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Vilebrequin marks 40th anniversary with limited-edition, $550 swim trunks

May 24, 2011 |  6:00 am

Rage_Vilebrequin_40
Men's swimsuit-maker Vilebrequin is marking its 40th anniversary with a limited-edition pair of trunks that retail for $550.

That may seem steep for a bathing suit -- even from a label positioned at the high end of the market (most suits retail for around $240) -- but Vilebrequin has earned a reputation as the gold standard of luxury swim trunks over the last four decades.

I was reminded of Vilebrequin's reputation recently, as I was researching a story about trends in men's swimwear, and nearly everyone I spoke too -- retailers, manufacturers and analysts -- name-checked Vilebrequin (pronounced veel-breh-ken, and it means "crankshaft" in French) and customers' willingness to pay top-dollar for the trunks when, according to the NPD Group, the average price paid for a men's swimsuit in the U.S. from April 2010 through March 2011 was estimated to be just $16.53. 

Part of the appeal has been the constant parade of brightly colored prints that cycle through each season -- festive fauna including (but by no means limited to) octopuses, toucans, elephants and chameleons, equally flamboyant fauna (palm fronds, hibiscus, chile peppers, pineapples and citrus slices to name a few) and bold repeating patterns (houndstooth, patchwork and geometric).

Less obvious (until you've actually worn a pair, in and out of the water, over the course of a summer) is the construction; quick-drying fabric, iron-tough stitching, and an assortment of eyelets, buttonholes and mesh detailing that decreases ballooning from trapped air and helps water drain out of pockets quicker. (Each pair also comes with a neat water-tight plastic back pocket insert that can easily hold car keys, cash and credit cards.)

Printed on 100% polyamide (a nylon fabric sometimes referred to as "spinnaker canvas") using an ink jet photography technique, the 40th-anniversary design is a pastel patchwork that includes some 17 different colors and designs culled from the archives of the last 40 years -- salamanders, pelicans and kangaroos cavorting with sea turtles (the Vilebrequin logo), starfish and jellyfish.

Pairs from the limited-edition series of 2,100 can be bought in Vilebrequin stores worldwide (including the Beverly Hills and Palm Desert boutiques in Southern California) and online at vilebrequin.com.

And, if you can't quite justify a pair of $550 swim trunks but still want to mark the label's milestone -- and help save some sea turtles at the same time -- Vilebrequin just announced a 40th-anniversary Summer 2011 collection of men's and boys' bathing suits and T-shirts scheduled to hit the shelves (including its Beverly Hills boutique at Two Rodeo Drive) next week.

Featuring the sea turtle motif from its logo, $10 from each piece sold (men's trunks will retail for $230, boys' trunks are $120 and $140 depending on the style) will go to the Plant A Fish Foundation, created by Fabien Cousteau, grandson of famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, to help the endangered hawksbill turtle. 

-- Adam Tschorn

Photos: Vilebrequin is marking its 40th anniversary with a limited-edition $550 swimsuit, left, and the Plant A Fish collection, right, which includes boys' trunks ($120), men's trunks ($230) and T-shirts. Credit: Vilebrequin

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