Behind The Brand: Kissmax

  • Style
posted by James Willmott

Created as a tribute to the notion of the simple life, Kissmax is all about liberating your life and wardrobe. Starting from humble beginnings on his kitchen bench, Kissmax founder, Mike Blackwood has built his brand up from one simple black bikini to the trademark minimalist style you see today.

We sat down with Mike to talk about his life, his success and the work he does with Down Syndrome organisations as a homage to his son Max – the inspiration for the brand.2016-11-23_10-51-05
Thanks for catching up Mike! For those who don’t know, give us a run down on your role?
Well… I’m the founder and a bit of a one man band, so I do a bit (a lot) of everything. Product, marketing, sales and everything in between. Luckily I’ve got some great friends that help me out!

What’s your typical day in the office?
Starts early, finishes late. I’ve got 3 kids that have to get out of the house before I can do anything. Once they’re sorted it’s coffee and decide if I’m surfing or not. No day is ever the same but they always involve lots of emails, phone calls and too much time on social media. Hopefully shipping lots of swimwear out the door.

So you’re a bit of a one man band. What’s the best thing about that?
Running your own brand involves way more work and hours than a lot of people realise. I get to choose when I need/want to work and if I have other stuff to do, I just do it with zero guilt. Plus being the boss, I’ll never sack myself.

Where did the name Kissmax come from?
It’s from the acronym Keep It Simple Stupid (The KISS theory) and after my son Max. The full story is on our website but basically its about “ in life you don’t really need that much to make you happy”, so I just thought what would that look like as a swim brand.

You first came to life in 2013 and have been killing it ever since. What’s the Kissmax secret?
Not sure if we are killing yet but we are continuing to grow and having a great time in the process. The secret would be, you’ve got to love it, you’ve got to believe in it and never ever give up. It’s crazy the highs and lows in running your own business.

Give us a brief history of Mike Blackwood. You’ve been a part of the industry for over 3 decades I believe?
I started working in a pretty iconic chain of surf shops when I was 16 and worked my way through, from store manager to buyer and a bunch of other roles, until I ended up as GM and part owner. From there I went off to Quiksilver as sales manager and over a 15 year+ period I worked in product sales & marketing for both Quiksilver & Roxy, with the last 3 or 4 years heading up Quiksilver Women’s.

We can imagine there is a fair bit of travel involved in your role, has there been a favourite destination the brand has taken you so far?
Probably Hawaii because that’s where  I decided that Kissmax was going to be a real thing. When I finished up at Quik I went back to Hawaii  for the first time in over 10 years to do a bit of soul searching. I’d forgotten how much I loved the place and after 2 weeks of spending as much time as possible in the ocean (maybe too many beers & cocktails), I literally wrote a business plan on the beach and the rest as they say is history!

You’re a part of some good causes in the community. Tell us about them?
I just thought it would be nice if we could help out some crew and with my son Max having down syndrome. Down Syndrome Swimming Australia seemed like a nice fit and someone we would like to help out when we could . We did some stuff with some shapers (Keep It Simple Shapes) and really cool little photo exhibition called Keep It Simple Snaps, where we auctioned a bunch of photos from some epic surf photographers from all over the  world, the proceeds all going to help the team go to the world champs in Mexico a while back. We really should do another one soon, so any photogs or creative people out there hit me up!
How would you describe your workplace?
I work from home and have been lucky enough to just move into a killer new place with a separate office which makes a nice change from the kitchen bench. For the most part its clean, light, white and simple.

What’s been the best experiences about running your brand?
Just still being around is awesome. It’s kinda hard to believe that 2 summers ago we came out with the Little Black Bikini, that was the first style. Now we have 5 styles and even a couple of colours. Also, just having people tell you they love what you do, that still makes me smile every time I hear it.

What’s one motto the Kissmax team live and breathe?
There’s 2. “Keep It Simple” & “Own Less Live More!”

What’s next to come for yourself and Kissmax?
Just keep doing what we’re doing . Got a couple of product collabs in the wind which is exciting. Hawaii and Bali trips sooner than later I hope!