It was like finding new life after death. I called home and said, "I think we have something here. I don't think it is for whom we set out to get it for, but it will fit anybody." We thought it would be fun for the young people who wear tank tops. In the last two years it has been the single biggest classification of selling, the "ini" family I call it. There is the tankini and the camikini, which has a thin lingerie strap, and the bandini, which is the bandeau strapless. And we made one called the in-betweenini.
Q: Over the last 50 years, how has the American woman's body changed?
A: When I first went on the road, the average size was a 12 to 14. Women have completely evolved. They were bigger then. There were very few size 6s and 8s. What has happened is the exercise era. We are pumping up and working out. It has changed the shape of women in general. Now when I go to Bloomingdale's, the 6, 8, 10 sizes sell out first, and then you are stuck with the sizes 12 or 14. Esther Williams was no small size. She was the only woman in America who had a 39-inch bust all in the back.
Q: Is your primary market for the tankini now the 30- or 40-year-old?
A: No, it's everybody. In the conservative parts of America it's a young person's suit, too. What they do with them is, they take the tops and they become T-shirts, and wear them at night with their jeans. Right now the bandeau is the hot thing.
Q: What is the average price of a designer swimsuit these days?
A: They cost between $60 and $80 and are creeping into the $90 territory. The average price of a tankini is $38 for each piece. (Pieces can be bought separately, or the entire suit can be bought for $76.) Some (pieces) are $40 if they are made of a better fabric. Fabric dictates price more than anything else.
Q: People ask, how can two little pieces of fabric be so expensive?
A: The fabrics we use are $11 a yard, or even as high as $18 a yard. And that is as expensive as the fabric you use in a dinner gown. It is not cheap today. You can get cheap Lycra, but we don't use it. When I started in swimwear, there were a lot more fabrics that were used than today. There were jerseys and cotton knits.
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