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Welcome to the jungle: Latest swimwear trends have wild side, with animal and foliage prints

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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. - Welcome to the jungle.

The latest swimwear trends have a wild side this season, with animal and tropical foliage prints seen on the runways at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim 2014 at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach. Orange made a splash at the Cia.Maritima (now CM) and Nanette Lepore shows. And the must-have accessary this season is a bold necklace, from the oversized rosary-style crosses seen at Poko Pano to the gold-covered medal necklaces at Dolores Cortes.

Newcomer Maaji made its swim week debut, as did Lepore and Betsey Johnson. And Mara Hoffman was named the Mercedes-Benz Presents Designer this season, recognizing her work using quality materials, unique style and innovative design.

Swim week, featuring nearly three dozen designers, started on Thursday and ran through Monday.

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AGUA BENDITA

Colombian duo Catalina Alvarez and Mariana Hinestroza showed an eclectic mix again this season, from a leather-looking vest with studs to safari-themed suits with corresponding backpacks and a traveller's briefcase covered in badges. Snakeskin prints in bright colours also made their way into the collection, along with neon beadwork and other embellishments.

Keeping with the jungle theme of the season, Agua Bendita showed a blue monokini in a bold elephant print with a contrasting pattern that lined the top. Kaftans and fringed-crop tops were adorned with animal prints, including a lion face with matching backpack.

The one-piece with tribal pattern was a standout, with the image of binoculars in colorful beadwork appearing as if hanging over the model's neck.

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POKO PANO

Designer Paola Robba pays homage to her homeland with designs inspired by myths, legends and beliefs of Brazil.

In soft pastels and warm tones of burnt orange and lilac, Robba included animal prints such as penguins and jaguars in her 40-plus collection for Poko Pano. Gold-plated hardware appeared on bikini tops and bottoms as well as handmade, eco-friendly beads — with oversized crosses, resembling a rosary.

Orange and red were prevalent in this collection, including a red polka-dot triangle top with printed bottom.

"I love strong colours because Brazil is a colorful place," Robba said.

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DOLORES CORTES

Spanish designer Dolores Cortes, the only European to showcase at swim week, was inspired by jungles around the world and punk icons. The two came together seamlessly through bold graphics, lush tropical plant and animal prints fused with gold spikes and studs, fringe and 3D floral details.

Bright colours, including orange and yellow, were combined with more subdued tones.

A favourite punk look on the runway was a set of laser-cut suits in black — from bikinis to monokinis — adorned with gold studs paired with a spiked bracelet. Another crowd favourite was the spiked gold-plated bikini top with tropical print bottom.

The necklaces were also showstoppers. Some pieces were gold-covered metal with enamel to add some colour. Many appeared to mimic flowers and other tropical features from the jungle.

"We worked together so it could have the same inspiration as the collection," Cortes said in Spanish of her collaboration with the jewelry designer.

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TORY BURCH

Inspired by the French painter Edouard Manet, Tory Burch focused on mixing different textures and prints for her swimwear collection that was presented at the Shore Club hotel.

Painterly florals were paired with embellished handbags, embroidered linen with raffia and colour-blocked maillots with beaded straw hats that were a hit with fashion bloggers.

Burch said in an email that the trends of the season included: "The evolution of swim and surf shirts, from sleeveless to long-sleeved and in between." Her floral-printed rash guards with a blue and red-patterned backdrop are a beach favourite, as well as the tropical-printed coverups and ruffled bikini bottoms.

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BETSEY JOHNSON

Only Betsey Johnson can get away with pairing pink wigs and Twizzlers with bikinis. For her first time showing during swim week, Johnson wanted to make sure the models were "on overdrive" during the presentation at The Betsy, a hotel named after Betsy Ross who is credited with making the first American flag. (Fun fact: Johnson said she was named after Ross, although her mother spelled it differently.)

"It's a show. It's not serious, but it's supposed to inspire," she said of her collection, which featured drawings and artwork of women's faces. "I want to get swimwear to continue the pretty," she added, stopping to give a model her own white petticoat that she tucked under the model's red sparkle belt.

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MARA HOFFMAN

For her collection, Mara Hoffman said she was inspired by Indian mythology.

"We really try to tell a story from head to toe," she said.

A neon print of the Hindu god Ganesh, or removal of obstacles, made its way onto a one-piece and cropped top. Models had the evil eye painted on their foreheads along with beaded necklaces.

A fan favourite was Hoffman's array of dresses, from tight minis to maxis that flowed on the runway. A body-hugging long dress featured a snake print in different blue tones while a chiffon dress was draped in a tropical print featuring garlands with a black background.

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CM

Rose gold — from the shoes to necklaces and arm cuffs — made a splash at the Cia.Maritimia show, which relaunched in Miami under the name CM.

Brazilian designer Benny Rosset was inspired by "the people that travel all around the world."

Pops of orange made their way into the collection, as did a blue Mallorca print paired with a side-string bikini bottom — the print was also featured on a body suit and skirt. Another bright print included a pink mystic tank top and gypsy high waist retro bottom topped with a bold blue necklace.

A bandeau top and long skirt in a leopard print with orange ombre at the bottom closed out the show.

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NANETTE LEPORE

Also appearing for the first time at swim week, Nanette Lepore debuted her third season of swimwear on a makeshift runway at the SLS Hotel in South Beach. She coupled orange and pink with elaborate prints in her Morocco-inspired collection that included rash guards and swim pants.

"What's nice with swim is it's blurring into real clothing now," she said.

A floral, dip-dyed print made an appearance alongside a pink fringe flapper-style dress and orange beach coverup with blue detailing.

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LULI FAMA

Opening with a dance number, Luli Fama included an eclectic mix of jewel tones and rainbow colours in different prints paired with festive looks and artfully-placed embellishments.

Born in Cuba and raised in Miami, Lourdes "Luli" Hanimian collaborates with her brother-in-law Augusto Hanimian for the more than 60 looks of the season. The looks included a corset-style top, multiple string-sided bottoms and crochet tops. Ruffles (in white with gold trimming) and lace trims also were featured on several pieces in the collection that included ruched bottoms and thongs as well as fringe tanks and maxi dresses.

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MAAJI

Colombian-swimwear line Maaji made its debut at swim week with an unexpected mix of boho and nautical inspired trends — and lingerie.

Head designer Juliana Londono and lingerie designer Nani Valenzuela incorporated an assortment of floral and animal (flamingos, toucans) prints and unique cuts into the collection of women and men's swimwear, as well as a dozen lingerie looks that opened the show — from a pineapple printed triangle top to a floral-printed mesh cheeky bottom.

A pirate-themed runway then took over, with models wearing oversized captain's hats to eye patches along with knotted rope as necklaces. A long mesh dress featured laser cut and embroidery on the front.

All of the women's swimwear is reversible. As for men's fashion, the swimwear looks included prints in pink and lemon with a contrasting trim print.

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Follow Suzette Laboy on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SuzetteLaboy

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