Shown here are some of the bikinis on the racks at the newly expanded Brazilian Show Room Outlet, opening tomorrow. The triangle top camouflage-print bikini by Blue Man is $98.
60 years young
Boutique owner shares the secret of Brazilian bikini
OK, OK, we know all about the famous Brazilian bikinis and the equally celebrated assets of their wearers, but do they really have to mock us?
Nadia Ribeiro, owner of Brazilian Show Room Outlet, said that whenever an American swimsuit showed up on the beach where she grew up in Belo Horizonte in Minas Gerais, Brazil, "We Brazilians used to call it diapers."
She chalks up the disparity in fit to differing priorities.
"I think it's something cultural," she said. "Brazilians are all about the butt; it's important that their butt look good. Here, it's all about the boobies, but I think Americans are catching on."
Ribeiro's new showroom, in the former Queen Theater on Waialae Avenue, might attest to that. It will open its doors tomorrow at four times the size of her first shop a few doors down the hill. (A grand-opening celebration will take place a couple weeks from now, with details to be worked out.) The increased space allows her to have an office outside her home, as well as a second room for casual streetwear, which, like the bikinis, are all from Brazil.
A striped suit by Mali is $68.
"Hawaii has an affinity with Brazil. We live close to the beach so we don't want our clothing to be too fussy. I try to be very basic and have clothes for everyday wear, casual.
"I have things that can be worn to nightclubs, but I still try to keep it very comfortable. The fabrics are very soft, with nothing too tight, even if it's fitted. It feels like you're not wearing anything."
Not such little nothings these days are the bikinis themselves. While wishful thinking men might still associate the Brazilian bikini with a dental floss-size thong, today's Brazilian briefs incorporate much more fabric, measuring a comparatively modest 4 inches across the rear. Addressing active lifestyles, there are also boy-cut briefs and halter tops that offer support to surfer girls.
"Fashion changes," Ribeiro said. "They're not wearing that small bathing suit anymore."
But that is no reason for sadness among wearers or gawkers, as Ribeiro lets us in on a little secret.
"People think Brazilians have a really good butt, but it's the bathing suit, the way it's cut, that helps lift her up. Once you wear it, you don't want to go back to an American cut," which she says often incorporates excess fabric that can sag or bunch up. Not attractive.
RIBEIRO STARTED her career as a manufacturer's representative for the Brazilian swimsuit industry 20 years ago. Her sales trips took her coast to coast on the mainland, and to Hawaii, where she finds the weather much like home.
Settling in, she started offering wholesale sales out of her home only as a way to get rid of excess inventory, but the idea caught on and she opened her first formal store three years ago, somewhat reluctantly giving up her traveling lifestyle and most of her rep duties to do so.
"For a small space, it did good. All the beautiful girls, the cute girls, come to my store, and they tell their friends. It makes me very happy because it's all word of mouth and that means I have a good, quality product that people really love."
Her shop has become so popular that it's spawned imitators using signs and ads that mimic Ribeiro's, such that she has to make it clear she has just one outlet, where beachgoers or pool loungers can find one- and two-piece swimsuits starting at about $38.
The bottom-enhancing floral suit below is also by Blue Man, at $98.
Among the labels carried are Rosa Chá, a designer well known in the pages of fashion bibles such as Vogue and Elle, plus Q Onda and Ki-Korpo, among that country's top brands. Ki-Korpo suits, at $68 to $120, often incorporate beads and embroidery over playful and colorful folkloric images of birds and flowers. Ki-Korpo's summer 2006 collection, including one-piece suits, was inspired by hot spots in Rio de Janeiro.
All might be described as cute, fresh and appealing, and there's no quicker way to raise Ribeiro's ire than to suggest that Brazilian suits might be inherently slutty or sleazy.
"There are some people who come in and say, 'I would never let my daughter wear a Brazilian suit. I don't like the connotation,'" she said. "Brazilians are sexy, but it's because they take care of their bodies, they do sports, they have a healthy lifestyle. Someone like (supermodel) Giselle (Bundchen) doesn't need to show anything to be sexy. She's naturally sexy but not sleazy."
The Brazilian Showroom Outlet is at 3586 Waialae Ave., between 11th and 12th aves., in the Queen Theater building, across from Big City Diner. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Call 735-7537.|