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A little piece of history

The bikini is 60 next month. Where better to get the word on the latest styles than St Tropez, its spiritual home

When Brigitte Bardot cavorted on the sand in a gingham bikini in St Tropez in 1955, while her husband Roger Vadim trained his camera on her for the film And God Created Woman, she established not only the popularity of the two-piece but the reputation of St Tropez as the beachwear capital of the western world. More than 50 years have passed since then, but swimwear industry trendspotters still trek to the sandy bays of Le Pampelonne, 5km southeast of the town, and copy artists continue to plunder St Tropez’s prestige boutiques for ideas. Other swimwear centres may have grown – Miami, for one – but as France gears up to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the bikini next month, St Tropez remains very much its spiritual home.

A tall screen of whispering bamboo envelops Club 55, the beach club created in the year of its name to provide refreshments to Vadim’s cast and crew. In the car park, BMWs and Porsches stretch out their sinewy curves in shades from bronze through gunmetal to black, their steely surfaces turning into mirrors in the sun. The season will not hit full swing until July, but while lines of sunloungers recede along the sand largely uninhabited, the restaurant is already filling up – and there is a dress code. A woman in her 60s has unlocked the buttons of her white shirt to show a treasure chest full of heavy silver chains rattling over a turquoise and pink bikini top.

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