Courtesy of Juan de Dios
The perfect swimsuit requires more than just a beautiful print; it should be supportive in all the right places and look just as natural on dry land. Who better to consider than Latin American designers? Inspired by their surroundings and rich regional histories, new and established talent create fantastic swim options that are equal parts functional and fashionable. For many, the core of their fashion ethos is a passion for the planet, with several designers taking considerable steps to create sustainable pieces using upcycled fabrics and biodegradable packaging. Others utilize ethical, locally staffed factories and ateliers to create circular production that delivers both eco-conscious and socially conscious fashion. A majority of the brands hail from Colombia—and this is not a coincidence: Colombia boasts some of the best swimwear manufacturing in all of Latin America. Below, ELLE handpicked the best Latin American swim designers to take you through the hottest days of summer. From household names to emerging labels, these brands offer the chicest resort looks that Latin America has to offer.
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Adriana Degreas debuted her eponymous Brazilian-based resortwear line back in 2001. The brand’s sensibility? Retro poolside glamour. Degreas has collaborated on capsule collections with Cult Gaia and Charlotte Olympia and her pieces can be found at major e-tailers globally including Matches, Browns, and FWRD, among others. Did we mention that Naomi Campbell and Sofia Vergara are fans?
Agua by Agua Bendita
Agua by Agua Bendita launched in 2018 as a luxury offshoot of the already-established swimwear line Agua Bendita founded by friends Catalina Alvarez and Mariana Hinestroza. With its hand-painted prints that range from flowers and palm trees to antique postage stamps, the brand pays homage to Colombia’s rich biodiversity, culture, and history. All of the swimwear is made from recycled polyester and the motifs are added using sublimation printing and water-based inks, rendering each piece safe for both the planet and the production team. Fun, elegant, and positively feminine, it’s no surprise that Agua by Agua Bendita has quickly become a fashion favorite.
The 100 percent sustainable Colombian swimwear and resortwear line is devoted to giving back and producing zero waste. Baobab calls itself a “restorative brand” because it uses recycled fabrics and plants a tree for every swimsuit purchased. To date, the company has planted 5000 trees. Baobab’s signature packaging is a coconut shell that can be repurposed as a beach bag, leaving no trace of plastic. Not only is the brand more eco-conscious than most—it offers a seriously high voltage of chic! You will feel good inside and out after buying Baobab.
Cala de la Cruz
Founded in Cali, Colombia by Carolina Lopez Cruz, Cala de la Cruz is a line of resortwear that focuses on sustainability. Cruz, who also serves as creative director, is a textile designer who gives life to the brand through her bold illustrations and dynamic use of color. Eco-conscious efforts include Cala de la Cruz’s use of organic cotton and recycled polyester, as well as its fully recyclable packaging of paper and cardboard made from sugar cane fiber. All pieces are made locally in Cali by a small family-owned business. The resulting designs are simple, joyful, and artful all at once.
Carolina Kleiman, who is Argentinian, launched her brand Carolina K in 2005 to marry fashion design and artisan traditions. She and her team work with 300 artisans in Latin America and India that bring her vision to life by working with the most natural materials to responsibly and ethically create handmade statement pieces. Sustainability is key for Kleiman, and to honor her commitment to circular fashion and reducing environmental impact, the brand launched its Zero Waste Initiative that makes use of every last scrap of fabric. By creating artful, one-of-a-kind pieces, Carolina K salvages materials that would otherwise be discarded in a landfill. Kleiman is currently based in Miami, where her headquarters and design studio are located. The coastal city is also home to her first flagship boutique, filled with clothing, swim, and home items, in addition to a newly launched ceramics collection.
Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Marcella Franklin founded Haight in 2014. With her extensive experience in the swim industry, she realized there was a void in the market that her aesthetic could fill. Her motivation for starting the brand was a desire to subvert a woman’s perception of what beachwear is in Brazil. Franklin set out to create high-end minimalist designs to wear on the beach—the opposite of Brazilian clichés. Haight is currently sold in over 30 stores worldwide.
Comprised of her signature ruffles, lively prints, and sculptural silhouettes, Johanna Ortiz’s eponymous line has become synonymous with Latin American style. The brand and atelier of more than 350 people is based in her hometown of Cali, Colombia. Beloved within the fashion industry and outside of it, Johanna Ortiz is stocked at all major retailers and online stores. It remains one of the most successful brands to come out of Latin America.
Juan de Dios
Founded by Maria Valencia, Colombian resortwear line Juan de Dios is inspired by the country’s culture, tropical landscapes, and beauty. The brand is named after Playa Juan de Dios, a pristine beach on the Pacific coast. All the pieces are made by women in Colombia using artisanal methods and recyclable yarn fabrics. Bonus: The majority of the swimwear is reversible, and all the bikini tops and bottoms are sold separately to encourage mixing and matching.
Based out of Cartagena, Colombia, Maygel Coronel was founded in 2017. The brand prides itself on sleek and voluminous swim options that embrace a sensual femininity and highlight the freedom that the beach brings to each woman wearing the designs. Ruffled necklines and straps offer a dramatic take on basic one-pieces and bikinis, and the fits and colors are masterful. Maygel Coronel can be found at several e-tailers including Moda Operandi, Matches Fashion, and Intermix.
PatBO was created by Brazilian designer Patricia Bonaldi after the success of her boutique in her hometown of Uberlândia in southeastern Brazil. Her RTW and swim have developed a cult following (Janelle Monae and Olivia Culpo are fans). The brand embraces the incredible colors and fantasies that the rainforest and sun inspire. After deciding to keep the production of her signature prints and embroidery close to home by opening a school to train local artisans, Bonaldi became a local hero of sorts. She has employed over 200 women and men in the area and vastly expanded their skill sets, making her an educator and community leader in addition to being a designer. PatBO ships worldwide and is available to shop at Intermix, Net-a-Porter, and Anthropologie.
Featuring sensual and minimal designs, Sara Cristina was founded by siblings Sara Villasmil and David De Lima on Venezuela’s Caribbean coast in 2016. The brand is a total family affair: Villasmil’s grandfather, an 89-year-old jeweler, makes pearl straps for certain styles on Margarita Island. The pieces are not mass-produced, and only a limited number are made each season depending on the quantity of pearls straps he creates. Samples are made in Venezuela by a group of women who have worked with the brand for years, but the line is manufactured in New York City for sustainability reasons. Another eco-friendly effort from the brand? Ninety percent of fabrics used are Econyl. In 2019, Sara Cristina became available at major retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Matches Fashion, ShopBop, and Intermix. The pieces have been worn by Chiara Ferragni, Alessandra Ambrosio, Shay Mitchell, and Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, to name a few.
Silvia Tcherassi is one of the premier Latin American fashion designers working today, with a career stretching almost 40 years. Her signature eye for color, pattern, and boundary-pushing design has established her as not just a designer, but an entrepreneur and fashion icon. The Tcherassi family is in control of the production and operations of the company, producing everything in Barranquilla, Colombia, while designing out of their studio in Miami. Though the pieces may come from a certain place, according to Tcherassi, “fashion has no age or nationality,” which explains her global reach. Silvia Tcherassi is sold at her eight boutiques worldwide, in addition to a host of retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman.
VerdeLimon consists of playful, whimsical patterns inspired by flora, fauna, the beach, and the forest—everything that makes Colombia the beautiful country it is. Produced in the south by a team of local artisans and craftsmen, VerdeLimon gives back to the local community. All swimsuits are made with responsibly sourced fabrics without compromising quality or durability. VerdeLimon is sold at 24 Sèvres, Olivela, and LuisaViaRoma.
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