Along Aruba’s east coast, deep Tiffany-blue waters cascade as kite surfers hydroplane aside soaring jagged cliffs at 40 knots. The country’s raw, topographical beauty includes deep, pitch-black bat-scattered caves, a far cry from the rum punched, tourist-laden northwest coast of Aruba, where high-rise resorts straddle the baby powder beaches, outstretched palms and gin-clear waters that coddle snowbirds into submission.
This is the two Aruba’s, a charming Dutch outpost 17 miles off Venezuela’s coast whose 101,000 inhabitants welcome over a million visitors a year to a 70-square-mile, ocean-locked dot where the cheerful inhabitants effortlessly switch between English, Dutch and Spanish mid-conversation. Eighty-two degrees and a constant breeze elevates the island to a stateside fave, packing sold-out hotels with the constant buzz of Americans getting their fix in various states of sun-soaked undress, paddleboarding as parasailers gently float overhead. And it’s easy to visit, a just-over two hour flight from Miami, virtually equidistant to DC.
Capitalizing on its popularity, and beachy sartorial bent, Aruba, along with IMG, the global producer of Fashion Weeks from Miami to New York to Istanbul, engaged to produce the tony Aruba In Style, an event-packed weekend of fashion shows, cocktail parties and shopping excursions to illustrate that golden-kissed skin should totally be draped in the prettiest.
Events were based in both Oranjestad, the nation’s capital, and Palm Beach, the tourist corridor, to include as many visitors and locals as possible. On Day One, swimwear and resort brands like Agua Bendita, Berjheny Del Mar and Layana Aguillar jumped at the chance, repurposing The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino’s infinity-edged pool deck into a sleek runway, flying in 20 or so Venezuelan models, plus a few international DJ’s, turning a typically sleepy Aruban Friday night into a “lights!-camera!-style!” powderkeg of glamorous energy.
The fashion this night, definitively South American, exuded freshness - elegant resort dresses, flowing cover-ups, yummy body-hugging one-pieces and strappy bikinis (some of them sheer feats of engineering) in animal prints, vibrant solids, Missoni-like stripes, potpourri’s of pastel and flourishes of hippie chic. Guests ogled and sipped cocktails before eventually repairing down the escalator to the integrated Renaissance Mall, essentially Aruba’s Bal Harbour Shops, featuring boutiques by Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Michael Kors and scores more.
Saturday night’s shows proved no less fun and funky at the expansive beachside Westin Resort & Casino. Oakley, BCBGeneration, Gottex, Arubianas Resort Wear and Eva Zissu presented gorgeous swim and resort collections while Ronchi de Cuba, Aruba In Style’s head of production, looked on, cuing girls to strut. Aruban Tourism Authority and government officials assembled, bobbing their heads to the Lorde smash hit “Royals”, probably thinking Aruba had indeed but improbably succeeded arriving on the international fashion circuit. It outwardly seemed that way.
Certainly, no trip to the island is complete without boating. The morning after the catwalks closed, scores boarded a 70-foot catamaran, the largest sailboat in Aruba, for waterborne rejuvenation, civilized cocktails and endless beams of sunshine. Spirited calamity soon struck – engine failure during disembarkation plus strong breezes don’t particularly mix, sending the vessel drifting into mooring buoys and adjacent fishing vessels, the captain and crew donning masks and jumping overboard, emerging victorious within a half hour as the drinks continued flowing, the music pumping. Not surprisingly, a quarter dozen parasail boats sprang into action, lending a helping hand, a tight knit community coming together. This is the island way. A live-in-the-moment ebb and flow deliciously evident as we snorkeled over the scuttled S.S. Antilla, a 400-foot German freighter nestled in 60 feet of Windex-blue water, marveling at the thousands of tropical fish who call it home.