February 20, 2009
Snap-fast bikini recalls products

by Robin Rowe 20.FEB.09

Snap-Fast Bikinis launched a massive recall of its products, alarmed by spontaneous elastic failures in swimwear.

The company admits it’s been aware of bikini bottom problems since June of last year, but thought it was only an isolated incident.{{more}} “We first became aware of the problem when the cover of Playboy showed Playmate of the Year Jayde Nicole determinedly struggling to keep her bikini bottoms on,” says Snap-Fast Bikini product manager Richard Masher.

Snap-Fast executives weren’t immediately alarmed. “Playboy playmates put a lot more stress on bikinis than typical consumers,” says Masher. “Like all products, bikinis are designed to be ‘cycled’, or put on and taken off, only a certain number of times. All our swimwear products have a safety margin, but there’s a chance that the determined undresser who abuses our product could encounter elastic giving way.”

There was also the theory that bikinis falling off Playboy playmates could simply be operator error. “Bikinis come with instructions, but how many Playboy bunnies read them?” asks Masher.

The mystery of bikini bottom failures took a more sinister turn when supermodels began encountering problems, too. “These are women who never wear the same piece of clothing twice,” says professional photographer Nickie Flash. “There’s no way this could be overuse. These bikini bottoms are simply unsafe, failing the first time worn.”

Snap-Fast was forced into action by this month’s Sport Illustrated Swimsuit 2009 edition cover photo. It shows model Bar Refaeli losing her string bikini bottom in front of the lush, tropical waters surrounding the Grenadines’ Canouan Island. “This is the one I felt the most comfortable with,” Refaeli told the Associated Press of her cover shot as she clutched at her bikini to keep it in place.

There have been rumors of bikini failures for years. Past issues of Sports Illustrated hint of bikini top problems, with models resorting to covering their breasts with strategically placed shells. However, those photos were explained away as the result of a rogue ocean wave, weather balloons or UFOs.

“Bikini reliability problems at the Playboy mansion have been a crisis for years,” says a neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity. Visitors to the mansion can see for themselves that Playboy models have abandoned fabric bikinis entirely, opting instead for painted on swimwear. Masher describes such efforts as foolish. “Bikini manufacturers have struggled for years to perfect the painted bikini,” says Masher. “We’ve been testing them on models day and night. They never make it out of the lab.”

Masher concedes that the painted bikinis avoid the problem of elastic failure by removing elastic as a structural component, but points out drawbacks such as paint that rubs off on contact with passersby and the inconvenience that painted bikinis must be removed using soap and water.

While only Snap-Fast has announced a recall, there’s no denying that the entire swimwear industry is in full bikini failure. And, nobody knows the cause. Is it that today’s woman is more athletic? Does she have more curves? Does she simply not care if she’s wearing anything? Whatever the cause, there’s hope as experiments with new undress-resistant materials continue in the lab.