Michelle Smith started her Milly line of clothing ten years ago and never looked back. 2011 will be a banner year for the brand that is sold in retailers like Bergdorf Goodman -- the designer is launching children’s clothes, handbags, jewelry and her first flagship store on the Upper East Side of New York. The designer talked with us about having a decade-old business under belt and how her aesthetic has evolved through the years.
What does this ten-year anniversary mean to you?
I can’t believe it’s already been ten years, it has gone by so quickly, it’s really incredible. It’s great to be able to mark my 10th anniversary with my first flagship store. I think it really shows how much I have grown as a designer and also as a company. There is nothing quite like standing in your own store surrounded by your designs.
You are expanding into a lot of new offerings this year. Tell us about it.
Yes, this year we are launching children’s wear, handbags and jewelry. It’s a very big year for us. The children’s collection I am particularly excited about is called Milly Minis. My four-year-old daughter, Sophia, was my true inspiration for the collection. She was even the fit model. Overall, it was a natural progression to translate Milly’s signature bold prints and feminine chic into these new categories.
What happened ten years ago that you said, I want to start my own line?
I always knew that I wanted to be a designer. I worked for some other companies, mostly luxury companies like Hermès and Christian Dior. I also worked on 7th Avenue for some very traditional brands and I just got to the point where I realized, I have a very distinctive point of view, and I really know what I like. I had a lot of confidence early on that I could have my own brand, with a distinctive voice. I'm not going to say it was easy starting off. People thought I was crazy, especially since I was going into business with my then boyfriend, who is now my husband [Andrew Oshrin, who is now CEO of the company].
Where did the name Milly come from?
It’s my nickname!
How have you evolved as a designer over the last ten years?
I think my designs have become more intricate and they have grown up as I have grown up. When I started I was 27, and now I am 38. They have progressed as I have progressed. And I have kept learning along the way.
What’s your favorite part of the design process?
I love fabrics and colors and my favorite part of the process is making color and fabric choices. For fall 2011 I was drawn to emerald green, beautiful sapphire blues and jewel tones -- I wanted the collection to have a really rich intense color palette.
How have you managed to have such a broad customer base?
It’s so wonderful! I see everyone from high school girls to women up into their 70s come into the boutique. I think because there is always this classicism to the collection, which appeals to a lot of different people.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Finding the time to do everything. I’m a mom to two. I get through it by just figuring things out along the way. And sometimes you have to just let things slide and move on.