Claudia Garcia Cabrera-Prantl's bikinis
are adorned with the crystals
of her Austrian homeland
Austrian-born Claudia Garcia Cabrera-Prantl is the final woman in this story who has followed her heart straight to bikinidom. Like Erika, she is a beginner in the two-piece biz—though she is hardly a beginner in the fashion biz. She has a degree from Europe’s prestigious Ferrari school of fashion and decades of design experience that she literally wears well: Her entrance in a Kaimukï coffee shop turns heads as she glides in, nattily dressed in a white suit, toting a bikini portfolio that bears her company’s name: Claudia’s Mermaids. As we discuss her work, she tells me that she has laced her suits with the Swarovski crystals of her homeland—it is a symbol of one form of loveliness reflecting another. Claudia shows me her prototypes: a black bikini adorned by Pele-inspired fire opal crystals; bright blue and yellow bikinis emblazoned with crystal butterflies or plumerias.
I ask Claudia how she came to be in Hawai‘i. It is a story that is new and also, by now, familiar: She tells me how three years ago she left behind her toney Munich studio, her Porsche and her yearly trips to Paris and Milan fashion shows after being inspired by a series of dreams. “I was looking up from the ocean and heard conch shells blowing and saw the mountains,” Claudia recalls. “I knew it was Hawai‘i, and it was pulling me. I had to go.” Claudia’s dreams sound to me uncannily like the visions that inspired young Jacqueline back in Papeete half a century ago. I think about Debbie, Lisa, Iwalani and Erika, too, all women who decided to trust that hemisphere of the brain where it is not reason but passion that rules. I wonder, is it true that we fashionistas love the fashionable precisely because it speaks to us from a place deeper and more satisfying than common sense? I hear again Jacqueline’s French-tinged inflection and her words, “You are pioneer.” I think about the fact that the bikini is turning sixty this year. And I realize that, sixty or not, this most groundbreaking of garments is still inspiring dreamers and revolutionaries. HH
To find the bikini makers above, visit www.letarteswimwear.com, www.pualanihawaii.com, www.pualanihawaii.com and www.claudiasmermaids.com. For Maui Girl, call 1-800-579-9266.