Two Colombian college students formed a swimwear brand steeped in new animal and floral prints, neon colors, and ethnically inspired patterns—and created a sensation
by Tia Kim
For all of floral’s fashion endurance over the past three years, we have rarely seen the style applied to swimwear in a way that isn’t overstated, over textured, or too youthful-looking for anyone over the age of 18. That, and it’s simply technically difficult to apply such a style in a relatively small fabric footprint (these are bathing suits, after all). A happy exception continues to be the 13-year-old brand Agua Bendita, launched in 2003 by Colegiatura Colombiana university classmates Catalina Álvarez and Mariana Hinestroza, who, on a shoestring (the company’s first office and production facility was “Cata”’s home in Medellín) pursued their fascination for design by creating a brand of exclusive suits. In the years since, the line has grown to encompass cover-ups, sandals, hats, and other accessories, but it’s the swimwear that fascinates most of all, unafraid as it is to encompass new textures and silhouettes, plus beautiful beading and avant-garde fabrics—many featuring mixed animal and floral prints, neon colors, and ethnically-inspired patterns. The company now employs some 700 women, principally in Colombia, and specializes in mixing of technological processes and handmade elements (in fact, all its garments are still handmade—a rare distinction in the $100-$200 price point Agua Bendita typically inhabits.).
Nearly as important as Álvarez and Hinestroza’s insistence upon embracing hand-stitching is their canny eye for marketing; the two have worked with international icons as diverse as Bar Refaeli, Irina Shayk, Izabel Goulart, Candice Swanepoel, Sara Sampaio and Kendall Jenner in their ad campaigns.
For its Resort 2017 collection, Agua Bendita’s floral fascination might be better described as “botanical,” drawn as it is from the exuberantly colored tropical jungle topiary from which the owners took inspiration. In the case of the Bendita one-piece seen here, the sensibility is accentuated by what the makers term a “rare animal” print—which makes for a winning and witty counterpoint.