When Michelle Smith, American fashion designer and entrepreneur, and I met for breakfast a few months back here in London on one of her fleeting trips over the Atlantic, I floated the idea of this piece, and I am absolutely thrilled that she agreed to be the next LLG A Day in the Life contributor, the series I instigated to highlight extraordinary women in business, and to provide incredible role models for women looking to forge a path for themselves.
Michelle’s distinctive – and beautiful – aesthetic lies at the heart of MILLY. She would describe it as “transforming classic silhouettes by merging American sportswear influences with distinctive Parisian atelier techniques”, to which she adds an eye for impeccable detail, luxurious, cutting-edge fabrics and precise tailoring.
Michelle’s work ethic is at the heart of her company, and her personal journey highlights her dedication to her personal vision: she won a scholarship to Moore College of Art and Design to study fashion illustration during high school, and later entered New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, where she worked simultaneously at the Hermés boutique in Manhattan to help fund her tuition.
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.
While in Paris, Smith continued her studies at design school ESMOD while interning at Louis Vuitton, Torrente and Christian Dior Haute Couture. Smith returned home to New York three years later, intent on establishing her own design business, and founded MILLY in 2001.
As a special Christmas treat for LLG readers, we have set up a unique code MILLYLLG which will give you all 15% off full price items on the MILLY site.
Now, over to you Michelle:
6:30am: My day begins when my iPhone alarm goes off. I keep it plugged in inside my closet so that I have to get out of bed to turn it off!
7:00am: I wake my kids up and help them get dressed. My husband, Andy, who is the CEO of MILLY, cooks breakfast. My children wear uniforms to school—not only do they look cute, but it makes mornings easy. Win-win.
8:30am: Once the kids are off to school, I love to start my day with a workout. I am obsessed with intense spin classes called SoulCycle. My favorite teacher, Stacey, has so much energy and the music gets me amped up for my day.
9:30am: Afterwards, I head next door to Juice Generation to get a “Hail to Kale” juice. Made with kale, apple, watermelon and lemon, I always feel rejuvenated after drinking one. I love walking home after a hard workout – it’s the time when I get some of my best ideas.
10:15am: I shower and change—one of the benefits of being a woman designer is that I get to wear all of my own clothes. The MILLY NYC Boutique is right in my neighborhood so, afterwards, I usually pop in for a bit to see how things are going. I’ll talk to the staff about best sellers and say hi to customers or give some suggestions for the upcoming windows.
11am: I am are currently deciding on colors and fabrics for Fall ’14—one of my favorite parts of the design process. I travel to Paris for fabric shows a few times a year and I work with some of the best Italian fabric mills—fabric and color is where I start when I’m looking for inspiration. I deliver a new collection every month, and I make sure that I have time to sketch for a few hours every day to ensure the designs get completed on time.
I am ready for lunch, so I grab a slice of the best New York pizza I’ve ever had from the local pizza shop across the street. Then I meet with our handbag department to review our new collection, which keeps expanding.
1:30pm: Next, I meet with the marketing team to go over ideas for trend shops we’re launching on our new ecommerce site, millyny.com. We have fun thinking of names for them every week. (“Brunch Bitch” was left on the cutting room floor but we all got a laugh…)
3pm: I chat with the stylist about our next ad campaign concept, and we choose which looks we’ll feature. It’s so hard to decide—every piece is like my baby.
3:45:My fit model, Bridget, comes to try on all of the pieces from the most recent collection. I try everything on, too, to make sure every detail is perfect. (Fun fact: Bridget was once first-runner up for Miss USA.)
5 pm: I spend time with the assistant buyer to finalize which pieces we’ll buy for the MILLY ecommerce website, the MILLY boutique in New York City on Madison Avenue and, our most recent outpost, the MILLY Boutique in East Hampton on Main Street. After that, I meet with our web merchandiser to select images from our MILLY Minis photo shoot, in which my daughter, Sophia, is a model. It’s always fun to see how everything is styled and I love to see the collection in its entirety on our site.
6:30pm: At the end of the day, I finish up any last minute requests before Andy and I leave work together. I stop by the MILLY Boutique during a charity event to spend an hour chatting with customers, whilst Andy heads home to check on the kids. Then I head home to eat dinner with my family and hear about everyone’s day.
8:00pm: After reading bedtime stories and putting the kids to sleep, I hide my iPhone away in the closet and catch up on a good book before heading to bed. It’s a long day, but I feel lucky to do what I love.