NEW YORK — In her 20th year in business, Malia Mills is celebrating by relocating her design studio to a sizable Industry City space.
A longtime champion of the garment center, Mills will continue to produce 90 percent of her signature swimwear, ready-to-wear and accessories in five Midtown factories 12 months a year. But after searching “downtown, uptown, east and west” for a new design space, Mills decided to make the move to Brooklyn. By relocating her 25-person team to an 11,700-square-foot facility in Sunset Park, she expects to make her entire operation more efficient. In addition to 16 sewing tables for sample production, there are designated areas for a photo studio, marketing, operations and design.
“We will be able to produce more goods faster, and we will have the elbow room to be more productive. That is a good thing for not only our business but the people we do business with,” she said. “Anytime you leave the hub of Manhattan, you get more space for your money. For a small business like ours that’s growing, that is a big deal. Now we can invest more money into the business.”
In April, Mills will open her second store in Los Angeles, upping her boutique count to 13. The designer will be hiring six to eight staffers for the new store and four to six employees for the design studio in Brooklyn.
Formerly known as Bush Terminal, Industry City’s warehouses were originally built in the 1890s by the industrialist Irving T. Bush. In the past year or so, the century-old 16-building complex has undergone a major overhaul with new windows, elevators, decor and a courtyard, among other things. The makeover is thanks partially to Jamestown Properties, the developer that owns Chelsea Market, and its partners Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Belvedere Capital, which took a stake in the complex last year. Among the most ambitious plans for Brooklyn is Manufacture New York’s blueprint for establishing a 160,000-square-foot manufacturing complex for fashion companies in the Liberty View Industrial Plaza building on the Sunset Park waterfront.
Like many young New York designers, Mills started her company in her downtown apartment before moving to a West 28th Street design studio, and then eventually a 3,500-square-foot space on West 38th Street. With the Brooklyn location, Mills is nearly quadrupling her square footage. Aside from the roomier surroundings, she and her staff will be closer to an assortment of companies that they deal with on a regular basis, such as Brooklyn-based photographers and a friend whose company builds sets for fashion shoots. By being in Brooklyn, Mills and her team are closer to such creative types as Philipp Haemmerle, Utrecht Paint, Roll & Hill Lighting and West Elm Photo Studios.
“The developer is bringing in new companies and more manufacturers all the time. The whole community is really synergistic, and the energy out here is different,” Mills said. “It has given us a whole new level of creativity.”