But it’s Brazil for bikinis

Financial Times
June 26/27
2004

“For me, the one-piece looks sexiest on a woman, especially when she is moving,” says Amir Slama, the man behind one of the most successful Brazilian swimwear labels, Rosa Chá. “But the two-piece bikini is far more practical.”

He’s got a point – the one-piece swimsuit requires effort. It demands make-up, large jewellery and heels – talismans against the frumpy reputation of all-in-ones. On the other hand, the bikini is relatively low-maintenance. It can be accessorized simply with a pair of cheap and chirpy flip flops (ideal for navigating sandy beaches) and a bought-in-Ibiza kaftan.

So it should be no surprise that Slama has come over all youthful – and very beachside – this season. At June’s São Paulo Fashion Week, one of the largest fashion events in the southern hemisphere, Slama launched his second line, Sais.

“The inspiration for Rosa Chá comes from the shapes and structure of clothing, but with Sais, this is all about the beach,” says Slama of the fairground-inspired collection of bikinis, covered in frills, candy-coloured prints featuring carousel horses, clown faces and ice-creams, and decorated with chains and good luck charms. Fun and youthful as it is, he hopes the new line will be more competitive than the upmarket Rosa Chá label and reach a younger clientele.

David Azulay, owner of Blue Man – one of the first swimwear brands to make a name for itself internationally when it began to export its carioca (Rio de Janeiro) version of Brazilian bikini style more than 15 years ago – is also a fan of the simple beach look and considers the one-piece an insult to the female physique. “I don’t want to make chic pieces – I don’t believe in cruise-wear. I want to bring comfortable pieces to people who love beaches,” says Azulay.

Blue Man’s designs are typical of the Brazilian cut – small at the top and even smaller on the bottom. Relentlessly revealing, only the beautiful or the brave wear these. Not so much a G-string, the most extreme bikini bottoms consist of a triangular wedge of fabric, the same size at the front as at the back, joined with strings stretched low across the hips. It’s a look that works best on the gazelle-like, honey-skinned Brazilian woman, although the less-than-perfect residents of Ipanema beach make up for their lack of bodily perfection with brazen confidence.

Exemplifying as it does this rear-worshipping style, the Sais cut isn’t going to be an easy local sell when Lama’s new line reaches Europe. And even though Slama produces his collections in slightly more accommodating North American/European sizes, he notes that buyers are now demanding the full-on, undiluted Brazilian cut for his Rosa Chá line. “Barneys is now requesting half the collection in Brazilian cut and half in the US cut,” he reveals. One-piece partisans, you have been warned.

© Fiona Harkin

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