Designer Dossier: MIRAME

MIRAME Swimwear

Because “mirame” means “look at me” for a reason.

What happens when the daughter of a Central American mother, European father, and granddaughter to a seamstress who used to create custom dresses for Zsa Zsa Gabor, sets out to create a swimwear line? She blends vibrancy and subtlety alike to both reveal and conceal strategically, resulting in MIRAME: aptly translating (from Spanish) to “look at me.”

With a mission to empower women one suit at a time, designer and New York City native Melinda Huff successfully offers silhouettes exuding a powerful confidence that can’t help but be noticed, not to mention offer a versatile beach-to-bar sensibility. Life on the North Shore of Oahu, taking courses at FIT, and learning directly under swim legend Norma Kamali are just some of the influences seen throughout MIRAME – and their signature 1-Piece silhouette.

We caught up with Melinda on all of the above including her top do’s and don’ts for swim shopping, what’s always in her beach bag, and because we had to ask – what 3 items she’d bring if stranded on a desert island.

MIRAME Designer Melinda Huff
MIRAME Designer Melinda Huff

Your swim story began during your time living in Hawaii, on Oahu’s North Shore. What do you miss the most about living there and do you think you’ll ever go back (to live)?

Hawaii is the best! I miss the sunshine and healthy living. We ate seafood that we literally caught ourselves, as well as lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. If there was more of a fashion scene there, I would definitely return!

You come from a family history of design as both of your grandmothers were seamstresses. Growing up did you always think you’d end up in the design world?  

I always, always knew I would end up in design. I recently ran into a family friend. He recounted a story about when I was five, and I told him I liked textiles. Who does that?!

My grandmother, as a surprise, made my 8th grade graduation dress from a sketch I had handed her. I was hooked from that moment.

What drew you to swim in particular?

It started in Hawaii, and further developed as I got into dance and fitness. I began thinking about how the body moved as well as how to adorn it when it needed to perform – whether it be sweating at the gym or gliding through the waves. Swimwear is about celebrating the beauty of the body and the joy of life. I couldn’t imagine a better category than that.

As a New York native, your mother is Central American and your father European. How have these global influences impacted your design choices and brand as a whole?

My father grew up in post WWII Germany, which was all about restraint. In opposition, my mother came from a flamboyant, sensual culture. I tend to walk that line in my designs – playing with the idea that you can both conceal and reveal the body to offer a more dynamic interpretation of sexy.

You’re very committed to keeping production 100% in the United States – as well as sourcing fabrics and trims from American suppliers. What about keeping production in the U.S. is most important to you, and what are some of the biggest challenges you face?  

I love the craft of fashion, purely and simply. Keeping production in the USA allows me, as a craftsperson, to uphold a certain level of quality and ethical integrity in my product. I am also a nature lover, and want to make sure that the production of my product is not creating a huge carbon footprint.

The biggest challenge about manufacturing in the US is the limitations on utilizing certain materials and techniques. For example, I would like my swimsuits to have even more construction, but the lack of domestic machinery, and high cost, makes many of these techniques prohibitive.

In 2013, you were chosen (from over 1,000 applicants!) to participate in The Workshop at Macy’s, a highly competitive Minority/Women in Business Initiative. How important was this to you and what was your biggest takeaway from your experience there?

The Macy’s program was fantastic! It really allowed me to understand merchandising more deeply. It also increased my awareness of the level of logistics necessary to work with such a large organization. The final presentation each designer made at the end was also a great experience…very Shark Tank like!

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Upon your return to New York, you really earned your swim chops running the sample room & production for Norma Kamali. What are the top 3 things you learned from your time there?

  1. Pay attention to the details in regards to manufacturing (especially).
  1. You can make products you believe in, work on your own fashion schedule, and still be enormously successful.
  1. A self-funded business can be successful.

Many of your pieces are versatile enough to wear in, and out, of the water. What are your top 5 tips for transitioning swimwear to outerwear?

  1. A fitted blazer can make any maillot look elegant off the beach.
  1. Make sure to pair the suit with a looser fitting bottom if VPL’s [Visible Panty Lines] bother you.
  1. Adding a chunky necklace can help the suit read more as outer/ready-to-wear once you leave the beach.
  1. Make sure you are comfortable with the level of bust support the suit offers. When laying down on the beach, you may not notice the suits support/lift level. Be sure to check this before heading out to brunch. You can always pack a seamless bandeau in the beach bag to layer underneath if you need extra support when out and about.
  1. Remember, you will need a few extra minutes to use the restroom!

What 5 essentials must be in the beach bag?

  1. Sunscreen
  1. Coconut Water
  1. A wide brimmed hat
  1. A good novel
  1. Granola bars

What are your top 3 DO’s for swimsuit shopping?

  1. Go shopping on a day when you are feeling positive about yourself!
  1. Choose a silhouette based on your body type, rather than trends – look to your wardrobe for reference (ie, sweetheart necklines, midriff shirring, etc.).
  1. Bring a friend who will give you supportive, yet honest feedback about the looks.

What are your top 3 DON’TS for swimsuit shopping?

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask the salespeople for help – they have seen every body type and are experts.
  1. Don’t fixate on the area(s) you are not as secure with – assess the whole silhouette.
  1. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into being too fat, old, skinny, short,… for a swimsuit. Looking sexy is as much an energy as it is a look. If you like something, and feel good in it, then you will make it look sexy!

Because we have to ask – if you were stranded on an island, what 3 items would you have with you?

  1. My sewing machine (solar powered of course :)).
  1. A super hot guy
  1. My toothbrush. In that order.

What’s next for MIRAME?

We are introducing several new legging silhouettes this fall, as well as some T’s as part of our Mirame Move collection. We are also working on a top secret collaboration with a very well known artist. Stay posted for details.

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If I weren’t designing swimwear, I would be: A social worker and a novice chef.

If I could have any 1 person in the world (past or present) wear MIRAME, it would be: Beyonce

My favorite swim moment in film is: Probably the pool scene is Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty. It’s a coming of age story and the American character shows up in her one-piece while her European auntie is sunbathing topless…I love the juxtaposition.

If you were to find me on the beach, I would be wearing: The Mirame Kaylee suit in the black/white/gold combo, and my straw sunhat from the African market.

If you were to find me at the bar, I’d be drinking: Probably because I’m German, I love beer. My long standing favorite is New Castle.

If I could pack up and go anywhere in the world tomorrow, I’d go to: I would love to go Brazil.

Bikini or 1-Piece? 1-Piece all the way

Cover-up or Sarong? Cover up

Poolside or Beachside? Beachside

Surfing or Scuba Diving? Surfing

Beach House or Lake House? I’m a mountain girl at heart (I lived in CO for 6 years and summered in the Adirondacks), so I have to say Lake House.

Sunrise or Sunset? Sunset I IG @mirameswim I Twitter @mirameswim

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