MILLY founder showcases collection, shares advice

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A model wears a black dress designed by MILLY Founder Michelle Smith at a private showing of her fall collection at NorthPark Center’s Neiman Marcus. (DANIELLE DERALEAU/The Daily Campus)


Last week Michelle Smith, the founder and head designer of MILLY, showed her new fall and holiday collection at Neiman Marcus in NorthPark Center. The private event in the store allowed guests to preview the line that will be arriving soon.

“I enjoy designing for fall,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of components you can play with; a lot of layers that you can’t necessarily do as well or as easily in a spring collection. There are jackets and vests and bits of fur and fun pieces. I just sort of anticipate what I’m tired of wearing and what I’m excited to wear next.”

The collection showcased prints designed by Smith. It also featured clothes with leather details or touches of shine, luxurious sweatshirts and sheath dresses with a twist.

“I think [this collection] is very sophisticated and feminine, but with an edge to it,” Smith said. “I love to take classics and sort of turn them on their head. Like, take a classic pencil skirt and cut it out of a fantastic hologram leather.”

Smith began the show by thanking everyone for coming and talking about how she began in fashion design. She said she had always wanted to be a designer from the time she was little.

“Around the age of 11 my art really turned into the form of fashion illustration. From there I became very focused on fashion design specifically. I got a scholarship to take weekend art classes at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia when I was in high school. This was when I lived in New Jersey, so I would take the train and go to the big city on the weekends. As a high school girl, it was really fun,” Smith said.

“Then I decided I wanted to go to FIT in New York against the wishes of my parents, because they wanted me to go to a traditional university. But I’m just lucky it worked out okay. I worked part-time at Hermes in New York to help pay for school. That lead to an internship in Paris with Hermes and that’s when I decided to live there [to] continue my education.”

Smith enjoys using both prints and color in her collections. She recently returned from a trip to Paris where she was looking at fabrics for a new season.

“For me, [the inspiration] starts with the fabrics and color. When I get back from the fabric show in Paris about two weeks later I receive all the swatches that I ordered,” Smith said.

“There are thousands of swatches. I start making piles and collages on big boards and I build from there. It’s much more about an impulse, sort of a gut reaction, the way I design.”

Smith also showed a collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in September. She said that a life in fashion never stops.

“Fashion week was great. It’s such an exciting time. It’s sort of like a pressure cooker; all this pressure builds up and excitement and then the show lasts nine minutes. It’s so fast. Right after the show, a few days later, I was in Paris for the fabric shows for fall 2014. I show a new collection every month so there’s not a lot of down time. I’m working on five collections right now.” Smith said.

“I’m going to be on an episode of ‘Project Runway’ right after Christmas. I’m doing a designer challenge. I filmed it during the summer. It was professional, the way they came into my studio with camera crews and those tracks for the cameras to slide on like they were making a movie. They just set up so quickly and then they break down so fast. It’s amazing. It’s a very well oiled machine.”

During the show at Neiman Marcus the guests took pictures and admired the clothes on the racks. One of the sales associates said many of the guests told her they wanted her to let them know when the pieces came in.

“I think [the girl I design for] is a girl who’s educated and loves fashion,” Smith said. “She gets the references and the clothes. I think the bottom line is that every woman wants to look beautiful and sexy.

“[My best piece of fashion advice is] don’t follow every trend. Not every trend is right for every body type. People should buy clothing that flatters their body and not wear clothing that’s too tight. Even if you’re a size zero and you buy a tight dress, it’s not going to look good. Buy clothes that fit properly and follow the trends that flatter you.”

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