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Much like football, played on beaches with passion and flamboyance, the Brazilian bikini captures the essence of the country, with its colorful designs, cheeky cut and undoubtedly sexy style.
The best of Brazil's bikinis and swimwear was on display this week at the summer edition of Fashion Rio, attracting a growing number of foreign clients.
From micro, string mini to maxi and pieces that can be worn day or night, there was enough to satisfy all tastes.
"There are changes in the model to cater to the foreign market, which finds the Brazilian bikini small," said Thomaz Azulay, creative director of Blue Man, a popular Brazilian brand founded in the 1970s.
Vibrant colors, joyful prints combining flowers, birds and typically Brazilian landscapes, and high quality materials, are the trademarks of Blue Man's swimsuits.
"The entire swimwear production became more sophisticated and can be used off the beach, as body," said Azulay.
Brazil's bikini queen, Lenny Niemeyer, meanwhile showcased her elegant lines of swimwear, with minimalist shapes and a less daring cut.
"For this season, the most used fabrics were lycra, vinyl, tulle, silk, and metallic tubes of various sizes, adorned with gold and silver," said Maria Isabel Fioravanti, a partner in the Triya brand, which presented digital prints with vibrant colors and graphic shapes.
To survive in a highly competitive market, Brazilian brands count on innovation, in terms of shapes as well as fabric and metal.
"What we admire is the way in which the Brazilian woman uses the bikini and the pride she has in her body," said Simona Martinez, fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar Argentina.
"I think this gave designers the inspiration to create and develop a more interesting concept, which for us is rather admirable."
Alejandra Montaner, owner of the Spanish boutique with the same name, came to do business at Fashion Rio for the second time. She said she was attracted by the cut of the materials and their bright colors.
On the sidelines of Fashion Rio, new local brand Casa Mosquito also boasted its female and male swimwear collection -- in a variety of colors and material in Copacabana's Cantagalo favela.
The collection was designed by ModaFusion, a Franco-Brazilian association, and put together by seamstresses from another shantytown in northern Rio.
To boost exports and promote the image of national brands, the Brazilian Association of Stylists last year launched "Beach Brazil," a project to promote 24 beachwear brands abroad, with advertising campaigns, research, events and business fairs.
"With globalization, we cannot just be a Brazilian brand. We have to be a brand made in Brazil but which speaks with the world," said Blue Man's Azulay.
For Triya, exports -- amounting to 5,000 pieces a year -- represent 20 percent of sales.
"We have a showroom in New York, a distributor in Japan and take part in international shows," said Triya's Fioravanti.
Brazilian Association of Textile and Garment Industry (ABIT) chief Fernando Pimentel highlighted the challenge the industry faces in exporting its products.
"The Brazilian company has to face not only international competitors. It must also contend with the Chinese state, with its subsidies deemed illegal," he explained.
Poor infrastructure, an abundance of red tape and a prohibitive tax burden also stifle business, he explained.
Brazilian beachwear grosses $1.9 billion annually, according to ABIT. Exports totaled $10.4 million, mainly to the United States, Portugal and Italy.
But why is the tiny bikini so much more expensive than other garments?
"The making of the bikini is as complex as that of a piece of silk. And a beachwear brand has the same structure as a ready-to-wear brand," said Azulay.