When it comes to modern fashion, MILLY founder and designer Michelle Smith successfully takes classic silhouettes to new and daring levels. Any given visit to the MILLY boutique at Arraya shopping center delivers on the promise of bold, progressive styles with a feminine edge. She is most definitely the contemporary atelier, blending Parisian tailoring techniques with American sportswear influences.
Growing up with an unwavering desire to study fashion, Smith knew her calling and did everything in her power to pursue her dream career that led her to establish Milly more than a decade ago. She first earned a scholarship to the Moore College of Art and Design to study fashion illustration during high school until she merited a place at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology and while her parents helped with the tuition, she supported her expenses by landing a job at the Hermés boutique in Manhattan. Smith considers this feat as her first stepping-stone toward the greater dream. She worked in retail, and helped Jackie Onassis buy a tie once. More importantly, Smith honed her skills and paid attention to quality and impeccable detail. Upon graduation, she wrote to the President of Hermés requesting an internship at the Paris headquarters. Her request was granted, making Michelle Smith the first American Hermés employee sent to work in Paris with the legendary fashion house. From there, she went to the ESMOD fashion institute, and found herself also interning for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Torrente and Christian Dior during her time there.
Three years later, Smith returns to New York, possessing a wealth of skills that she acquired while living abroad, and founded MILLY in 2001. Since she embarked on her journey, Smith applies her seasoned attention for detail, knowledge of luxurious cutting-edge fabrics as well as precise tailoring to grow MILLY into a cult favorite that is now recognized across the globe. Smith’s vision for a complete ready-to-wear collection was always there, which further expanded to include a wide range of categories such as MILLY handbags, small leather goods, Cabana swimwear and even MILLY minis – a dedicated collection for the little ones inspired by Smith’s daughter Sophia. Smith speaks to bazaar about her fashionable journey, and even highlights her favorite picks from the collections available in Kuwait.
FASHIONALITY DESIGNER INTERVIEW
bazaar: When did you first become interested in fashion?
Michelle Smith: I always knew I wanted to design –from the time I was a child, I would sketch fashion illustrations on the kitchen floor. My mother was very encouraging and brought up the idea of going to Paris for design school very early, which was something I worked towards. I later headed to NYC to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology – I supported myself by working at the Hermés boutique on Madison Avenue.
bazaar: Why the name, MILLY?
Michelle Smith: MILLY was my childhood nickname!
bazaar: Does fashion ‘make’ the person or does the person ‘make’ fashion?
Michelle Smith: I believe women know what they want – my customer takes fashion risks and looks for attainable luxury. Style is very personal – I love to see how my designs are mixed and matched on different people. That’s what makes fashion fun.
bazaar: How would you describe MILLY’s style?
Michelle Smith: The DNA of MILLY is advanced, bold, and feminine with an edge, with luxurious fabrics and vibrant prints and impeccable details. I use luxurious, cutting edge European fabrics in my collection, and I design many of my own prints – I place a great deal of emphasis on custom hardware as well – details are important to me. I travel to Spain, Italy and France myself to choose the fabrics for my collection.
bazaar: What/Who inspires your designs for MILLY?
Michelle Smith: My collection is constantly evolving – each season, the inspiration is different, but the DNA is the same – my designs are advanced, bold, and feminine with an edge, with luxurious fabrics and vibrant prints and impeccable details.
bazaar: Can you tell us about MILLY’s Summer collection?
Michelle Smith: My spring/summer collection is an ultramodern interpretation of traditionally feminine silhouettes. I used three-dimensional technical fabrics, layered transparency and architectural illusions. I was inspired by a trip I took to Hawaii and Japan and my collection reflects this – I created custom-made prints based on Hawaiian floral patterns and laser cutting techniques inspired by perforated Japanese architecture.
bazaar: What does it take to become a style innovator?
Michelle Smith: Indefatigable drive and talent.
bazaar: What item of clothing (if any) do you wish that people wore more often?
Michelle Smith: I’m a big believer in a statement jacket. It elevates every look.
bazaar: To be stylish is to be fashionable. True or False and why?
Michelle Smith: I think everyone has the ability to be stylish – it’s about letting your personal style shine through.
The Milly Boutique is located on the ground floor of Arraya Center in Sharq. Please call 2299 7739, or visit www.millyny.com for more information. Stay updated about Milly Kuwait’s latest collections on Instagram @MillyKuwait.