Milly Makes a Statement
Milly designer Michelle Smith knows a little something about luxury. Before striking out on her own in 2001, she learned from the best with apprenticeships in France at Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior Haute Couture. Fast-forward a decade and Smith has really come into her own. This is a big year for Milly. A new accessory collection, a charming girls’ line and a flagship store in Manhattan will all make their debut. For spring, Smith serves up a collection that is a sophisticated, spirited mix of bold colors on full-skirted dresses with slender bodices, cropped jackets with long skirts, fitted sheath dresses and statement coats. We caught up with the busy designer for a “behind-the-seams” look at all the excitement. You can, too, when Smith visits Saks at Waterside Shops on April 13.
Were you thinking of any particular women when you designed this collection?
Peggy Guggenheim served as my inspiration. She was accomplished, well-traveled and stylishly eccentric, and she inspired me to create alluring and unexpected combinations of pattern, texture and color with an emphasis on proportion and contrasts.
Who are your favorite stars to dress?
Milly’s loyal fans include Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, Beyoncé and Thandie Newton, as well as Dr. Jill Biden. Young starlets, including Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood and Selena Gomez, have also been sporting Milly.
What key elements from your spring collection can update what’s already in the closet?
A great lightweight statement coat in a bold hue or print adds a chic factor to your wardrobe and is an easy way to look pulled together in an instant. I also love to update my look for the season with a fabulous new bag. A glossy patent leather in a bold color is fun but remains polished in structured silhouettes.
Any suggestions for those of us who are shy about short skirts?
A woman should feel comfortable in whatever she wears. Sophistication and glamour are most obvious when the wearer feels her best in her ensemble. The good news is that for spring, the hemlines returned to more ladylike lengths, either in maxi or just-above-the-knee versions.
When considering shorts, opt for a flat-front or Bermuda style—something with a bit longer inseam—as a smart choice for someone who is shy about shorter hemlines. Also, be careful about fit. When in doubt, get the next size up. The shorts will fall nicely, and the fabric won’t stretch where it shouldn’t.
Tell us about the handbag collection you’re introducing this season. Is there a signature Milly bag?
My goal has been to create a truly designer-level handbag in terms of design detail, quality materials and finishing, but at a contemporary price point. The line features beautiful details, rich textures and vibrant colors with luxurious, full-grain leathers such as soft, tumbled nappa lamb, shiny goatskin and glossy patent. I used couture fabrics from the ready-to-wear collection to accent select styles. I love the signature Milly handbag with vachetta leather trim and button hardware; it’s a wink to Milly’s ready-to-wear heritage. The Sophia handbag, named after my [four-year-old] daughter, is done in shrunken nappa with tortoise resin chain strap.
What inspired your Milly Minis collection for little girls?
The Milly Minis collection, for girls ages two to seven, features the same fabrics and prints from the women’s ready-to-wear collection, in adorable shift silhouettes with cut-out back details and grosgrain ribbon finishes. With spring 2011 marking our 10-year anniversary, and the launch of accessories and opening of our first flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York, now seemed like the perfect opportunity to introduce the collection. Girls love to dress like mommy. I know firsthand.
Gulfshore Life’s Style Council
Led by Denise Cobb, the members include Penny Anderson, Patty Baker, Mary Susan Clinton, Shirlene Elkins, Heather Fitzenhagen, Susie McCurry, Amy Oshier, Connie Rosellini and Cynthia Sherman.
WHERE TO BUY Milly
The Beach House of Naples
1300 Third St. S., Suite 203, Naples; 261-1366.
Waterside Shops, 5489 Tamiami Trail N., Naples; 325-6100.
The Ritz-Carlton, Naples
280 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples; 598-3300.
Saks Fifth Avenue
Waterside Shops, 5395 Tamiami Trail N., Naples; 592-5900.
Bell Tower Shops, 13499 S. Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers; 489-0980.
1300 Third St. S., Suite 202, Naples; 435-0004.