“This year’s Swim Week is extra special for our students, who are delighted to reemerge after the pandemic and proudly present the collections they’ve been so passionately working on”, says Oscar Lopez, Miami International University's Fashion Department Chair
I can picture Miami googling cute and sexy bikinis and one-piece swimsuits photos online. Miami is a female, for sure. I mean, how could she not, if this is the city of extremely hot and confident women of all colors and shapes. She has to be a woman. And not being able to parade herself in a spectacular design in front of her hottie friends, under the sun and close to the water, must have been painful. So, after one year of harrowing pandemic lockdown, anxiously watching virtual events and daydreaming of being there in person, the city’s longings became true this past July 8th, at the exciting fashion show kicking off Paraiso Miami Beach - Swim Week 2021: Miami International University of Art & Design (MIU). This year, what is considered one of the most significant events in Magic City, gathered 24 Associate and Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design students, who presented their latest collections for the highly anticipated and in-person (Oh, YES!), Miami Swim Show. And just like it’s happened for the past 5 years, the school’s Design Faculty challenged their very creative students to come up with designs that they thought would project the upcoming year’s swimwear trends. “This year’s Swim Week is extra special for our students, who are delighted to reemerge after the pandemic and proudly present the collections they’ve been so passionately working on,” says Oscar Lopez, M.A., Fashion Department Chair at Miami International University of Art & Design. Well, there was no way it wouldn’t be special, as there were 13 nationalities among the designers, which was evident during the show and delighting to enjoy: Cuba, Lebanon, USA, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Belarus, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Honduras were all very well represented.
And now I should add that the eyes with which I watched and reviewed the show are those of someone fiercely passionate about aesthetics and a fashion junkie. An author, actually, yet not an expert in the subject. And I don’t pretend to be one. This was my very first fashion show and I got to sit in the front row, writing my impressions on my notebook. I wrote words for what each design awoke in me. The show opened with a female, one-piece swimsuit by brilliant Alejandro Bárzaga. I don’t know the guy, but one can tell he shines. His super sexy design made me think of a goddess of Mount Olympus, and I wasn’t the only one excited about his work, because he won the Editorial Award: “My inspiration comes from Greek mythology history and the exquisite structural technique of sculpting their marble works, the amphorae with their infinite patterns, and the drape of their fabrics. I love dressing women who command their presence when clothing is just a complement to their personality”. The students demonstrated a variety of playful and gorgeous silhouettes. These garments gave us fashion that beckoned to both the past and the future. There were looks harkening to the sixties with fabulous sheer bell-bottoms transparently layered over a white bikini. I was also imagining the kind of swimsuit that trendsetters would wear in Cannes while deciding whether to buy tickets to the Moon, or not... Technical shimmering textiles were paired with vests that had intricate cutouts or gorgeous mint green beading embroidered over a sheer fabric.
Cover-ups abounded on the models with sexy, colorful, and flowing wraps for men and women. They ran the gamut from bold colors to Latin-inspired lace to floral embroidery that belonged in a vase. One of my favorite cover-ups was that of Milagros Rottjer. It was an olive-colored h1gh waisted two-piece suit with a playful forest green embroidered wrap. Gorgeous, elegant, and oh-so-feminine. I got the chance to talk to her after the show and she was very emotional because of the results of her hard work but also because her mother, also a fashion designer in Argentina, would be very proud of her. Rottjer made me smile. I was also fascinated by one wrap-inspired design that showcased a netting fabric covered in wooden beads lacquered in shades of poplar beige and a yummy warm toast. Though I worried if the netting and beads over the buttocks would be uncomfortable to wear, but someone explained to me they move up when you sit, so no problem there. My soul was stolen as a ruffled orange, one-piece swimsuit paired with a rich chocolate brown leather sarong that came out on the runway. I found it very feminine, elegant, and spectacular. Orange has been slowly becoming my favorite color, though, I wouldn’t wear her design. You see, I’m a frosting-with-a-spoon kind of woman. If I wasn’t, that would be my only swimsuit. I would buy 4 of them and just rotate them while on a yacht sipping champagne and avoiding the foie gras and the truffles.
I finally understood what people mean when they say that something “makes a statement” with the winner of the Avant-Garde Award, Andres Aguilar: “This was my first show, first garment, and first award. And I am super motivated to continue and show the world what I can do. Winning this award is the coolest experience, an ego-boost in the best way because I was rewarded on a design that was risky, unique, and that represents me”. I had to know his inspiration: “Women who are not afraid to stand out, the go-getters, professional divas who are smart and talented. I like to design pieces that reflect my personality, things that I would wear myself.” The Menswear Award sponsored by Perry Ellis was Dana El Ghoul. She was supremely creative by designing a beautiful, black embroidered vest as well as a delicate black lace robe styled in combination over classic swim trunks that both projected masculinity while still enabling the beauty of the fabric to take center stage. Natallia (aka Natasha) Tabunova won the Best Overall Design Award (which by the way was sponsored by AVESSA - and we’re so proud of her), but prior to the prize being announced I immediately loved her designs and eye for detail. She showed four pieces for women, all as imperial-looking and neatly crafted. She is a brilliant artist, which was confirmed when I interviewed her for this piece: “I wanted to put everything I learned in this collection. I’m not only a designer but also a painter and I’ve 3D painted on these costumes that I don’t call ‘swimwear’, because they’re more theatrical than regular swimsuits. I went to MIU to do costume design for movies and TV, I don’t want to do mass production. I want to create one-of-a-kind pieces”.
And the one thing they all had in common at the show was evident to me and to everyone: hard, very hard work, and outstanding creativity. Miami International University of Art and Design is producing not only professionals but artists, and I can’t wait to see them all thriving and making all their dreams come true. All these now, Fashion Designers, have a brilliant future ahead and I am so sure. You don’t need to be a fashion expert to know it.


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