A dummy's guide to swimwear
While the West flaunted enviable cuts on toned bodies and sprawled on its sun-kissed beaches in style, buying great — and practical — swimsuits in India was a distant dream even until a decade ago. We had nothing close to the annual Body and Beach Fashion weeks in Dusseldorf, Paris, Milan, London, Rio, Miami and California. Way back in 1995, Ravissant brought Gottex to India for a brief period, but that was that. Later, when going to the gym became a norm, those who could flaunt lithe and athletic figures commanded that Indian designers sit up and take notice, and they did.
Get it right
It was the swimwear collection by duo Shivan Bhatiya and Narresh Kukreja at Mare Di Moda Cannes in 2008, which first turned heads and told the world that Indian designers, too, can play with interesting cuts and swimwear styles.
Getting a swimwear right means nailing the fabric — it must be drip-dry, super smooth, glossy, silicon, latex or stretch- knit with a metallic, steel-like finish. Texture with reliefs, inspired by waves, ribs, pique or honeycomb designs mostly work well. Be it putting the best fabric together or imagining the edgiest cuts, designing swimwear that makes heads turn is an art. Here are some designers who we think get it right
Know your swimwear
>> THE BIKINI — It consists of a strapless bandeau, halter strappy triangles and a bottom which could even be a thong.
>> THE MAILLOT — Maillot is another name for the one-piece swimsuit with high-cut sides with a plunging neckline, one shoulder, halter, racer-back or cross-back.
>> THE MONOKINI — Also known as the unikini, the monokini was first seen in the 1960s — two halter straps holding the bottom half of a bikini. Many denounced it as distasteful, but 3,000 monokinis were sold in 1963 in the US for topless beaches. The monokini was later modified to include the top and bottom connected by a vertical strap of cloth or the sides held together with rings or strings, and large cut-outs.
>> THE ONE-PIECE — The most common type of swimwear — the regular swimsuit with straps.
>> THE TANKINI — It’s a women’s two-piece swimwear with the top styled like a tank, vest or camisole silhouette, and is combined with a pair of bikini briefs.
>> THE TRIKINI — This swimsuit has three pieces of fabric — one for the bottom and two that cover the torso. The trikini is a cross between a maillot and a bikini, and is often known as a ‘cut-out swimsuit’. It seems to provide length to the torso and shows off a toned back and abs. It is a good option when you want to hide problem areas such as love handles.
Masters at designing swimwear in various silhouettes and colour-blocking, Shivan-Narresh revolutionised the concept of aqua haute couture in India when they first showed at Lakmé Fashion Week Summer/Resort 2010. The pair’s Handcraft line had innovative surface textures, but it was their stitch-free swimwear with hi-tech touches like resistance to UV rays, sunscreen oil, sand piling and curling which made them famous. They offer bikinis, maillots, trikinis, tankinis and one-piece swimwear. The pair retails in India and Europe and have won several awards for their collections.
From Goa, Malini Ramani dreams up exotic swimwear with Mayan and Aztec influences with touches of glitter and tie-n-dye prints. Appliqué and mirror work further highlight her swimwear.
Sounia Gohil's Aphrodite collection at India Resort Fashion Week 2012 opened with an utterly sexy gold/white bikini. Neon hues gave her beachwear exciting touches with sheer shirts and chiffon covers.
Pia Pauro’s themes are influenced by the colourful Middle Eastern deserts and countries, such as Morocco, Mamluk Empire, the Arabian Peninsula and the Byzantine Empire. Sexy bikinis take a dive around the world from her collections.
For women who want to look their stylish best in the water and out of it, the Bay Dreams collection by Nidhi Munim had bright neons teamed with contrasts and ikat prints in neon yellow. Saffron monokinis and one-piece numbers with orange and white edging along with ombré and colour-blocking created quite an impact.
PRIA KATAARIA PURI
Crowned the ‘Queen of Kaftans’, Pria Kataaria Puri ensures that under those flowing creations lie tiny, crystal-covered bikinis aimed at jet-setting fashionistas who want to be stylish while doing a languid backstroke.
DOES IT SELL?
Sure, it is glamorous and irresistible — but just how well do Indian and foreign swimwear brands sell here? Do designers have Indian body types well in mind before they make the cut? We find out.
AMITH DHOLAKIA, AMAARA
“We did begin selling swimwear in Goa, but soon discontinued because the business was negligible. Tourists in Goa don’t necessarily want designer swimwear and very few above 30 years of age cared about brands. In India, some brands of designer swimwear are good, but most cuts and fits are more suited for the western market. I think very few designers can make a style statement when it comes to swimwear, for most, it’s just a brand extension of their clothing line.”
AMI JAVERI, CREO
“A year ago, we launched Bika swimwear in Mumbai. Today, we have a swimwear designer whose aesthetics and design compliment what Creo represents. These days, one-pieces and tankinis sell well as most Indian women prefer them because they are a tad more modest than swimwear which has bolder cuts.”