We are thrilled to introduce Kissmax, one of our new favorite Aussie brands and the man behind it all, Mike Blackwood. Check out our interview for a sneak peak inside the company. xx
Bikini Bird: Tell us about yourself and how Kissmax began?
Mike: Sure, so I live in Torquay Australia with my 3 kids Lottie, Lucy & Max. I’ve worked in the Surf Industry all my life. Was in the retail side for nearly 20 years then spent 15 years with Quiksilver/Roxy & Quiksilver Womens. I’d always wanted to do my own thing at some stage, so a couple of years ago things were all changing at Quik and the timing seemed right to take a leap of faith and go out on my own. The original concept (hatched 6 or 7 years earlier) was to have a traditional bricks & mortar retail store that just sold guys & girls basics. When it came time to actually do something and put together a business plan I decided to make it online based and the product line kept getting refined till it ended up with what we have today. The Little Black Bikini Collection for girls and a pair of Jeans, a short & a t-shirt for guys.
Bikini Bird: Your son Max plays a big role in your company’s philosophy, can you tell us a little more about it?
Mike: It’s a fusion of the KISS theory (Keep It Simple Stupid) and the organically simple philosophy of Max who has Down syndrome. Max doesn't need much to make him happy and he's way happier than most people I know. He doesn't waste time on things he doesn't need. He doesn't have stuff just for the sake of having stuff. His life is really …. Simple. So I thought it would be kind of neat to take that same thinking to the brand. We are running with the mantra of "Own Less Live More" which is probably a little weird when you are trying to sell things but that’s cool. Hey, at the end of the day, if you could only have 1 bikini, it would have to be a Little Black Bikini, wouldn’t it?????
Bikini Bird: What is it like being one of the few male designers in women’s swimwear?
Mike: I’m not sure that I’d call myself a designer (I actually think its a pretty over-used word!). I'm super lucky that I get to work with a couple from the Gold Coast, Carl & Gail Birch who started the Iconic Australian swimwear brand "Cheetah"back in the 80's. These 2 have probably forgotten more about swimwear than most people actually know. The way it works is that I come up with a bunch of ideas which generally consists of some terrible hand drawn sketches, a poorly written brief and a few conversations with lots of hand gestures (I'm waving my hands madly right now). From there, Gail weaves her magic and 1 or 2 samples later, we get our finished product. The process is really old school and really simple, no computers, lots of pins, pens and paper.
Bikini Bird: You’ve worked in the industry for decades, what is the most important thing you've learned?
Mike: It’s pretty simple really (kind of goes with the KISS ethos!) You must be passionate. If you don't love what you’re doing, go and find something you love and go and do that.
Bikini Bird: Your suits are simple and stylish, where do you find inspiration?
Mike: It comes from all over the place. Lots of years doing what I do helps. So does spending as much time at the beach and traveling as possible. Spending way too much time on social media. Plus I love taking some of those 80s swim shapes and making them relevant to now. It’s all about doing something Stylish, Sexy & Timeless.
Bikini Bird: What has been the biggest moment for Kissmax thus far?
Mike: Just launching the thing and seeing something that you've poured your heart and soul into turn into something that people actually love is pretty amazing.
Bikini Bird: What’s next for Kissmax?
Mike: There's a few new shapes that we have almost finished sampling that are looking great and we have a Limited Edition Lily White collection coming out in a few months that I'm really excited about.
Bikini Bird: What do you think the biggest trend is in swimwear for next year?
Mike: The Little Black Bikini. Remember - you heard it here :)
Bikini Bird: It’s really cool how you donate to an organization, can you explain more in detail?
Mike: There are so many organizations that do incredible work for people with disabilities that get little or no support from the government, so I figured anything we could do would be of some benefit. At the moment we are supporting Down Syndrome Swimming Australia.We've run a couple of different charity auctions KeepItSimpleSnaps (photos) & KeepItSimpleShapes (surfboards) where Photographers and Shapers donated framed photos and surfboards that we auctioned at events and on Ebay. In total, we’ve managed to raised nearly $10K. That makes me really proud and I’m stoked that so many people have helped us along the way to raise the funds needed. We have a few new ideas for this year and are also looking to partner up with an organization or foundation in America & Europe.
Bikini Bird: All your suits are black but what’s your favorite color?
Mike: It’s debatable whether Black & White are colours so I’m going to have to pick… Blue!
Bikini Bird: Could you tell us some of your favorite spots in Aus for our readers? (beach, bar, restaurant, shop etc.)
Mike: This is tough question, the entire coastline of Australia is one big beautiful beach but it’s pretty hard to go past Northern NSW – particularly the area around Byron Bay. The Great Ocean Road down in Victoria (where we are based) is one of the most spectacular coastal drives you can take in the world, with plenty of secluded beaches. For Shopping and eating I don’t think you can beat Melbourne. If you can’t get your fashion and food fix here, there’s something wrong.