Founder and designer Chechy Benedetti launched the Colombian swimwear label Pitahaya Swimsuits in 2006. A native of Cartagena, Benedetti has a passion for travel, which inspires her designs. She studied in Italy, lived in the United States, and has explored Europe, Africa, and Latin America.
The Pitahaya swimwear line is named after the tropical pitahaya fruit—a cactus species native to Central America and known for its striking texture, vibrant color, refreshingly sweet taste, and its glamorous white moonflowers that bloom only at night. The label strives to be just as unique, sophisticated and alluring as the exotic plant. Rather than depend on factories, Benedetti relies on a collective of local artisans, who work in their own homes, where they can be close to their children and elderly parents. Benedetti partners with the indigenous Ole-Tule Kuna Indian women in the Necoclí municipality in northwestern Colombia, incorporating their authentic mola appliqués into her own original swimwear designs. Each mola appliqué is made completely by hand in Colombia; the molas are then stitched onto high-quality Lycra® swimwear. Benedetti aims to break the cycle of poverty by helping these talented women generate consistent income to support their families. She holds the rare beauty of this meticulous craftsmanship, representative of her country, close at heart and hopes to share it with more of the world to help maintain age-old traditions.
Maintaining another legacy of craftsmanship, Benedetti also partners with the crochet artisans of Cartagena (her birthplace), who hand-stitch each exquisite crochet piece in the Pitahaya collection. Benedetti is constantly inspired by the women’s skills, impeccable handiwork, and beautiful one-of-a-kind creations. This sustainable, ecologically responsible fashion makes a statement, while employing women and maintaining the time-honored traditions of an ancient culture. The ultimate goal of Pitahaya Swimsuits is to create a contemporary swimwear collection that supports the Colombian cultural heritage, while appealing to the discerning swimwear customer.
Part of the traditional dress of the Kuna Indian women of Colombia and Panama, the mola is usually created in complementary pairs to form the front and back panels of a Kuna blouse. Molas originate from ancient body painting designs, which were eventually rendered on fabric. The intricate geometrical patterns often depict native flowers, birds, sea animals and legendary symbols from Kuna mythology and culture.
Extraordinary artistic creations, molas are made using a reverse appliqué technique, in which several layers of colorful cotton are sewn together; then patterns are cut from each layer to reveal a multitude of vibrant hues. Borders, patches and embroidered detailing are often layered on to enrich the design. The entire labor- intensive process of fine cutting and hand-stitching each piece takes countless hours. Highly collectible, molas are prized by museums and textile art collectors worldwide. Managed by lead Ole-Tule Kuna Jovita Gonzalez, the women in the collective create approximately 550 molas each week (or 50 per artisan) to be used on Pitahaya swimsuits.