Designer Gabi Gregg sought out two models to join her in the campaign: One was Veronica Pome’e, the first Polynesian swimsuit model to pose in Sports Illustrated. The second model on set? Iconic fashion model and activist Mama Cax.
It’s been less than two months since Mama Cax unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind an undeniable legacy. Cax was known for her spirit and drive, defying all odds in a business that rarely accepts people who appear different from the norm, to walk sought-after runways (with a rhinestone-crusted prosthetic, no less), participate in international campaigns, and even grace the cover of Teen Vogue in 2018. It’s fitting then that one of the last projects she’d tackle in her lifetime would be one rooted in diversity, inclusivity, and female empowerment.
“We hadn't met until the shoot, but I followed her [career]. I knew who she was and I celebrated her all the time,” Gregg says of Mama Cax. “I remember when I first saw her years and years ago, she was a new model and had just gotten signed. I was so excited to see someone doing the things she was doing and breaking the boundaries that she was. So, the fact that she got to be cast in my campaign was so exciting — it was the first time we actually were able to really connect in person and spend time with each other. I saw that as the first of many.”
Of Pome’e, Gregg says, “Veronica stands for the same things that both Mama Cax and I do, which are being unapologetically yourself, really embracing who you are, and breaking down barriers to be the first of many — or the first of many hopefully — to do something that nobody else has done before.” She continued, “I really think what she stands for is powerful and impactful.”
The campaign shows Gregg, Pome’e, and Cax in full fashion form, all sporting animal prints from croc to leopard, bright red and yellow hues, and ultra-flattering silhouettes from the size-inclusive collection. The shoot, which, like the collection, was safari-themed, took place in the desert landscape of Joshua Tree, California. All three models are seen adapting to the elements, their personalities shining through as brightly as the colorful swimsuits they showed off while posing on rocks and vintage tourist Jeeps.
“One of my favorite moments from the shoot was when Mama Cax literally lifted herself off of a rock using nothing but her signature crutch,” Gregg reminisces.
Mama Cax lost her leg to bone and lung cancer at the age of 14, but the disease never stopped her. “It was just the most inspirational, beautiful moment because she was set-up with this amazing backdrop and lifted herself off of this rock in the coolest way.”
The swimsuits from the collection speak for themselves, but it’s stories like this one — not to mention the powerful imagery and ethos behind the collaboration — that make this campaign so significant right now.
“My brand is all about celebrating diversity — that goes for not only the design process but also the imagery that I put out. I’m constantly thinking about celebrating women's bodies and showing diverse images and diverse women. It’s not something that I have to try to do — it’s just inherent,” Gregg says of the importance of including all types of women in her campaigns. This one, in particular, is exemplary of that mission.
See the Swimsuits For All x Gabi Fresh Resort 2020 campaign, starring Gabi Gregg, Veronica Pome’e, and the late Mama Cax, in its entirety by clicking through the slideshow ahead. “Her name, face, brand, and life live on through the work that she's done,” Gregg says of Cax. This collection can now be added to the long list of accomplishments used to keep her spirit alive.