While many Maui swimsuit and jewelry designers have had their wares in Sports Illustrated's coveted swimsuit edition, one Maui designer has created a swimsuit for the ages.
Maui's Lisa Letarte Cabrinha used 50 years of the magazine's swimsuit covers as the signature print for a two-piece halter bikini.
That bikini and print caught the eye of Sports Illustrated officials. The suit is not only in the magazine, but it graces the cover of the hardcover book, "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years of Beautiful."
Maui’s Lisa Letarte Cabrinha of Letarte Swimwear designed the swimsuit on the cover of the hardcover book: “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit: 50 Years of Beautiful,” which celebrates the magazine’s 50th year of producing a swimsuit edition. The suit features the covers of the magazine’s annual swimsuit editions.
The book was released over the holidays and commemorates the magazine's celebration this year of 50 years of swimsuit editions.
This year's annual swimsuit magazine edition hit the stands in February and features the exclusive suit, as well as others from Cabrinha.
"As a swim designer, it is always a thrill to see your creations on the pages of Sports Illustrated. It's one of the most anticipated media events of the year. The task of creating a signature print and silhouette to represent 50 years of S.I. is, quite simply, a designer's dream," Cabrinha said. "Designing the suit was really fun, and the best part was surprising Sports Illustrated. I never want to be predictable. So far, my life and creativity have been very unpredictable. I think that is what has kept our brand and myself unique."
Cabrinha has had her Letarte Swimwear label featured in Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit edition for more than 14 years, including two cover shots in 2005 and most recently in 2013 with Kate Upton's Antarctica photo shoot, where she wears Letarte's white mesh bikini.
Joining Cabrinha's suits on the inside pages of this year's magazine is Maui's Sarah Bolz's kai ulu swimwear, which has its "Emily Rose" bikini featured, according to Bolz.
Debbie Wilson's Maui Girl suits made nine appearances in this year's magazine. Overall, Wilson's suits have made 56 appearances in the magazine. Maui Girl's flagship store is in Paia.
One of Wilson's suits was "in the paint" in this year's Sports Illustrated. Joanne Gair, a makeup artist and body painter, painted a replica of Wilson's suit on a model.
Gair has worked with many celebrities, including Madonna and Sophia Loren, and on various fashion and makeup campaigns. She also has applied her paints on actress Demi Moore, who was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair with a painted-on men's suit in 1992.
Wilson said her suits in the magazine are priceless because an advertisement in the publication can run $350,000 for a one-time ad.
As for Letarte's head designer, Cabrinha is a former competitive windsurfer and is the clothing designer and co-owner of the company. Her sister, Michele Letarte Ross, is co-owner and president and lives in Connecticut, where the label's warehouse and main office are located.
Cabrinha's 50th anniversary suit took two months to make.
It involved Cabrinha making the fabric and laying out the pattern to fit all of the covers on the bikini with the help of Maui seamstress Dana Hartley.
Creating the fabric was a challenge because it "took several times to get all the skin tones the same in the printing process," Cabrinha said.
The magazine cover images were transferred to fabric by digital printing.
Cabrinha made five different versions of the magazine cover suits exclusively for Sports Illustrated. Although Letarte's magazine cover suit won't be sold in stores, her other designs are sold through more than 400 wholesale accounts worldwide.
Letarte's flagship store is in Paia, and there are other boutique stores across the country.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.