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by Courtney Smith
23rd Mar 2023

Stylist Courtney Smith travelled to London to catch up with her friend Millie Mackintosh ahead of the launch of her new swimwear collection.

I first met Millie back in 2017 when she launched her eponymous fashion brand in Arnotts. Having never watched Made in Chelsea, I wasn’t starstruck in the way most were, but I was indeed struck by her warmth and beauty … and most notably her incredible style. 

Ever since then, our lives have crossed paths on many occasions; Millie asked me to style her for her Woodstock-themed 30th birthday bash where she wore the most incredible lilac crochet two-piece ensemble by Raisa Vanessa, and in true style icon status, changed into a mini dress by the same designer later in the night. 

One of the last times we saw each other was four years ago, almost to the month, where we sat al fresco at a cute little Italian restaurant, eating pasta and chatting about life after attending a fashion event together. Neither of us had babies then, so fast forward to now, meeting her again, post-Covid, both as mothers of two is a gorgeous reunion.

Millie’s style has always been immaculate, what I like to coin as a “polished take on bohemian” and who I’ve often referred to as the younger Sienna Miller of our generation, with a personal style that has always been deeply coveted. So, it’s no wonder that Millie has the Midas touch when it comes to fashion collaborations, having had previous sell-out collections with ASOS, Pitusa and Very to name a few. 

Her latest fashion fusion with London/Greek beachwear brand Paolita is a natural partnership after wearing the brand for over eight years on her beautiful, lust-worthy getaways that we often see on Instagram. 

Millie co-created this collection with the brand owner and designer Anna Paola and it was important for her to be inspired by her own magic moments when dreaming up this collection. She reminisced about collecting shells on the beach with her mother as a child, something she now does with her own daughters, and this is at the core of the beautiful, geometric, hand-drawn shell print you see across the entire collection, which comes in a stunning palette of whites, blues and reds inspired by the Greek islands. 

The collection is true to Paolita’s iconic identity, which is playful, vibrant and colourful. The detailed features of frills, tassels and tiny belts in contrasting prints make it undeniably feminine and yet really fun. There are options of cover-ups, beach dresses and a high-waisted bikini as well as a reversible swimsuit, and both bikinis in the collection are interchangeable which means there is something for everyone’s taste in the 10-piece capsule.

All Paolita garments are made in small batches using local European artisans and created with the highest quality fabrics. The sheer print kimono in the collection is made of pure silk while the skirt, top and dresses are made with 100% cotton. The prints are exclusively created in Como, Italy and she then uses local female-only craftswomen in Romania to finish the small batch orders. 

While it’s the stunning design and prints that stand out from the collection, I’m told that most of the thought process goes into the fit of the swimwear, because creating swimwear that feels amazing on is the most important part for Anna Paola. Her mission as a designer is “to always make the woman wearing Paolita feel beautiful.”

Motherhood seems to have seamlessly worked into Millie’s life, and while it’s the filtered gaze of Instagram that makes me think she is just nailing it all, she assures me (which I already know all too well) that Instagram is just a small snapshot of her life. In fact, on the morning of her big press launch her youngest daughter Aurielle decided to wake her up at 3am… a situation I again know oh too well. Being a mum now, Millie was very aware that her followers would want more cover-ups and more body-shape-friendly pieces, and she has absolutely catered to that.

Millie was previously quoted by British Vogue saying “I design for my friends, my sister, sometimes my mum, the girl next door; for the girl I used to be and the woman I want to be.” And let me tell you, those words have never felt truer; as a Mum, I am not the girl I used to be. I’ve always been petite, but swimwear has never really been my forte. I have a large bum and a short torso so finding bikinis that I think are flattering is easier said than done. I’ve gone from extreme gym bunny and feeling incredibly confident in my strong body to a mama of two in three very short years. This means my body has changed, dramatically, and while I’m still petite in frame, I’m also soft around the edges, have a little extra skin on my belly and now that I’ve stopped breastfeeding, my boobs have deflated to a very small B. (Or perhaps an A if I’m being super honest!) 

Anna and Millie insisted I try my favourite piece (the high-waisted bikini) on in the nearby bathroom so I could understand the cut, shape and fabric rather than just looking at them hanging on a rail. Anna explained to me that so much work goes into the cut of the swimwear to elongate the legs and enhance the best parts of your figure. She is meticulous about where the leg line and patterns are placed and that features such as contrasting fabric panels are added to help contour the body. 

Fifteen minutes later, Donna, Millie’s agent, had to come knocking on the bathroom door to see if I was okay because I had been so long. I was okay. I was so okay that I was taking bathroom pics of myself in the mirror in this bikini because I felt utterly amazing. I felt so amazing I was half tempted to come out and walk, no not walk, strut around the press event for everyone to admire (FYI I didn’t!). 

But that is the power that a beautiful item of clothing or swimwear can have on someone, especially someone who is in a new phase of her life, trying to navigate a new style and new body. 

Swimwear can be a funny thing to purchase because most of us are only lucky enough to get away once in a blue moon so ‘investing’ in swimwear might feel like an extravagance. Unless of course, you find a piece or pieces that make you feel incredible, that you will pull out every single summer and want to wear. And I can, with authority say that I have found that in the ‘Gobi’ high-waist bikini bottoms and ‘Rhodes’ bikini top. 

If swimwear just isn’t your thing, then the ‘Bianca’ dress might be. This has a stunning off-the-shoulder neckline, romantic ruffles and a detachable belt. Think elegant and chic – the ultimate summer dress. The unique hand-drawn print and tiered skirt complete the look with a modern, whimsical touch and is the epitome of Millie’s summer style. 

The Paolita x Millie Mackintosh collection is on sale now at paolita.co.uk.