It's the same story at Acqua Rosa, a conventional swimwear toms for cheap label that added a plus-size line in 2008. Now, plus-size purchases account for more than 70 per cent of the brand's total sales, said director Joao Macedo.
It makes sense. For centuries, large swaths of Brazil were beset by malnutrition, and in 1970, nearly 10 per cent of the population in the country's poor, rural northeast region was considered underweight, according to Brazil's national statistics institute. Sun worshippers: Business for plus-size brands, such as Lehona, are cashing in on a lucrative market that high-end bikini-makers are too snobby to attract
But the phenomenal economic boom that has lifted tens of millions out of poverty and into the burgeoning middle class over the past decade has also changed the nation's once-svelte physique.
A 2010 study by the statistics institute showed that 48 per cent of adult women and 50 per cent of men are now overweight. In 1985 those figures were 29 per cent for women and 18 per cent for men.
(Still, there's been no rash of plus-size male swimwear lines, as men here wear Speedo-style suits that don't impinge on big guts.)
Analysts attribute Brazil's rapidly widening girth to changes in nutrition, with chips, processed meats and sugary soft drinks replacing staples like rice, beans and vegetables.
Despite their growing numbers, not everyone is eager to embrace 'gordinhas' - or 'little fatties' - as chunky women are affectionately known in Brazil
And while the country's elite are widely known to be fitness freaks - and also discount toms shoes among the world's top consumers of cosmetic surgery - those recently lifted out of poverty and manual labor are becoming increasingly sedentary. A 2008 study showed that barely 10 per cent of Brazilian teens and adults exercise regularly.
Still, despite their growing numbers, not everyone is eager to embrace 'gordinhas' - or 'little fatties' - as chunky women are affectionately known here.
Many high-end bikini-makers have turned a seemingly deliberately blind eye to the burgeoning plus-size market. Rio-based upmarket brand Salinas, for example, offers five sizes, from extra-small through extra-large. But their sizing runs notoriously small and it's hard to imagine anyone over a U.S. size 6 actually managing to fit into any of the brand's minuscule two-pieces.Luis Rebelatto of Lehona chalked it partially up to snobbery.
'Some brands, they don't want their image to be associated with chunky women,' he said. 'Only the thin, the rich and the chic.'
While Brazilians' increasing heft is a public policy preoccupation for the government, growth in the ranks of the overweight population has given them increased visibility in Brazilian society. Extra-wide bucket seats for the obese have been installed in Sao Paulo's metro system, and on Sunday the city toms shoes outlet hosted Brazil's first ever Miss Plus Size beauty contest.
'It used to be that people would stare at me,' said Soares, the voluptuous sun-worshiper on Copacabana beach. 'Now when I come to the beach I see women who are much bigger than me - and lots of them are wearing bikinis - so I'm not self conscious any more.'God makes some people thin but he made me like this,' she said, rubbing down the well-oiled bulge of her stomach and thighs.