While it’s easy to attribute Nicole Miller’s longstanding success in the fashion industry to her talent, impeccable eye and instinct for what will look good on the female form, another reason might be that she’s just so cool. It’s easy to see why anyone would want to work with her, and it’s a given that she knows how to change up fashion staples to please the modern woman.
While at Tootsies recently for a trunk show and special appearance at the Women of Wardrobe event, she talked to CultureMap about her fall collection, some personal fashion mishaps and advice for style-challenged professionals.
CultureMap: What inspired your fall collection?
Nicole Miller: It was menswear inspired. We said, you know, girls who dress like boys, and we looked at old movie stars like Greta Garbo and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) and Katharine Hepburn, anybody who sort of addressed or was known for wearing men’s clothes and used that for inspiration.
CM: Have you every changed your mind midway through a collection?
NM: Oh always. It’s a process. I start out with a bunch of stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor. Or outside influences come in and mold it in a different direction. The seeds are still there, but where it ends up is not always where you thought it would. It’s an evolutionary process.
One thing I always say is don’t leave the house without looking in the rearview mirror. And that goes for your hair as well as for your clothes.
CM: Do you often look to pop culture for your inspiration? From where do you typically decide on the foundation for a new line?
NM: Sometimes it’s been wherever I’ve traveled. I was using a lot of vintage images. I mean I did a Byzantine collection and a whole collection (based on) rose windows about six or eight years ago. Then I did a lot of things based on my travels, like a Mayan collection after I visited Tulum. Sometimes I do this around-the-world thing. But, whenever I do something for too long I just change it up because I’ll feel like I’m in a rut, and I’ll feel like I keep doing the same thing, so I switch it up.
CM: So is that why you’ve expanded into designing other products, like wedding dresses and home decorations?
NM: I didn’t decide I wanted to go into wedding dresses; they decided they wanted wedding dresses from me. A lot of women wanted the evening gowns we had and asked us to make them in white. And a lot of employees would ask, ‘Will you make our dresses?’ But that’s been very successful for us, the wedding dresses. I really like the destination wedding dresses, I’ve never been into frou-frou.
CM: What advice would you give to a style-challenged professional who needs to look put-together and doesn’t know where to start?
NM: A full-length mirror and rearview mirror in your house, and spending a Saturday with all your stuff laid out on your bed and trying out all your different options. And then when you figure out what works for you, when you’re shopping, you’ll know what works. If I’m going on vacation for 12 days, I put everything out on my bed that I’m considering and I try everything on. And I don’t want to bring anything that doesn’t go with something. You know if I’m going to the beach I won’t take too much black.
CM: So somewhere between practicality and personal style?
NM: Well one thing I always say is don’t leave the house without looking in the rearview mirror. And that goes for your hair as well as for your clothes. I went to a breakfast once, and all the women at this breakfast, their hair looked like a rat’s nest. And they had just combed the front of their hair and it looked like they had just woken up. You have to look at the back of your head and your clothes. And you want your butt to look good.
CM: You’d think with their stylists that wouldn’t happen. Where was that?
NM: In New York, at a breakfast! I remember another time I was in New York and I wanted to wear something different that wasn’t my own, just something different and far-out, so I was trying on things but there wasn’t a rearview mirror in the dressing room. And I stepped out to see it, and it looked horrible because the dress had a weird pleat that fanned out and made me look huge.
CM: You saved yourself from that dress. Have you had an embarrassing fashion moment that you didn’t prevent?
NM: I went to the opera in Milan and these friends of mine went shopping at Louis Vuitton and I got this amazing dress that I loved and the zipper just wouldn’t stay down; it went all the way up my back. And this was a $2,500 dress! And of course I was wearing thong underwear. I gave the Italian men a show!