Fashion

BARE NECESSITIES

Tim Blanks dives into Rio, the beachwear capital of the world



 

Tim Blanks


 
Tim Blanks

BARE NECESSITIES
Tim Blanks dives into Rio, the beachwear capital of the world

I SAY IPANEMA. You say sun, surf, sex, beautiful bodies, bikinis, bossa nova and caipirinhas. Or not. But Rio de Janeiro’s most famous beach is surely one of the most evocative place-names on the planet, and every preconception it trails made it the ideal focus of a recent event called Claro Rio Summer. In this four-day celebration of beachwear and beyond, I reckon I saw 800 bikinis. I was in a two-piece fugue state by the end.

Fashion so single-minded could look like a failure of imagination anywhere else, but there’s nowhere like Rio. OK, maybe Sydney has a pretty tight focus on beach culture, though there is too much Anglo-Saxon blood flowing through Australian veins to really allow for the extraordinarily uninhibited celebration of the physical that surrounds you every second in Rio. “Maybe it is at the beach where we experience our best emotions” reads the press material of a beach-wear company called Salinas, and I’ve certainly never seen a city take more delight in its natural assets. From my ho-tel balcony across the road, I watched Cariocas laying towels on the beach at 7 a.m. and, as the day wore on, the promenade became crowded with joggers and cyclists of every possible age, shape, size and gender.

And they’re so proud of the place, too. It’s become something of a cultural truism over the past decade that every one-horse town in the world holds a Fashion Week to help define and promote its identity, but in Rio’s case, any fashion event is merely reflecting what’s already there. Every show began with a short film highlighting the city’s delights, accompanied by an infuriatingly catchy song called “Everybody Loves Rio,” which will remain forever seared into my memory. Were such a promo attached to a Fashion Week in, say, Dublin or Prague, it might seem like anxiously wishful thinking, but in Rio, it was breezily delivered as a straightforward declaration of fact. Co-organizer Carlos de Souza, formerly Mr. Fix-it for Val-entino, had made sure his old boss was there, along with such glam guests as Natalia Vodianova and Vanity Fair’s Mi-chael Roberts (“visiting foreign dignitaries” being a highly desirable staple of Fashion Weeks everywhere).

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Swimwear


 
Swimwear


Runway photography, Anthea Simms

Another co-organizer, Robert Forrest, had guaranteed a good turnout of key stores’ buyers and media folk. But Rio needs no help in the glamour stakes. The remarkably good-looking audience was largely local. The throngs of photogra-phers and camera crews were also Brazilian. And the parties that swirled around Claro Rio Summer never felt like they were laid out for out-of-towners. I’m sure consummate hostesses such as Andrea Dellal and Lenny Niemeyer put on the ritz like that every week of the year (or at least when they’re in residence).

Lenny’s show closed the event, and her swimwear was spectacular proof of how form, function and environment can collude to produce something completely bias-busting. Staged on Ipanema in a thunderstorm, with Sugar Loaf Mountain looming at the end of the beach, the presentation left me believing a bathing suit could have a full and complete life well away from sun, sea and sand. At a cocktail party? Why not? See people shopping in the supermarket clad only in a Speedo often enough and you inevitably become open to all sorts of possibilities.

EDITOR, ELIO IANNACCI.

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