19 May 2010

Malia Mills

When I find something I like, I try to purchase multiples when I can. Pants. T-shirts. Gluten-free crackers. I arrived at this point the hard way, when, specific to fashion brands, I found that fits and quality of materials change every season. And there are two seasons per year, at least. So, imagine finding the perfect pant and 3 months later, poof! They're gone. Nowhere to be found ever again. This short-lasting affair is unfortunately how brands try to entice us to buy something new the next season. But I don't always want anything new. Can't I be rewarded old if old worked for me?

Enter my favorite swimsuit by Malia Mills. The bikini was no longer sold in their stores the following year, but I was reassured that they offer made-to-order pieces since the patterns still exist. In New York. At their design and production studio (it wasn't until later that I saw on their website, lovingly made in America). I was given the current season's color palate to select from and my thrill and satisfaction gave way to my adding another variation of a top. After all, they were going to make something especially for me. Just because they could produce locally for loyal customers, I walked out with 3 pieces rather than none.

Swimsuits fall into a category of its own. Admittedly, in this case, I change at least twice per year rather than the swimsuit. But Malia Mills was aware of this when two sisters founded the company in 1992. Love Thy Differences is their trade marked motto and mission. This was a fresh perspective of actually servicing all of us, the masses. I was actually taught that the suit should fit me, not the other way around. The website has a very real, plebeian feeling with confrontational images of each of us, taken low-tech and with a self-assuring attitude. They're not just selling suits here. They are selling something deeper.

Two weeks later, my ensemble was ready. There was a size discrepancy, however, and so I went to the studio with my old suit. The suit maker measured out my top, the new top and the pattern and made the adjustments accordingly. Apologies from their end were overflowing. In two days, the suits were packed and on a flight with me to the beach. And I did feel great in them.

Malia Mills, multiple locations; www.maliamills.com

09 May 2010

Function as Service

In my pursuit of reviewing service, I've come across compelling retail, hospitality and product design. What makes these design elements worth highlighting for SoS are its function, simplicity and ease of use.

From today, I am beginning a new category, "Function as Service," to present objects and elements that are thoughtfully designed into our needs and that of its surroundings rather than into those of high - and low - design aesthetes. I'm not asking for a lot here. Something that will hold trash, drain well (I'll get to you later, Philippe Stark) and easy on the eyes will do it for me.

To start off, here is a version of a trash receptacle on a beach in France:

Function: To collect trash from beach-goers.
Design: The container body is buried into the sand, with the cover and opening standing 1 foot from the ground; A rustic, wooden cover is consistent with the style of the restaurant, shop, beach walkway and chaise rental counter.
1) The low container has little to no wind resistance, preventing it from toppling it over from wind gusts and even in the rain.
2) A two-year old toddler can finally put his or her own trash where it belongs, without Mom or Dad picking up after them.
Placement: Discreet and unobtrusive, it is positioned near a bush along a walkway, against a brush.

03 May 2010


Tiffany & Company, Hong Kong

"What is this?"
(male customer, with blackberry hooked to his belt and Starbucks coffee in hand,
to female sales person)
"This is a necklace. For men."
"For men? For gay men, right?"

(shock and silence falls on store customers and staff)