Maui shows up strong in SI Swimsuit Issue

February 15th, 2012
By Nadine Kam

Sports Illustrated photos by Walter Iooss Jr.
Sports Illustrated 2012 Swimsuit issue covergirl Kate Upton, photographed in a swimsuit by Maui-based Suit Yourself Bikinis by Kathleen Bruening.

Hawaii may not be the biggest state for swimwear manufacturing and distribution, but there are a lot of innovative brands here, led by designers who understand the magic trifecta of fit, style and utility.

So it makes sense that Hawaii brands are typically on prominent display when the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue and web site debuts.

There must be something in the water over on Maui because designers there are a hit with SI.

This year, Maui-based Suit Yourself Bikinis got the cover, with Kate Upton photographed in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, in a suit designed by Kathleen Bruening, who posted on Facebook, that the cover suit was sold out by 6 a.m. on Tuesday, once word got out. She has a wait list going, and you can get on it by emailing info@suityourselfbikinisstore.com with your contact information and size.

Also among the featured brands is Acacia Swimwear, created by Maui-based designer Naomi Newirth and Lyndie Irons, wife of the late world champion surfer Andy Irons.

And the mother of Maui brands, Letarte, whose suits have now been in the swimsuit issue for 12 consecutive years. The brand created by Lisa Letarte Cabrinha and Michele Letarte Ross, and designed by Lisa, last made the cover in 2005.

Wearing one of Letarte’s suits is Kailua girl and ‘Iolani graduate Michelle Vawer. In a nice emailed note, reader Winter alerted me yesterday, “Your 2009 prediction of Michelle Vawer for SI just happened!”

Thanks! I totally forgot I said that, although I always think it when I see her.

Michelle Vawer in HI Luxury.

In November 2009, Michelle was the model for a Valentine’s 2010 lingerie spread, “In between the lines,” I styled for HI Luxury magazine. After the session, I posted, “I just wonder how long it will be before Sports Illustrated comes calling for its swimsuit edition?”

She was also the model for another photo session I styled for the magazine, in which she was cast as a femme fatale after a young heir’s diamonds. I made a video out of the storyline. Sorry for the sound quality and jerkiness; I was a video rookie two years ago:


Nadine Kam video
Non-flash video link

Michelle is up for the title of SI’s “Rookie of the Year” at bit.ly/xrJbt5. In a “This Week in Beautiful Women” feature on Esquire.com, writer Jimmy Traina publicly wonders, “Who is this Michelle Vawer?” before naming her as his choice of “Rookie of the Year.”

I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t win!

Anyone else make the issue? Speak up now!


Michelle Vawer, shot in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, in a top by Cecilia Prado Mare and Maui-based Letarte’s Lisa Cabrinha.


Michelle in a swimsuit by Maui-based Suit Yourself Bikinis, by Kathleen Bruening.

Sports Illustrated photo by James Macari
And Hawaii swimsuit designers aren’t the only ones who got in. Here, Alyssa Miller wears Ki-ele’s Zayit necklace, one of several pieces by Marylea Conrad featured in the magazine and online. The photo was shot on Desroches Island, Seychelles. The swimsuit is by Luli Fama.

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Added Feb. 16: Heard from a Garden Isle reader who also wanted to give credit to designer Lennie Collins, whose company La Vida Aloha, also made it into the issue. One of her suits was modeled by cover girl Kate Upton, below:

Sports Illustrated photos by Walter Iooss Jr.

Added Feb. 22: Among jewelry featured are pieces by Maui-raised, New York based designer Tiffany Chou, and Makawao-based RockaBella Jewels also makes a prominent showing with stacking rings ($70 set) worn by Jessica Gomes, and a 14K gold-dipped shark tooth necklace ($80) worn by Chrissy Teigen, below:

Sports Illustrated photos by James Macari

Rockabella stacking rings.

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One Response to “Maui shows up strong in SI Swimsuit Issue”

  1. debbie wilson:

    Hi Nadine, Just read this article, it would have been great if you mentioned MAUI GIRL, we’ve been in the issue for our 5th straight year, got 2 double pages and 3 single pages plus numerous suits in the collage. aloha


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