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Studio Visit: M.Nii

  • Roderick from our Venice shop recently had the opportunity to visit the M.Nii studio.  Helmed by industry veterans and avid surfers John Moore and Randy Hild, the menswear brand grew out of a mom-and-pop tailoring shop in Waianae, Hawaii that became known among serious surfers in the 50′s for its durable shorts.  The duo pieced together the shop’s history and set to work reviving the label, beginning with its original Makaha Drowner short (named after the famed Oahu beach with legendary waves), and launched an inspired menswear collection that’s at home both on and off the beach.

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    Randy and John

    M.Nii shorts are known for their durability. How long do they typically hold up?
    Greg Noll called his original Makaha Drowners “bullet-proof,” and that’s how we’re building them today. Double the stitches-per-inch on our seams, and our Makaha Drowners are made in a 2-ply 100% Cotton Ring Spun twill that just get’s better with sunshine, saltwater and traveling. Beat ‘em up, surf in them and hang ‘em out to dry, and they just get better and better!!!

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    You make your clothing right here in LA. While this certainly has its advantages, manufacturing in the US can be challenging. How do you make it work?
    Survival! Actually, we owe it all to a brilliant man named Raul Montano. He’s our production and development director and he lives on the factory floor. Literally has a desk downtown and we hardly see him. Raul’s got the best attitude and he’s in the trenches everyday developing relationships with the factory owners, cutters, makers, sewers and washers and monitoring the quality, make and finishing. All of our competition who is reading this is probably going to to try and poach him now… Hands off. He’s our super hero!

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    In what ways is the current Makaha Drowner similar to the original trunk, and in which ways has the design evolved?
    The original “Drowner” design was so functional…the curved side seams and straight waistband allows these trunks to ride stylishly lower on your hips, the original M.Nii notched patch pocket shape (an M.Nii tailor shop signature), and the button-fly waistband is a purist’s dream. We even replicated the backside of the zig-zag stitched hem, ’cause we like how it looks as your trunks weather. The original buttons were ceramic . . . how’s that? Ceramic buttons! They don’t make them anymore, but I will keep looking. Hard to improve on the original . . . don’t fuck with love!

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    How did you approach expanding your assortment to include other products, like your tees and polos? What went into the decisions to use certain materials, and where did the design inspiration come from?
    We always try to begin with a historic reference, maybe a collected vintage sample or a photograph. And we consider what hanging out around the M.Nii tailor shop and Makaha Beach was like in the fifties and sixties… The mix of surf pioneers, vagabonds, the surf chicks, and mid-century luminaries alike all in one place. This really was the origins of surf style and long before logos and labels became part of the mix. So we gather these visual sparks and combine them with our imagination for a clean, graphic and timeless approach to modern menswear. A razor sharp fit and superior finishing is everything to us.

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    Do you have any photos of the original M. Nii tailoring shop you can share?
    We’ve got one photo with the dudes hanging on the porch. The sign says “M.NII TAILOR… SUITS, PANTS, SHIRTS, LADIES SUITS, SLACKS, LADIES, MENS, SHORTS, MADE TO MEASURE, PHONE 63111,” all caps and in that order. And we know they made band uniforms for the local island schools which is why they had the “bullet-proof” twill and all the decorative tapes. Beyond this image, I’ve seen another water-color rendering of the shop, but that’s it. Apparently, it’s a strip mall now . . .

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    The original M.Nii Tailoring Shop. Photo courtesy of M.Nii.

    Many thanks to John and Randy! You can find M.Nii in our stores and in our web shop.

    - Photos by Roderick Hunt

    This entry was posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014 at 8:30 am and is filed under In Stock, Spring 2014. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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