I recently had the opportunity to interview American fashion designer Nicole Miller. Miller has been designing for 25+ years and has one of the most successful fashion houses in the world. To be able to sit down and chat with her during her personal appearance in Houston, Texas for a trunk show at Tootsies, was needless to say, a dream come true.
Comparing your American training at Rhode Island School of Design to what you learned in Paris, how would you say the experiences differed? And what did you take away from both training to launch your career?
The school in France was more old-fashioned and traditional couture training with a lot of draping and the Rhode Island School of Design focused more on avante garde and conceptual design, which provided a lot of creative freedom.
Do you think it’s important for designers to study in other countries, if they can, to hone their craft?
It was good for me. I think the most important thing for a designer is to have a vision and to back up your vision, you need experience and to learn technique. The world has really changed, in Europe, more designers are real designers, whereas, in the United States, there are a lot of “designers” who are not really designers, but a lot of hype and promotion. There are a lot of brands in America that really don’t have designers behind them.
How did you get your start in fashion design?
In the past, a designer would get out of design school and try to get a job with a company that actually existed. Today, a lot of designers get out of design school and they want to have a line with their name on it. Some of them have managed to be successful because there’s a lot more money around now, more than there used to be, so now people have money to back them. When we were starting out there wasn’t that much money around. My business started with under $1000 dollars.
What were some of the hurdles you experienced in launching your line?
One thing we didn’t have was the financing, so the clothes had to sell. Often people don’t expect a profit for 3-4 years, but we had to make a profit right away. So it was really important that our first collection sold and sold a lot.
A lot of young designers would look to you for mentorship and advice. In your career who were the mentors that contributed to your career growth and success?
Well, I don’t really know that I had any. My business partner, I guess, because he had been in business longer than I had. I had a couple design jobs working with other designers, but not for very long. A lot of experience was earned on my own. A lot of try all and error. Instead of saying trial and error I say “try all and error”. You have to persevere.
What advice would you give to new designers trying to get into the industry and have their clothes picked up by boutiques and department stores?
One thing that is really important is make sure your clothes fit. I always like to buy 3 brands from new designers and try them on. I’m always amazed at how poorly the clothes fit. It’s really important that your clothes have a really good fit.
How important was it for you to hit another demographic of consumers by having collections at J.C. Penny’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond?
That’s been great. I think it’s really important to get out there and be able to reach more people. A lot of people said that they can’t afford my clothes, and I felt that I really wanted to reach a lot more people. You know everyone shops at places like Topshop and Zara now.
What is the look for your Spring/Summer 2014 collection?
I’m going longer this season. I’ve always done pretty short skirts, so I thought this year I’m going to go longer and loosen up the pants.
And finally, what’s next for Nicole Miller?
We have a shoe license coming out in the Spring!
- NYFW Fall Winter 2016 Day 7 Trend Report - February 19, 2016
- NYFW Fall Winter 2016 Day 4 Trend Report - February 15, 2016
- NYFW Fall Winter 2016 Day 3 Trend Report - February 14, 2016
- NYFW Fall Winter 2016 Day 2 Trend Report - February 14, 2016
- NYFW Fall/Winter 2016 DAY 1 TREND REPORT - February 12, 2016