk

Gold chains on model at Soho Beach house for Atrium presentation

Mara Hoffman discussing final rehearsal with models

Model on headphones backstage at Mara Hoffman. Nick Irvin puts final touches on her hair.

At the Tory Burch 2013 Resort collection preview, the Delano at least attempted air flow. And when I say “attempted,” I mean two small wall fans positioned in the corners of select cabanas. I held my ground and occupied one for 20 minutes, letting the hot air blow in my face while silently willing the sun to go down.

Of course, the heat would be less of an issue if the shows weren’t running on Miami time. Unlike any other Fashion Week, Swim follows the Miami standard of being 45 minutes late. Attendees are shuffled from line to line between shows, waiting an average of 30 minutes until allowed access into the air-conditioned tent. Thankfully, the liquor sponsors seem to get more creative each year, keeping guests hydrated and buzzed during the lulls. The Pinot Grigio wine popsicles were a massive hit.

Nick Irvin’s team working on models hair backstage at Mara Hoffman

Models backstage at Mara Hoffman

During this week in Miami, fashion is the reason, but a good cocktail party is often the result. Thus, many designers chose to present collections at a nearby hotel or member’s club, allowing space for a cocktail party and a fashion presentation. These shows are more exclusive and harder to score an invite to, but the designers who select these venues can go all out with the party/show concept. For the Resort 2013 Chloé event, Soho Beach House set up a full runway over the swimming pool. With the front row perched on sun beds and a grassy tiki-bar area for the standing guests, the show felt more like an experience than a typical presentation. These designers also get it right by showing late in the evening, with the last shows beginning at 11 p.m. Finding ways to escape the July heat in Miami is essential and allowing guests a two-hour window to arrive is appreciated and necessary.

A model relaxing in penthouse suite at Soho Beach House for Chloé

Backstage at Red Carter

The amount of designers and industry professionals travelling to Miami has become larger and more prominent every year. This season, more than 30 designers from countries worldwide presented their latest work. And there are many emerging talents to be discovered during Miami Swim Week. Last year, Kate Upton walked for Beach Bunny and closed the show in a swimsuit inspired by Madonna’s Like a Virgin era. The voluptuous model caused a tizzy when she bounced down the runway flaunting her incredible assets. Within a year she has gained top-model status and earned the coveted cover of the Sports Illustrated Swim Issue.

Backstage at Red Carter

Backstage at Red Carter

Despite being a platform for up-and-coming talent, Miami’s Fashion Week currently fails to bring in top editors. There is talent on the scene; they just aren’t in the front row. The most noteworthy professionals are backstage. Shows like Red Carter, Mara Hoffman, L*Space, Chloé and Trina Turk were produced by an impressive list of industry stalwarts.

At Red Carter, the styling as well as the geometric prints created an energetic and inspired presentation. Stylist Danny Santiago paired disco-ball purses with Carter’s rainbow-colored bikinis, woven head cones with tribal prints, and then ended with two models sporting large feathered…wings? It was a Rio fantasy joyride that was beautifully entertaining.

Danny Santiago giving final pep talk at Red Carter

Jazzma Kendrick, one of the feathered models who closed the show, garnered quite a bit of attention even after it ended. While waiting for L*Space to start, which was now running nearly an hour and a half late, attendees and photographers quickly gathered around the beauty as she slinked out from backstage. In one of the most glamorous moments of the week, Kendrick wore a cropped top and blazer with printed pants while politely posing. She looked every bit a star in the making.

On Saturday, Nick Irwin for Catwalk by TIGI was tapped to do the stunning bushy hair at Mara Hoffman. Locks were beachy and wild on top, and then tightly wrapped down from the collarbone with leather. It was a perfect complement to Hoffman’s desert-outlaw/gypsies-inspired collection. A masterpiece of prints and woven cutouts, the show also featured a standout detail: The hand-painted tattoos of a simple feather on the models’ calves were inspired by Hoffman’s own ink, which makeup artist Cynthia Dalagelis re-created for the show.

Backstage at Red Carter

Stylist Rachael Russell also put on a memorable event for her charity, Style Saves. Presenting at Soho Beach House on the first night of the week, Russell wowed the crowd with four shows, including Trina Turk Resort 2013. This ambitious effort by the 24-year-old Russell was well executed and a refreshing addition to the week.

The honor of staging MBFW’s most ludicrous production goes to Australian label Lisa Blue. I would tell you about the swimsuits, except I can’t recall anything other than the sideshow thematics. The presentation opened with models in sweet, Grecian-inspired swimwear, and then moved on to heavier Egyptian makeup and styling. The collection continued to morph into sultry cowgirl and somehow on to ’60s pinup. Oh, and that’s not all: A huge paper water dragon snaked down the runway, and also Karina Smirnoff of Dancing With the Stars was happily available for a flamenco performance piece. It was much too much.

Backstage at Red Carter

Overall, the collections this year were strong and really beautiful. Trends you can count on for Spring 2013 include retro one-pieces, geometric black-and-white color-blocking, python prints and super-high-waist bikini bottoms. Miami’s fashion scene is growing quickly, with each year attracting bigger names, better collections and exciting newbies. This season’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim proved how serious Miami is about defining its place in the fashion world.

For more style info from Amanda Del Duca, visit

Photographs by David Lundblad



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