What Does IMG Leaving Swim Week (Again) Mean for Miami?

After global events and talent management company IMG pulled out of Miami Swim Week last year, the shows were a mess. Though there were quite a few gems (Mara Hoffman’s fete at the Versace mansion was one of note), the overall event was inefficient and mired in problems. Participants comforted themselves with IMG’s announcement that its abstention would be for only a season. But reached early last month by New Times, an IMG spokesperson reneged on that position.

“We considered coming back to Miami this season but decided in the end it wasn’t the right strategic fit for us this year,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. The statement came a week after designers, brands, and PR agencies confirmed that the company had alerted them of its intentions.

The development is a setback for Swim Week. Having celebrated a decade of being an official IMG event two years ago, speculation had mounted about the company’s triumphant return. Only weeks before IMG confirmed it would not return to Miami Swim Week 2016, reports stated the company could return with luxury labels and resort collections in tow. At the end of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia earlier this year, some wondered how those moves might square with the newly positioned fashion week down under, which also concentrates on resort collections. That has yet to be seen.

While those familiar with IMG’s plans are confident that the company still has an interest in the city’s burgeoning fashion community, IMG’s inaction will not halt the shows. Brands such as Mara Hoffman, We Are Handsome, and 6 Shore Road by Pooja have decided to sit out runway shows in Miami (Handsome showed in Australia, and Pooja will be present at Miami’s Cabana trade show). But others have pressed on.

“Regardless of IMG’s participation, Miami Swim Week is going ahead full force with an exciting schedule of trade shows, runway shows, and parties,” CeCe Feinberg of Feinberg PR said. Last year, the entrepreneur started a makeshift calendar and press registration portal to add some sort of mechanism for participants to stay involved. “There’s a confirmed lineup of established, fan-favorite brands as well as new ones that both buyers and press are going to want to see, as they will be the buzzed-about brands everyone will be talking about soon.”
By our count, more than five organizations have stepped up in various ways to pull together shows and events. Funkshion’s fashion week, which existed before IMG’s swim week, is arguably the largest, with a tent on the beach that hosts two runway spaces as well as satellite venues at the Setai and Nautilus hotels. IMG’s production partner has also gotten into the fray with SWIMMIAMI. Fifteen shows make up its schedule, including brands such as Frankie’s Bikinis, Issa de’ Mar, and Hot as Hell, all hosted at the W South Beach. Bringing on big-name sponsors like Tresemme, as well as exciting new brands like Kylie Jenner-favored KAOHS, is a definite win for them.

Last year, Dive made a splash by hosting the CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund-nominated brand Chromat in Miami. The biggest problem: The show took place in Wynwood, a bridge away from the hub of Swim Week activity in Miami Beach. This year, Dive and Chromat will return, but with a “partner location” on the Beach, as well as new designers. Representatives for the brand, which include a producer for Made Fashion Week’s shows in New York, promise a menswear presence as well. It’s likely these sorts of approaches will continue in the future.

“SwimMiami will be back next season, and we will continue to produce it as they have for the past ten years,” Nicole Doswell, a spokesperson for the Riviere Agency, which represents SwimMiami producers LDJ and SBI, said in a phone interview. “Regardless of what IMG does in the coming seasons, there will continue to be shows.”
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