malia mills

Photo: Britt Kubat

Tell us about your mission statement, "Love thy differences."
It's fundamentally wrong to dread swimsuit season; when you wear a suit, it's about vacation, friends, and family. If we could all put one on, look past any body image issue, and say, "I'm a rock star and I'm going to work this," we'd get through the day much better.

What's the best part of your job?
When a woman is not psyched to enter the dressing room, and then she steps out in one of my designs and her inner badass emerges: bright eyes, fierce posture.

How does the fashion industry still surprise you?
Its extraordinary complexity. What's happening around the world affects fashion: Droughts can drive up cotton prices; a war in the Middle East can bump up shipping costs. Not to mention the connections between women's rights and labor laws. Just clothes? Hardly!

Malia Mills on the everyday things that inspire her
malia mills

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

Rhodia Notebook
My bag is littered with little sketch pads, but I inevitably forget one when I travel. I got this from a stationery shop in Paris when I found myself there with nothing to draw on.
malia mills

Photo: Britt Kubat

Heirloom Wooden Table
The hub of my apartment, and the first piece of furniture my parents bought as newlyweds. Sixty years later, it's pretty beat-up but more beautiful than ever. It became my kitchen-dining-cutting-sewing-packing table when I started my company.

Photo: Devo Jarvis/Studio D

Vintage Lingerie
I look to the workmanship and engineering of bras and underwear from the days before Lycra and spandex.

Ruching gives Mill's Caroline one-piece a retro feel.
malia mills

Photo: iStockPhoto/Emarto

Def Leppard and Boston
Big-haired rock was the soundtrack of my high school years in New Hampshire. I like to crank these two bands during late nights in the studio when I have the place all to myself.
malia mills

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

The Playboy Book: Fifty Years
The women photographed in this book during the '60s and '70s carried such a sense of freedom about how they looked. Back then women could put on swimsuits and not have an ideal to live up to.
malia mills

Photo: iStockPhoto/Kyoshino

Years ago I was featured in The New York Times, and someone at Veuve Cliquot sent a bottle as a congratulations. Warranted or not, we still always find a reason to uncork some.
malia mills

Photo: Malia Mills

I use my iPhone camera to document everything. Recently, while traveling in northern India, I constantly snapped pictures from the car as we drove. It was sensory overload. Really incredible.

Next: An architect's guide to design inspiration