Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim 2011 is underway in Miami, and although it lacks the caché of shows in major fashion capitals like New York, Paris and Milan, it has become the go-to place to see the hottest swimwear designs.

The show began six years ago to coincide with the Swimwear Association of Florida’s trade show at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Entertainment giant IMG which has produced the event, is throwing its full weight behind the show, despite tight budgets.

‘‘This is the biggest season we’ve had in five years,’’ said Christina Neault, senior director of fashion and events for IMG’s fashion division.

And it’s apparent by the turnout.

Despite the tight economy, 19 designers will host shows this year, up from 15 in 2008, according to

Ed Hardy Swimwear took to the runway last night and showed why its designs based on the work of American tattooist Don Ed Hardy are fast becoming a fixture in Hollywood.

Madonna has been spotted wearing an Ed Hardy baseball cap.

Ed Hardy clothing started eight years ago when the tattooist decided to create a line based on his work.

Christian Audigier, formerly of Von Dutch, started producing the line in 2004 and it now has shops across the U.S., Asia and Europe.

The shows have been a mix of high-end designers, like Carmen Marc Valvo, Gideon Oberson, Norma Kamali and brands with more mass appeal, like Ed Hardy, Tommy Bahama, Diesel and True Religion.

Smaller, foreign labels have also targeted the show as well as fashion newcomers.

‘‘In terms of exposure, we decided [Fashion Week Swim] was probably the best way to go to get the line out there and in eyesight,’’ said New Yorker Crystal Jin Eley, a former designer with Proenza Schouler and J.Crew, said of her new label.

Swimsuit-clad models will hit runways through Monday (July 19) at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach.

Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim 2011
Swimsuit Designers in Video