Cabana Living with Milly’s Michelle Smith

by Eddie Roche

When Michelle Smith goes to Surf Lodge, The Daily Summer follows suit! We recently tagged along for a behind-the-scenes look at Milly Cabana’s lookbook shoot, where photographer Jaime Lopez and models Sofia Resing and Caroline Kelley captured the brand’s latest wares. During a break, we sat down with Smith to learn how she’s giving new life to her swimwear line!

What’s the story behind your swimwear line?
When I launched Milly Cabana in 2005, there was a void in the market for this type of product. For a young woman like myself, there were brands that sold a $400 or $500 bikini, or it was the much lower-price-point bikini, but there was nothing in that sweet spot of the in-the-middle swimsuit. So we launched it, and it was a fantastic success from the get-go. It opened up new markets for me, but as the years went by, that niche became so flooded with so many other brands, so…

A relaunch?
Yes! I’m really excited and I’ve put a lot of energy into this collection, with a really forward direction that mirrors my ready-to-wear collection. There are a lot of the same signature details—the straps, the ties, the cheeky cuts.

Do you essentially design for yourself?
[Laughs] Yeah! Even from the starting point, it’s very personal. As I’m sketching, I’m always thinking about what I want to wear. How do I want to feel? What do I want to reveal? I try on each piece personally. Sometimes, on my Instagram account, you’ll see some funny selfies of me pulling pieces off the sewing machines and trying them on. I also think of the regions when I design—“Maybe the girl in Nantucket isn’t ready for the cheeky bottom, but I know the girl in Miami is!” I tailor the collection to different markets.

What are some of your favorite looks in the collection?
Well the Sea, Sex, and Sun [suit] comes from the iconic French song by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot. I’m really excited about the revival of the one-piece swimsuit—super hot, super sexy and it’s also great for moms! Growing up, we all wore one-pieces, and it was all about the high-cut leg, which is so elongating and flattering. I’ve been going to Mediterranean beaches for years, and it’s always been normal for even grandmothers to wear cheeky suits. No one bats an eyelash! Here, people have been more reserved about it, but 20 years later, we’re finally catching on.

What colors are featured prominently in the collection?
I’ve used solid colors that are really vibrant and span the colors of the rainbow. They’re tied together by a streaky rainbow print. I’ve sprinkled in some of my signature prints, especially stripes in a nautical palette.

What are women really looking for in a bathing suit?
A suit that flatters their body type, which is something I thought about a lot with this collection. I offer a lot of different cuts for a lot of different body types. Don’t worry, girlfriends—I got you! If you don’t feel confident in what you’re wearing, you’re not going to look good. It has to be about your inner confidence.

Who is Cabana’s target customer?
In general, she’s from 24 to 44, but I see teenagers all the way up to women in their sixties wearing my stuff. I also make Milly Minis swimwear, so I’m really getting them young—starting at 2 years old!

Something for everyone! What was the concept for this shoot?
I didn’t want to do a studio shoot for my swimwear because it feels way more exciting and authentic to be in an outdoor setting. I’m a girl who hangs out in the Hamptons and the collection is made in New York, so Surf Lodge felt like the right place and right vibe.

How did you meet the photographer, Jaime Lopez?
We met in the Hamptons—his wife, Marilyn [Clark], a retired model and real estate agent, showed us our summer house. He shot our first Milly campaigns back in the day. He took me under his wing, because I didn’t know how to cast or who to call at a modeling agency. He’s such a humble guy, and so accomplished and talented. It’s really fun to work with him.

What are your travel plans for this summer?
I’m going to Formentera, Spain! It’s just south of Ibiza. I’ve never been there. I’m emotionally attached to Southern Italy and Capri, but I want to branch out a bit, and I’ve heard great things about Formentera. And then I’ll be in the Hamptons the rest of the summer. Favorite place!

What else is new at Milly?
We’re expanding our business, we’re looking into a retail store in Los Angeles, and we’re growing our retail presence and our e-commerce business. Knock on wood, we’re really having a great year!

Read the issue HERE.

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