Rocking it with CA-RIO-CA
What do two dudes eating açia bowls on Santa Monica Boulevard on a Monday night have in common? Can you say Sunga? That’s right, I had the privilege of hanging out with Gil Even. The designer and owner of Brazilian swimwear brand Ca-Rio-Ca. How cool, right? Because it totally was!
Though Ca-Rio-Ca has only been around for roughly five years. It has grown to be a well established brand in the men’s swimwear market. To give you a little history behind the company. The multi-dimensional name Ca-Rio-Ca struck Gil when he met his friend’s chocolate Labrador named Carioca. Gil has always wanted a chocolate lab, hence the logo and name. Carioca is the Brazilian word used to describe the stereotypical beach bum. I bonded with Gil on this because at my previous job I worked with Brazilian surgeons who referred to me as a “carioca” for my native Californian tongue. Gil saw the opportunity to add depth to word by incorporating dashes. In a similar fashion to how you would see a word phonetically hyphened in the dictionary. The dashes distinguish “Rio”, depictive of Rio de Janiero in Brazil. The “Ca” representative of his California heritage. Both reminiscent of sun filled, beach swept regions where you can find his product worn.
Ca-Rio-Ca’s flagship cut is the Sunga, which is simply a square cut swim brief. In Brazil, sungas are incredibly popular for men. I found out from Gil that sungas often times serve as both underwear and swimwear. This is due to the fact that Brazilians never know when they are going to be taking a dip, so it is better to be prepared. With this in mind, it’s evident how sungas need to be able to comfortable to transfer from everyday wear to swimwear and vise versa. Currently, Ca-Rio-Ca offers 5 cuts: bikini, brief, low rise, classic, and traditional (sunga); bikini being the skimpiest cut and sunga being the most conservative. Gil’s business model is not to offer dozens of constantly evolving trendy cuts. Instead, his goal is to offer a fixed number of classic styles but have dozens of options for colors, prints, and patterns.
As a fan of men’s swimwear, Gil came up with the brand after he noticed a void in the men’s swimwear market for high quality products. He also noticed that Brazil wasn’t receiving much love in the swimwear market. Australia has Aussiebum, Italy has Armani, America has N2N and Andrew Christian, and the list goes on. But Brazil wasn’t wasn’t on the map. So Gil decided to draw attention to the adored sunga from the region. Which has grown to receive international recognition and praise. What I find interesting about the brand is that half of Ca-Rio-Ca’s press and coverage doesn’t come from him reaching out to people and promoting. Instead the brand has gained popularity through random television shows and news clips where you can find his swimmers being worn by famous actors.
One of the most admirable aspects of Gil and his company is his determination to deliver quality men’s swimwear. As someone who has a high appreciation for quality, this resonated with me. Quality always sticks out to me and Ca-Rio-Ca swimmers meet and exceed my standards. Not one detail is left without thought. The material is thick and luxe and the construction is spot on. Trust me, you’ll feel like a king when you slip on a pair of Ca-Rio-Ca swimmers. Details such as, not incorporating metal finishes to prevent burns when in the sun. Having the drawstring from the back so it can be hidden or exposed, are well thought-out. Though they might not strike you immediately, they add to the overall comfort of the product. Even though Gil has been advised to drive down cost. Ultimately diminishing quality. He is determined to see his intentions through of creating a quality Brazilian swimwear. Every cent Gil makes, he puts back into the company to expand the products. Latest designs have more useful features such as a pouch for keys or a credit card. A zipper phone pocket (which can fit the width of an iPhone 5 I know because I tested it). As well as aesthetic enhancements such as stitching the Ca-Rio-Ca logo into the drawstring.
What I found to be the most intriguing aspect of Ca-Rio-Ca is the company itself. Literally Gil and one assistant, man the entire company. Everything from design, production, marketing, sales, and customer support, is taken care of by them. The fact that it’s pretty much a one man operation blew my mind. When I browse through swimwear and underwear companies online they appear to be larger than life. Maybe this is part of the game. But I still imagine the company having a design team, a marketing team, an operations team, and so on. Not the case. Most men’s underwear/swimwear companies are small operations. Headed by individuals who are passionate for their products. I must say it is admirable to be able to do all of this professionally like Ca-Rio-Ca has done.
Gil recently opened a store in Santa Monica, CA, which is where we initially met before he took me out for an açai bowl. Gil utilizes the store as a creative space, office, and warehouse. Gil previously managed Ca-Rio-Ca from a smaller location is Santa Monica. He decided to expand to a larger space in Santa Monica were he could capitalize on his endeavors to create an all-inclusive, all in-house, swimwear operation. I have discovered that I love shopping for underwear and swimwear in person. His store was pretty much heaven. The layout of the store is simple with all of his swimwear on hangers organized by cuts, colors, prints and collections. It didn’t hit me until I was in his shop that he has a lot of prints. There had to be over a hundred different options to choose from. If you are in the area, I definitely recommend you check it out. Gil is a generous guy, so you might walk out with some extra goodies with your purchase.
As fate would have it, during my visit Gil gave me the run down for his 2016 collection. I don’t want spoil the surprise. I will say though in the past Ca-Rio-Ca swimmers have been bright and colorful. I found that he incorporated more neutral tones and vintage vibes in his 2016 collection. Which is right up my alley. Gil does all of the designs. He has created more personal prints such as a collage of his favorite albums. Prints of his favorite beaches, as well as his support and love of the Olympics. Needless to say there are still are plenty of eye catching vibrant options for those who like to live life on the wild side. As well as an endless rainbow of solid colors and beach inspired prints and patterns. Definitely something to look forward to, and if you can’t wait for the release, tune into the runway show tomorrow!
Speaking of runway shows, they aren’t common in the world of men’s swimwear. But like everything else that Gil does, he is continuing to push the bar. So naturally he has done two this past year. Gil recalled how stressful it was to put together his first show. He was asked to do his first show on short notice due to a cancelation, and he had 24 hours to produce the entire event. Luckily he was able to fly a friend from New York to help coordinate. At the eleventh hour, they were able to source everything from picking the models, the music, and the styles. You can catch showcases of Ca-Rio-Ca sungas online where you can witness one of Gil’s model doing a back flip on stage. Fun, right? Though these shows tend to be stressful for the designer. They are a great way to introduce new collections in a formal setting, on real people. I have been invited to attend the upcoming show tomorrow and Gil has assured me he will get me front row seats. Needless to say, I am pumped and you’ll probably be hearing all about it from me after.
Looking into the future, Gil is planning on releasing an underwear line entitled Gostoso. In Portuguese Gostoso is term that women use to refer to as a handsome/attractive man. Gil already has made some headway with the brand as he just recently received the waist band design. Waistband design is one the most critical and expensive aspects of designing underwear. With this in the works hopefully we will be able to see his creations in the near future. Also besides selling sungas, Ca-Rio-Ca also offers a line of jewelry, hats, tanks, and lip balm, which my girlfriend absolutely loves. All high quality products as you would expect.
For a man who started off with only 10k in his back pocket. Gil has solely and strategically grown his company to be an international sensation in the men’s swimwear market. His passion and dedication for creating immaculate swimwear is obvious in the quality and attention to detail invested in his products. There is no doubt that Ca-Rio-Ca will continue to elevate the world of men’s swimwear for years to come. Here’s to Gil, a genuine and generous guy, and another to Ca-Rio-Ca sungas, making us all feel like tanned Brazilian beach bums. And ALWAYS remember, “real men wear sunga” 😉