Leading up to the Christmas season of 2011, there seemed to be only one name in the social networking spotlight when it came to fashion – Chandra Maharaj.
Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, Chandra Maharaj Swimwear seems to be making a major impact in a minimal amount of time. Is it the designs or the fantastic editorial images that have us talking? Is it that we’re excited to see good quality items when it comes to the swimwear arena, or the fact that the designer, who represents for Trinidad and Brazil, is firmly making her mark in her current location of Florida, USA?
We think it is a combination of all of these things with the added fact that Chandra Maharaj is clearly a businesswoman with ambition, drive and motivation. After all, she has thus far managed to market herself and her swimwear pretty successfully in the space of just a couple of months. Better yet, since the release of the collection editorial images, they are already available to the public via more than one venue.
‘I design for the fashion-forward, confident, trendsetting woman. Despite age, size and race, she makes everything that she wears look beautiful. My pieces are simply there to enhance that beauty, power and confidence.’
Designing and sewing are by no means new to Chandra, whose mum and aunts have sewn for as long as she can remember, and whose grandfather was also a tailor. Learning additional sewing methods through her studies allowed her to expand on her skills, which she says now encompass both traditional and modern techniques.
‘It allows room for a lot of experimentation and creativity,’ she says. ‘It’s amazing to see how such an art can progress, and yet some of it never changes.’
Her decision to begin a swimwear line dates back to her time in Brazil, where she says that sensuality and confidence are abundant. When she arrived in Trinidad, she often made her father bring swimwear back for her from Brazil, due to not being able to find the cut or fit she wanted. Because she often customized some of her pieces, she became known amongst her friends for her swimwear and so decided to start selling her work, which is available today across the region and in the US.
This first collection from Chandra Maharaj Swimwear is inspired by Brazilian legend – that of the Amazons to be exact.
‘According to the legend, when the Portuguese first came to Brazil, a few brave men took on the task of investigating the most abundant rainforest they had ever seen. Upon entering the forest, an all-female warrior tribe greeted them; they were tall, muscular and beautiful, exuding power and grace. But they made it very clear to the men that they [the men] were not welcomed there, as the women were protecting their children and livelihood. The men escaped with their lives; it was that day that the most powerful forest in the world was christened “the Amazon”. That tribe of female warriors was my inspiration; I believe in the strength and the beauty of women.’
True to the collection’s inspiration, the editorial shoot that followed depicts many elements surrounding the legend. Chandra admits that she wanted to stay as true to the Amazon legend as possible while adding her own creativity to the mix.
‘Oftentimes, the Indians were associated with natural elements within the forest, so I tried my best to recreate things like that. The photographers – Darisha Beresford and Drew Umland did a fantastic job of understanding exactly what I wanted and how I wanted it. And then there was the model – Arielle Moses; she was just phenomenal in bringing to life the energy and intention behind each piece. I believe that our joint efforts as a team captured the essence of the inspiration.’
Despite any challenges the fashion industry might throw her way, Chandra has an incredibly positive outlook on life and her career choice, a trait that will inevitably be of great help towards building the brand further. She is also grateful for the additional experience that comes her way through living in Miami, which gives her a firmer grasp on the world of swimwear and the needs of her clientele. Simultaneously, she credits the energy and spirit of Trinidad and Caribbean for adding that extra something to each of her pieces. When it comes to Caribbean fashion, Chandra Maharaj is proud of the progress that the industry has made and continues to make. In her own words, she says that the explosion Caribbean fashion has been long overdue, and the recent international spotlight it has been receiving only intensifies the emotion.
In 2012, Chandra Maharaj Swimwear will be unveiling its second collection, which the designer is very excited about. Inspired by Africa after a month of backpacking through the southeast of the Motherland, she gushes with excitement about the beauty of the culture and the people, and only hopes that the collection does justice to the love she professes for the region.
And what of the Caribbean, a ‘Motherland’ in its own right?
‘I am a firm believer in energy, and to me, the Caribbean has an unmatched vibration that is powerful and uplifting. It cannot really be explained with words; it’s something one must feel to understand. It’s in the air, the ocean, the trees, the food, the culture, the music and the people. It’s beautiful and it’s everywhere. It’s the kind of energy that you experience once and have to go back for more. It recharges your soul and makes your heart smile.’
And with such a powerful attitude, we can only see great things in the future for Chandra Maharaj Swimwear!
- Darcel de Vlugt, Editor