Chic Lessons with Nicole Miller

by Natasha Silva-Jelly
Nicole Miller
Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller will take to the runway at NYFW for what will be her 50th-plus show. So it’s safe to say the doyenne of American fashion is an authority on success and survival.  Listen up new designers…

Don’t be too headstrongand never say never. “When I started I would always say, I would never do this and that, I would never put a ruffle on a dress. But the way people dress changes, and you should, too.”

Beware the celebrity designer. “It’s a very weird time—many good designers are stuck in the back room working behind a celebrity label. The public seems to want the celebrity, not the designer, especially in America. My advice to young designers is to have a clear goal, go for what you want, and don’t get stuck in a rut.”

Always aim for reinvention. “People dress more casually today. I’m a guilty party, sitting here in my ice-skating clothes. We now dress women for every aspect of their life—casual occasions, cocktail parties—and we make great jeans and separates.”

Embrace technology. “I love innovation, especially technological. I am always looking for cutting-edge fabrics and new materials. I studied at the haute couture school in Paris [École de la Chambre Syndicale de la  Couture Parisienne], so I have a technical background. We do all our patterns and draping in-house, a skill I feel is being lost. These days, a lot of designs are being sent as a tech pack to Asia—you’re at the mercy of their pattern makers.”

Runway shows should be magical. “My first one was for the Fall 1991 season, and we had Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Yasmin Le Bon, and Gail Elliott on the runway. The show was at Laura Belle, and was very ’60s mod, with lots of color blocking. We showed 58 pieces, and when it was over I was like, We have to do another one.”

Trust your instincts, and don’t be railroaded. “I’ve done around 50 shows over 25 years, which is crazy. Every show is different and sometimes you look back and think, I love, love, love. Others, you say, What the hell was I thinking? We always work with stylists—some are great, and everything falls into place, and sometimes, you have to put your foot down.”

All retail goes through a threeyear slump. “It’s like in a romantic relationship—things start out wonderfully, and then they dip. You need to keep things interesting for customers—do events, make sure your windows are very creative, ensure that your staff are happy and engaged. Fun experiences can now be created online, too. I’m reasonably tech savvy, but social media has created so much extra work—we now have someone doing Instagram and Pinterest full-time.”

Inspiration is everything.
“I am inspired and invigorated by my staff. For my collections, I am often inspired by ancient cultures and strong warrior-like female characters. My customer is a good girl with a bit of a bad girl edge to her. For fall, we’ve gone with a Nordic idea—I wanted everything to be snowy and icy. Maybe it’s the lack of winter around!”

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