Meet Fashion Designer Michelle Smith, Creator of Milly
St. Louis fans of the women’s contemporary fashion line Milly will get the chance this week to meet designer Michelle Smith up close and personal, as Smith comes to town for a fashion show on Nov. 15 at Saks Fifth Avenue, showcasing her fall/winter 2012 collection. Born out of her lifelong love of fashion, Milly is known for its rich prints and colors, luxurious fabrics and attention to detail—infusing a thoroughly modern sensibility with a vintage vibe. Smith, a mother of two, recently launched her first children’s collection, Milly Minis, and is looking next to expand into accessories and shoes. ALIVE caught up with her to chat about her latest collection, celebrity fans and her No. 1 fan, Sophia.
ALIVE: What can we expect to see in this season’s collection?
Michelle Smith: My fall/winter 2012 collection is bold and modern. I merged innovative fabrics with traditional couture techniques, creating a unique and luxurious collection. In terms of color, my base palette is black and white, but I sprinkled in pops of color for some excitement.
ALIVE: What trends can we expect to see a lot of this fall and winter, and how do they manifest in your collection?
MS: You can expect a lot of leather, body-con dresses, bold statement coats and luxurious embellishments
ALIVE: What is your personal must-have fashion item?
MS: A statement coat is a must-have! I always have a fabulous coat at the office so I can throw it on after work and head to an event. A great coat makes any outfit look instantly put-together and effortlessly chic—which is important to me since I am always on the go!
ALIVE: What inspires you as a designer?
MS: I never really know when inspiration will hit—it’s usually when I least expect it! I am driven by color and prints, which always play a huge role in my collections.
ALIVE: Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Meryl Streep are just a few of the celebrities who wear many of your designs and pieces. How does it feel to see your work on such high-profile clientele?
MS: I am honored that women like Beyonce and Meryl Streep have worn my clothes! They are talented, admirable role models and it’s flattering to know that such inspiring women enjoy wearing Milly.
ALIVE: What’s been your proudest moment in the last year?
MS: I am always proud of each new collection and when I come out to wave after the runway. But on the personal side, my daughter Sophia started kindergarten this year and my son, Will, started nursery school—they are growing so fast, and I am so proud of them every day.
ALIVE: Can you talk a bit about your career journey? From fashion school in New York City to Paris to opening your own line…has it all played out the way you hoped/expected?
MS: I was always very determined. I resisted my parents’ urging to attend traditional college, and headed to NYC to attend the Fashion institute of Technology. I supported myself through FIT by working at the Hermes boutique, and when I graduated I was able to attain an internship at their headquarters in Paris. My experience there led to more internships at prestigious fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior Haute Couture. While in Paris, I studied at ESMOD design school, and upon graduation I returned to NYC to launch my career. My journey has not always been easy, but it has been an amazing path and I feel very fortunate to be where I am today.
ALIVE: Do you have any advice for someone interested in getting into fashion design?
MS: Like all fields, designing requires hard work and dedication. If it is what you love to do, then you have to follow your heart. I think it is really important to stay true to yourself and your vision while evolving creatively. You have to have faith in your ideas and your goals in order for them to come true!
ALIVE: Milly now creates purses, jewelry and the children’s line Milly Minis. What has it been like expanding your brand outside of apparel? Any other areas you’re looking branch the Milly line out to?
MS: It has been such an exciting journey and I am eager to see what the future brings. I definitely want to continue building Milly, possibly by opening more boutiques, and expanding in the categories of accessories and shoes.
ALIVE: How have your children, Sophia and William, affected your work creatively?
MS: Sophia, my daughter, was my true inspiration for the Milly Minis collection. I was really excited to have a little girl who I could dress up in my designs. She was actually the fit model in the beginning.
ALIVE: Are either of them interested in going into fashion design when they grow up?
MS: Sophia loves fashion and she always plays dress up in my closet, especially when I am getting ready to go out. She loves to visit the showroom and will often draw in my office while I sketch. I can definitely picture her doing something in the fashion world in the future!
ALIVE: What can St. Louis expect to see on November 15 at your Saks Fifth Avenue appearance and fashion show?
MS: I am excited to meet my St. Louis fans, and look forward to a fun night of fashion. The show will feature my holiday collection, so expect sequins and lace!
ALIVE: Just for fun, whose closet—living or dead—would you love to raid?
MS: That’s a hard question! I think I would have to say the late, great Nan Kempner. She had quite a collection of couture.