For those of you mourning the end of summer as we are, we have a special Friday edition of our interview series with the ultimate summer-wear designer, Malia Mills. Mills is a New York-based swimwear designer whose pieces have graced the covers of Sports Illustrated to the pages of Elle. Designing under the motto “Love thy differences,” the former Jessica McClintock protégé has created swimsuits for a wide range of shapes and sizes since the early ’90s. Today, Hawaii-born Mills has 13 namesake boutiques and a flattering ready-to-wear collection to complement her signature swim brand.
How’s your summer going?
Summer 2014 has been rad — and we have decided to hell with Labor Day. we’re going to take summer well past August and blow through September — no more bookends to this stellar season!
I just went to your Southampton store for the first time and fell in love with everything – Do you spend much time in the Hamptons?
Thanks! Grassy air, salt water, warm breezes, juicy tomatoes, fresh baked bread, chilled wine, sweater nights, friends and family…who doesn’t love to kick back in the Hamptons?! I take spontaneous trips to soak it all in, all year round.
What’s your favorite part of being out East? Do you surf?
The magic is knowing there is so little and yet so much to do out East. But surfing…I must admit I leave that to the experts.
Swimwear is kind of an emotional area for women – how does your brand help women feel more confident in their own skin while wearing so little?
When a swimsuit fits beautifully — your rad shape, your killer style, your ‘hell yes you can’ attitude — there is nothing but the badass you that shines through. And the badass you is what we’re all about at Malia Mills.
Why should all women invest in high quality swimwear?
Whether it’s a stunning swimsuit or an extraordinary glass of wine or a fantastic piece of jewelry or a fierce car or a crazy ass piece of furniture or an outstanding tube of lipstick…women should treat themselves. They are worth it.
With only a few weekends of summer left – what are a few items we can buy from your store to carry us into fall? Do you consider any of your pieces transitional?
Hell yes to season-less layers to live in and love up all year long! We have a collection of ready-to-wear cut in soft cottons, delicious drapey wovens, lace, twills and more…airy blouses, tailored rompers, fierce yet feminine dresses…we’ve had the privilege to expand beyond swimwear and it has been a blast.
For someone new to your brand – how would you describe the Malia Mills ethos?
Love thy differences — it’s our mission, our mantra, our driving force! In 1993 we launched our company to inspire women to unleash the vixen within. At Malia Mills we don’t want to change the way you look, we want to change the way you look at yourself. Look in the mirror and say hell yes. Freedom, truth, feminist spirit, limitless potential — we’re passionate about articulating a new and inclusive voice on the subject of women and beauty. The revolution starts with you.
What are your beach essentials?
Strong sunscreen, great friends, and copious wine.
You have a big family – do you see them often? Are they part of the business?
I am the baby of six kids. My sister Carol and I run the business. We just got back from a fab week in Sunriver, Oregon where we have a family reunion every two years. With 36 of us, aged 18 months to 92 years, it’s equal parts chaos and a rocking good time.
Our business is definitely a family affair — sister Sue, a teacher in Portland, Oregon, helps us in our stores during the summers. Sister Betsy hosts swim salons in her home in Tacoma, Washington. Brother Jay, a lawyer in Tacoma, provides legal expertise. For all business related matters—from private label opportunities to return on equity analysis—brother Peter is our go-to guy. Our Dad ran his own perfume and suntan lotion business for 20 years in Honolulu so dinner time talk always involved design, marketing, selling ideas and more. Our Mom came up with the name “wicked wahine,” [Dad’s] best selling perfume that he was always proud to say “put six kids through college.” Nieces and nephews work with us in the summers so we’re brainwashing the next generation.
Any plans for Labor Day?
My boyfriend, Christian and I, are headed to visit friends in a small village near Marseille for some good. old fashioned. fun.