Monday, Apr. 02, 2012

Jacques Heim and Louis Réard

The story goes something like this: In 1946, Jacques Heim, a French designer from Cannes, designed a revealing two-piece swimsuit dubbed the atome (French for atom). To promote his new product, he hired a skywriter to fly overhead with the following message: "Atome — the world's smallest bathing suit."

But three short weeks later, Louis Réard — an automobile manufacturer and Heim's rival designer — submitted a, well, more minimalist swimsuit to market. He called it the bikini, named after the Bikini Atolls in the Pacific Ocean. Not only did it expose its wearer's navel (a risqué first), but Réard's tiny 30 square inches of fabric redefined the outer limits of conventional modesty.

So how dedicated was Réard to this less-is-more approach? During one ad campaign, he declared that a two-piece wasn't a real bikini "unless it could be pulled through a wedding ring."