So just what does actress, ex-model and Londoner Elizabeth Hurley know about beach fashion?

Enough to launch her own line of luxuriously beaded and embroidered swimwear, sarongs, miniskirts and caftans at Saks Fifth Avenue stores nationwide.

"I know, I know," Hurley said after a Saks luncheon earlier this month. "It’s a little unusual. And every celebrity now has a clothing line. But I actually do this. I own all of this. I’m not just licensing my name out. I choose every fabric, the fit, the styling, the accessories – I’m involved in every factor. If you want to deal with the line, you have to deal with me."

Hurley worked the Saks room of fashion fans like a pro, dispensing advice on how to find the perfect bikini bottom that covers all the unmentionables and highlights all the mentionables.

One woman held up a sheer tunic top across the room and Hurley yelled to her, "I wore that the other night, but get a brighter color." Then closer up, she softly told the woman what to wear underneath for modesty’s sake. She brings a perfect combination of enthusiasm and discretion.

Her beach collection consists of hotly hued bikinis, silk caftans with amber beaded ties, terry-cloth wrap skirts with matching beach totes as well as peasant tops with stone accents. The swimsuits are made of a Lycra-Meryl fabric, which provides some UV protection while remaining lightweight and chlorine-resistant. Prices range from $168 to $713.

"It’s all about fit. I’m obsessed about fit. That’s the most important thing. The right fit allows me to sell – as I have today – the same swimsuit to a 19-year-old and a 70-year-old," Hurley said.

Next up? Hurley said she can hardly wait to expand into shoes, knits and jewelry.

© 2005 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.