In the magazine's 50th anniversary edition, which hit news stands last week, supermodel Heidi Klum appears in a Letarte creation the designer calls its "Covers Suit" -- but not because it covers very much of Klum's figure.
Letarte designed a fabric with images of all 50 SI Swimsuit covers printed on it. The designer commissioned a company in Portugal to produce the nylon/spandex fabric with the images woven into it, then made suits from it, Letatre spokeswoman Carolanne Ghee said.
Klum appears inside the magazine wearing one of the bikinis.
The other bikini is on the cover of a 50th anniversary coffee-table book released in October, "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit / 50 Years of Beautiful." That likely will have far longer shelf life than this year's magazine.
Images of Klum modeling both bikinis and the one-piece suit are on the SI website, Ghee said.
Even if you or a significant other has the shape to wear a Covers Suit, you won't find it in retail shops or at Letarte's annual warehouse sale, according to Ghee. The three suits were made only to be photographed for the magazine and coffee-table book.
The 40-year-old Klum both wears the fabric and appears on it, Ghee noted. An image of the German-born model's 1998 SI cover shot is woven into the fabric.
Also seen on the fabric are two Letarte designs that made SI covers:
On the 2013 cover, model Kate Upton wore a Letarte white, mesh bikini.
On the 2005 cover, model Carolyn Murphy showed off a Letarte red-beaded bikini.
While Letarte designed the "Covers" suits and submitted them to SI, the magazine staff chose Klum to model one of them.
"I can't even tell you how excited I am that I get to wear the suit with all the beautiful covers that Sports Illustrated has ever done," Klum said in a news release issued by Letarte.
Published by Time Inc., SI says its swimsuit edition reaches 62 million adults, a growing number of them women who view the edition as a fashion publication. Forbes magazine reported females account for about one-third of readers.
Letarte's headquarters are on Carter Henry Drive, a block off Post Road in a bland, concrete-block building that faces the Metro North Railroad tracks. The site is in stark contrast to the company's products, which include high-end swimsuits and other beachwear.
The company has six of its own retail stores, including one in Greenwich, and its designs are sold in more than 400 other retail outlets worldwide.
The Letarte sisters grew up in New Hampshire and founded the company in 2000 after working in other careers.
Lisa Letarte Cabrinha is a former professional wind surfer who lives in Maui, Hawaii, and is the company's chief designer. Michelle Letarte Ross, whose business background is in fashion and marketing, is the company president and based in Fairfield .
Ross lasted year said the privately owned company's annual sales were under $10 million.