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For designer Nicole Miller, fashion was all around her growing up. She remembers the days when it was impossible to walk down 7th Avenue in Manhattan without seeing people dressed to perfection or looking chic while boarding a plane. Born in Paris and raised in the United States, Nicole became obsessed with fashion from an early age. She was inspired early on by old photos of her French mother in Paris and by reading the fashion magazines her mother had shipped from France while her father ran a business in the garment district. Fashion was his world. As a child, Nicole aspired to be a model. She idolized the top models of the 60s – Twiggy, Veruschka and Jean Shrimpton, to name a few. Living in western Massachusetts, she would jump at the chance to fly to New York just to shop and return to her small town with her new edgy outfits. When she realized she would never be big enough to be a model, she pivoted and focused on designing clothes.
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Directly after high school, she attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in apparel design. She studied 2D/3D design, illustration, life and fashion drawing as well as anthropology and art history. She spent a year in Paris at the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture where she mastered the classic French techniques of haute couture. During her studies, she completed several internships, one of which launched her legendary career as a designer. His internship experience is priceless. Working for a popular, hip and trendy designer, she enjoyed the process, the design, the production and above all, the fashion shows. Although she was working her dream job, she felt a void. She left to design raincoats, a personal passion of Miller as she is obsessed with details and hardware. One of his raincoat models was finally presented in the New York Times among other publications.
Soon after, Miller got his big break working for a new contemporary and activewear company, PJ Walsh, which had just launched in the United States. In just a few years, she rose through the ranks to become chief designer. The company eventually folded and Miller was forced to pivot again. This time, with his business partner, they scooped up $100,000 and brought in his former colleagues to start his own company, Nicole Miller, which was established in 1982.
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For Miller, drawing never stops as she continually imagines new designs, concepts and techniques. However, through all the success, Miller received his share of disappointment. During her first year in business, she had a problem with production not thoroughly inspecting a beaded top that fell apart when customers tried it on. All his profits were to be returned to him. “Disappointments will come, and you have to be resilient and work for it. One day you might think you’ve done something great, but it’s not selling. Becomes a very big reality check. Then you analyze and find out why it didn’t sell.
But rising from the ashes can be magical. After the production debacle, Miller had designed an Asian bomber dress with a smocked elastic hip, somewhat avant-garde for the time. The dress took off and boosted the company’s revenue into the millions. It was the piece that got the company through the first year and versions of it were made by other designers. Duplication is the best form of flattery. Trends tend to experience something of a renaissance, and Miller understands that old patterns can eventually be replicated. What Miller disagrees with is copying the exact design and claiming it as “original”.
If there is any advice she can give to young creators, it is to first develop your identity very early on. “While there are versatile designers, the more focused you are, the better you become as you grow as a designer” She also recommends, “Don’t be stubborn. Allow yourself to grow. She credits her licensing business for the success of her business. Nicole Miller licensed products include eyewear, shoes, handbags, homewares, kitchenware and more. “People don’t have didn’t want to do it. I did licenses and I’m really happy to do it.
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In business for four decades, Miller has gained some notoriety, but she’s taking recognition head on. “Yeah, people ask me if I’m ‘Nicole Miller.’ I’m still surprised because there are so many people who go by my name. She plans to eventually move away from the brand, but until then she’ll continue to enjoy the benefits. “My name is really good for restaurant reservations. “