By Sarah Coursey, Editor
RIO DE JANEIRO – The scene is set in Miami, with its sandy beaches and epic style. It just happened to be the uber-famous singer Madonna’s birthday, and a girlfriend was shopping for a present in the beachwear boutique Mermaid, a hot spot among the city’s sexy elite. What to give the woman who literally has it all? A Salinas bikini, that’s what.
The label with the most staying power in the Brazilian and international bathing suit market has just celebrated 27 years of fresh fashions for sun and sand. Selling Rio to the world, with bright, cheerful designs, Salinas has reinvented itself across three decades of trends while staying true to its brand values, not unlike the Material Girl herself. No wonder the very day that Madonna received the bikini, she wore it for a beach stroll with her then-husband and daughter. The perfectionist liked what she saw, and so do millions of Brazilians and Gringas across the globe.
Brand experts will tell you that image sells, and that the identity created around a product is just as important as the item on the shelves. Salinas has cleverly bucked that trend, with maximum presence and minimal promotion, precluding even the celebrity gifts and giveaways rampant in the fashion business.
Getting into the coveted annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is any beachwear designer’s wet dream, but appearing on the cover is cache incarnate. Salinas managed just this in 1997. The bikini was selected from dozens that the stylist had to choose from, and fit supermodel Tyra Banks like a glove.
Rio is a city that sleeps, eats and breathes beach culture. It is prevalent in fashions both on and off the sand. Just walk around any neighborhood and notice the bikini marks that Carioca women proudly display, an anomaly that Gringas often conversely seek to avoid when in their home countries.
Salinas started out in 1982 when founder and chief designer Jacqueline de Biase, along with her husband, Antonio de Biase, decided to offer the Rio bikini market something different.
Starting from Jacqueline’s grandfather’s house in Santa Teresa and piecing bits of colorful fabric together, she began to create a new language of beachwear, one of polka dots, stripes and bright patterns. She told The Gringo Times,” I was inspired by lingerie, and added that to my bikinis, when nobody else was doing it. Then, I mixed colors and started to play with color blocking, and Salinas was the first to do this as well.” The brand hasn’t stopped, always taking care to reference its rich past when creating new designs.
The humility with which Jacqueline approaches her work is impressive. She gives her husband the credit for coming up with the original business concept, and said,” It was never based on the idea of getting rich, but to do something well, and with a certain level of quality.” Despite her reserve, the company is now sold in the likes of Urban Outfitters, Saks Fifth Avenue, Anthropologie; and creates the Private Label collection for none other than Victoria’s Secret, the last word in sexy American fashion.
Continuing to innovate, the 2010 collection was inspired by the set designs of Pedro Almodovar. Jacqueline explained,” The set design of his films is always in total harmony, from the bright colors and their coordination with the actor’s clothing, while contrasting with the larger than life personalities of his characters in all of their craziness.” She took this year’s Rio Fashion by storm, translating Almodovar’s strong patterns and colors on the models themselves, mixed with cloche hats in a mash-up of fashion at once classic and modern.