Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Swimwear designer Malia Mills is stepping out of the pool and into the boudoir.
Mills’s signature business, a $1 million wholesale and retail operation, is getting into two more categories that can get quite personal with women: innerwear and cosmetics. The 34-year-old designer will continue to make trendy swimsuit separates, but the brand is being repositioned as a beauty company.
During a recent interview at the company’s three-month-old showroom at 255 West 36th Street, Mills described her approach to the new lines.
For Malia Mills Under Wear, she said her aim is to produce nicely fitting items that prompt women to look in the mirror and see what is right instead of what is wrong, Mills said. “We don’t want to change the way you look,” she said. “We want to change the way you look at yourself.”
Beginning in December, the 10-piece innerwear collection will be offered exclusively at the Malia Mills stores planned for New York, Los Angeles and Miami Beach. The firm has a flagship in NoLIta at 199 Mulberry Street and another unit at 7972 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.
The Miami Beach unit will bow next month in South Beach at 610 Collins Avenue with a “Girls Rock Weekend,” featuring two women’s bands, Boss Hog and The Booty Olympics.
“It’s not that we wouldn’t want to sell it to department stores, but there are benefits to testing it out first,” Mills said. “It’s important to take baby steps to make sure we’re on solid ground before we kick it out.”
The innerwear also will be showcased in the company’s second catalog, which will be shipped to about 25,000 consumers in December. As in the first edition, Mills will use a variety of friends and acquaintances as models in the catalog. The new collection also will be offered at at that same time.
The innerwear also will be offered at a Madison Avenue store in the mid-70s, which is slated to open in the first quarter of next year. Wholesale prices will range from $15 to $25.
Tops range in size from 32A to 38D. While triangle tops are available for all cup sizes, certain styles are designed for specific sizes. There’s a “striptease top” — an A cup bra with a scoop front and gathers on the side — and the “va va voom” — a D-size underwire bra with a skimpy cut for extra cleavage.
Bottoms also have clever names like “chorus girl,” high-waisted briefs and “panty raid,” bottoms that rest below the hip bones.
First-year projected retail volume for the innerwear is $1 million, Mills said.
The company’s new beauty approach is not such a stretch, considering how Mills borrows merchandising tips from department stores’ cosmetic counters for her own stores. Samples — not entire lines — are displayed, with additional sizes tucked away in the backroom. There is also a lounge area to encourage shoppers to relax while salespeople find out what they’re looking for, what bra size they wear and where the item will be worn. A customer, for example, is more than likely not going to wear her honeymoon swimsuit to a corporate picnic, said Mills, adding that that same philosophy should hold true for lingerie — women should have clothes to fit the occasion. In line with that, a tie-side thong is “perfect with a little skirt at night,” but Mills wouldn’t recommend wearing it with jeans.
“We need to remind ourselves that lingerie is the first thing we put on everyday. We can use color, textures, trends and details to spice up lingerie wardrobe with things that really get you going in the morning,” Mills said. “We want it to fit well so women can forget about it.”
Mills said 10 women can wear a size 8 but have drastically different figures, so she never uses a fit model, opting to utilize various body types as standards.
Next year, the company will introduce five beauty products for the body, face, cheeks, lips and eyes. Distribution is not yet set. Simpler than cosmetics for work or evening, the cosmetics line — which has not yet been named — will have SPF protection. The firm is talking to potential partners about producing the cosmetics.
Mills said she has been approached by investors and potential partners, but has not yet found one that shares her vision.

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