Home American fashion company Nicole Miller is the ultimate cool girl — MARIST CIRCLE

Nicole Miller is the ultimate cool girl — MARIST CIRCLE

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Nicole Miller has always been the ultimate cool girl. As she welcomes us to her New York showroom, she fits the description. Her hair and makeup were still perfect at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday in New York City. Six hours earlier, Miller’s audience was that of hello america, discussing styles from the previous night’s MET Gala. Now her audience is the ladies of Nicole Miller Manayunk – social media intern Molly Dalton, marketing and retail coordinator Zara Barrett, and myself, Emily Spennato, a former intern, writer and alumna. Marist student. For us, it’s a big moment – Nicole Miller. But the atmosphere is relaxed. Miller really is the ultimate cool girl.

She curated her brand to what has been described as the perfect balance between city center and downtown. His workspace on Seventh Avenue reflects this image; business as usual, but never boring. As a designer, she stays true to her personal style – classic with edge, like her signature red hair. Bright colors and prints on classic shapes are one of his specialties. Luckily for Miller, it’s now an industry driven by innovation and technology, two things she’s always prioritized. As any business owner knows, these were also essential survival skills during the pandemic.

Uptown, Downtown and all over the world

While as a designer she is New York through and through, Miller’s fashion roots can be traced back to Paris and Rhode Island. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, and raised in Massachusetts and New York, she spent time developing her skills at the Rhode Island School of Design. However, it was during his year at The School of the Parisian Couture Union Chamber in Paris that she learned to treat her creations as a work of art. Born to a Parisian mother, Miller has always experienced the influence of French fashion and culture. I was also able to taste the French way. After graduating as a Marist, I pursued a master’s degree at the American University in Paris, so I resonated with what Miller said next. “It was very different from an American educational institute,” she explained. “Everything had to be done with a needle and thread. We had to mark the grain lines with thread and it took forever. You made this whole dress and sewed all the seams, then you presented it to the teacher. She looked at him and said “It’s not chic” and walked away. After a while, I understood that you were working on a work of art.

However, tough love seemed to work well for her, as it was these fabric manipulation skills and techniques that helped shape her career. She leaned on what she learned during her studies and became known for her pleating and draping. These styles shaped her signature dresses. “I’ve always loved my creases and creases,” she said.

Coming off of a year where comfort came first (Goodbye, abandoned prairie dresses!), Miller is excited to once again design for a world with events. Dresses are and have always been her specialty. “I have to say I’m glad the trends have come full circle for body shapes. Everything was so Victorian and I’ve never been one for it. I love bright colors and I’ve always been good at Miller’s playful and bright Spring 2022 collection once again reflects what people think about fashion – excited! Miller was no stranger to the difficulties of the pandemic as a designer and businesswoman. pandemic, we did a lot of things ourselves. We were doing tie-dye and embroidery. It made us more empowered. We also started doing more upcycling. For his fall collection, Miller features a recycled flannel patchwork in a not-so-subtle nod to the schoolgirl vibe of the 90s.

Miller adapts to change by continuing to design for her wearers in addition to what she draws inspiration from. Nicole Miller’s Spring 2022 collection combined “nature with abstractions, full of bright psychedelic flowers, surreal prints and abstract shapes”. He channeled the work of Polish pop artist Wojciech Fangor and featured prints such as “My Happy Place” designed for a crew neck sweater, long evening dress and button down blouse. Miller’s youth and playfulness keep his clients surprised and excited to see something new.

Riding the wave of technology

Whether it’s a restaurant, a vacation destination or a major fashion trend, Miller has always been the first to try something new because that’s how you gain perspective. and in inspiration. However, as a designer of the digital age, she also knows that people will always want the sequel. “I really feel like sometimes you’re a victim of your own success,” she said. “You keep making this dress and you say, ‘I don’t want to make this dress anymore!’, but people keep buying it and then ask why you’re not doing anything new. Well, you didn’t want anything. other !

Miller saw joining the COVET Fashion app/video game after its initial launch in 2013 as an opportunity to share more of his styles with a wider audience in hopes of solving this problem. The gaming and styling tool, available on Apple and Google Play stores, allows users to discover and engage with real fashion brands and trends, and get recognized for their style. As one of the designers featured, Miller saw it as a great opportunity for her business, as the app has only grown as digital media becomes more relevant, especially after the pandemic caused a increase in online shopping. “We’ve been working with COVET since the very beginning,” she said. “It has been very beneficial to us and has a very large population.”

This demographic is building the future of the fashion industry on the foundation Miller laid. With the advent of technology, influencers and digital media experts have emerged. When it comes to choosing her own influencers and representing her style, she says brand identification is important to her. “I’m more interested in developing relationships with people who really love my designs, and that takes time.”

Sustainability and the Dreaded F-Word

Many designers and business owners struggle to navigate the digital landscape, but Miller uses technology to streamline sustainability. “I’ve always loved technology and progress, but I feel like the focus on sustainability is greenwashing,” she explains. “I think the real problem is mass market companies mass producing for people who just think they can throw these things away when they fall apart. When models come for a casting and they have a cool pair of shorts or shoes, they get them from Zara. Fast fashion is a real problem.

Miller tries to build sustainability into every collection, whether it’s using fabrics made from recycled materials, upcycling garments or hand-embroidering pieces. She points out that it is difficult to find recycled fabrics that seem of sufficient quality. “Something like a large Italian fabric made from recycled fibers; I like them when you can find them, but very often these fabrics are more expensive and you have to make sure that if you buy one it is really special and people will pay for its uniqueness. If it looks like anything else, you can’t sell it. As a true innovator, Miller also knows when to think outside the box, even in the way she gives back. “I refuse to do charity t-shirts,” she laughs. “Do something cool. There are cooler things we can do to support charity. Spoken like the ultimate cool girl.

What is the Philly Connection?

Philadelphia fashion innovator Mary Dougherty first met Nicole Miller in the early 80s when she began representing her at her wholesale business. Miller’s business partner Bud Konheim convinced Dougherty to open a Nicole Miller licensed store in Philadelphia. But where? Originally, they had the bustle, bustle and glamor of the city center in mind. However, there was a long term option. At the time, Manayunk was a booming neighborhood destination with a cool restaurant scene, but it needed another retail gem. Suddenly, there was an internationally recognized designer name on Main Street, and Manayunk solidified his point on the Philadelphia map.

It was Manayunk’s innovation that spurred Mary Dougherty to open the doors of Philadelphia’s first Nicole Miller store in 1994, and it’s the same innovative, scrappy business model that has driven them ever since. In 1997, Mary was already opening a second location at the Bellevue Hotel, fulfilling this dream of also being in downtown Philadelphia. Longtime retail expert Jillian Dunn oversaw the Bellevue site for eight years before joining Nicole Miller Manayunk as managing partner in 2020… just months before the pandemic hit.

Throughout their careers, Dougherty and Dunn have experienced social unrest from 9/11 to the financial crisis to political unrest, but nothing has rocked the fashion industry quite like the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19. When the city of Philadelphia ordered businesses closed in March 2020, door-to-door drop-offs, Zoom dates and online shopping became the norm for Nicole Miller Manayunk. Every social event is gone, as is the need for Miller’s signature evening wear. After canceling all dress orders, Dougherty and Dunn shifted their focus to activewear. Additionally, they curated a space for virtual shopping appointments and partnered with influencers to connect with new customers. And even in the toughest times, Dougherty and Dunn managed to keep their philanthropic spirit alive. The team sold thousands of masks and donated a portion of the proceeds to the COVID-19 Relief Fund, Fuel the Fight, Homefront NJ and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Conquer the future

The Nicole Miller Manayunk store has been to Manayunk for 28 years what Nicole Miller has been to the New York fashion scene – a constant for the familiar, a hidden gem for new eyes. One of Miller’s most valuable assets has been her ability to channel what works for her as a designer, in addition to asking, “What comes next?” However, the pandemic has proven that adaptability is far more valuable than foresight.

As young industry professionals, Dalton, Barrett and I learned from Dougherty and Dunn the longer version of what Miller sat down and told us: that there is complexity and power in the dress up game and that fashion doesn’t. tell you when to change, it tells you. Customers don’t always know exactly what they want and they trust us to tell them. It’s a more frustrating game than outsiders think, but we’ve learned to make our moves like Miller. Because at the end of the day, we’re just cool girls taking it from the ultimate cool girl herself.