Funk in the trunks

Local label Made in Paradise is determined to make waves, writes Pavan Shamdasani

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 10:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 11:34pm

SWIMWEAR IS NOT THE obvious style choice during the autumn-winter season. But, not one to be bogged down by convention, Hong Kong-based swimwear brand Made in Paradise recently released its debut collection, an autumn-winter line based heavily on relics from the 1990s.

The brand is targeting a streetwear-loving crowd and stocking its wares in quirky Hong Kong stores, such as Juice, Konzepp and Club 21, as well as online at Hypebeast, Backroom and the label's own

Made in Paradise was started by Maurice Maghnagi and Vishal Sani, two longtime Hongkongers who met as teenagers at Island School in the late-1990s. Both were heavily influenced by their home city and decided to express themselves through their favourite format: fashion.

"I wanted to create a brand that reflected my upbringing and all the awesome times and experiences I had here," says Maghnagi. "Made in Paradise is very much a lifestyle brand, rather than just a swimwear line. It's about promoting parties and continually causing trouble."

The debut collection is undoubtedly loud, but there are appealing highlights, such as nostalgic geek favourites Tetris and VHS, alongside more subtle and contemporary patterns, such as the graffiti-themed Tag.

Upscale grooming store Gentlemen's Tonic is among the brand's supporters. "Gentlemen's Tonic is family to us, as I was involved in bringing them over to Hong Kong," says Maghnagi. "We have loads of cool initiatives scheduled with the store."

While it may sound like two international school kids starting up a swimwear brand with daddy's connections, the truth couldn't be more different.

Both partners have paid their dues in the fashion world. Maghnagi started out at 17, selling retail skatewear across Hong Kong, while Sani's first job was packing boxes in a warehouse in New York.

Since then, each has started their own small but growing business: Maghnagi focuses on wholesale distribution of up-and-coming labels in China and Taiwan, and also provides consultancy services to major Western brands trying to break into Asia.

Sani works in the sourcing and production of twill fabrics (i.e. denim and tweed) for such names as Abercrombie & Fitch and Billabong.

The pair feel a fresh perspective is exactly what's needed.

"A lot of swimwear brands out there are playing it safe these days. We want to push boundaries with Made in Paradise, to bring back nostalgic prints that people can relate to," says Sani. "We're not about lobsters and starfish - we want create prints that evoke emotional responses and hopefully do that in a contemporary way."

"Every aspect of the brand is a joint effort on both myself and Vish's part," says Maghnagi. "If I had to be honest though, the creative side is what keeps me going, as the ideas are endless."

Made in Paradise's spring-summer 2014 collection is set to come out in April and is based on the theme of travel and aviation, with the brand hoping to make the line available in specialist stores across Europe.

The two are also hatching a number of ideas for additional side projects - "way too many to count", says Maghnagi - but the secretive nature of entrepreneurs means they won't disclose much detail.

Major plans, however, include a women's accessories concept set to launch in March 2014, under the label of Unclaimed Goods, as well as a creative approach to leftover food called Pakalunch. But despite having their fingers in numerous pies, what they are focused on is keeping the Made in Paradise collections fresh.

"One of our aims is to avoid being stereotypical," says Sani. "Our hope is each Made in Paradise design appeals to a large audience. What I think is cool is that the same design may take on multiple meanings, depending on the guy wearing it."

From left: printed men's swimshorts Paint, Rave and Tetris.