Swimwear shines in Rebecca Cahua’s summer collection

Jason Chen /Staff

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Up and coming in the Bay Area fashion scene, Rebecca Cahua has a taste for the colorful and the extravagant — the kind of boisterous, creative energy that one would find promising in an industry in love with spectacle. On March 9, in celebration of Mardi Gras, San Francisco locals filed into Union Square’s Infusion Lounge — sumptuous with its trendy, Oriental red hues — for an evening of entertainment ranging from magic shows to samba dancers.

Signaling the start of the show with a contrasting type of exotic energy, a New Orleans-styled jazz band clad in black marched down the bar. An entrance announcing show tune — “Prince Ali” of the “Aladdin” score — exemplified a tongue-in-cheek playfulness on Cahua’s part. They led the way into the lounge’s luxurious banquet hall with seats lined up along a runway. The jazz music was the end of the extent of the night’s Mardi Gras elements, but the carnivalesque energy continued through the evening. The spectators hushed and models began strutting the catwalk, clad in eye-catching bathing suits that exuded an excitement for warmer days ahead.

The collection is an assortment of bold one-pieces glamorously cut backless or plunging down the middle. While staying within the realms of practical and wearable, Cahua tried her best to creatively push the norms of swimwear. Pieces played with silhouette by introducing elements such as high-low maxi skirts and billowing capes.

Commenting on her looks, Cahua stated, “I tried to do different patterns and different cuts that I don’t really see in bikinis, so I did a lot of turtlenecks, and they have a lot of snaps in the back. They’re comfortable, they’re sexy, but still most of them are one-pieces.” Had she altered the fabrics, some looks could have easily belonged at a red carpet event rather than a resort.

The collection was visually distinguished by her choices in radiant, loud prints and hardware jewelry. Designs ranged from an of-the-moment Aztec print in royal blue to a unique cross between hound’s tooth and a fluorescent yellow-black checker print. The latter is a visual motif one would expect to find at Raf Simon’s Spring/Summer Dior show, although harder for women to casually pull off.

Aligned with the Asian-fusion décor and the Arabic-themed show tune, these visual elements, along with light adornments of gold, were no doubt exotic. Reflecting on ethnic motifs in her show, Cahua commented, “Cultures are definitely my biggest influence. That’s especially where the accessories come into play: the Middle Eastern hair, the head chain, I always make all the accessories I have on the girls.”

Stepping outside her comfort zone, Cahua also included men’s looks in her collection, perhaps practice for her upcoming streetwear men’s collection for the fall. The flamboyancy that looked so natural on her female models did not translate well into more masculine designs, with mixes of prints often too visually busy for one pair of swim trunks. The transition from womenswear to menswear is a paradigm shift with which women designers often have trouble. Men can be excited for better things to come as Cahua refines her sensibilities.

Cahua has big aspirations and worldly influences, but she above all keeps her love of San Francisco as a priority in her career. She hopes to take the lead in transforming the city into a burgeoning fashion capital. “People ask, ‘When are you going to New York? Or LA?,’” she said. “And I’m like there’s so much work to be done [in San Francisco] first, so much potential here.”

With the right type of ambition, Cahua might one day put San Francisco’s fashion scene on the map.


Jason Chen covers fashion. Contact him at [email protected].