THL Talks: Michelle Smith of MILLY Explains How to Guide an Ace Brand Evolution


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Under designer Michelle Smith’s watchful eye, sportswear brand MILLY’s classic look combined with a feminine edge has gradually evolved into a contemporary look 14cult favorite.  In guiding a sped-up version of the evolution of her brand, Smith recently re-launched her site and debuted The MILLY Mag, the company’s first blog.  It’s pretty slick.  We sat down with Smith to chat about her new global outposts, the idea behind the blog, and her various collaborations with other creators.

The High Low:  You recently launched a range of new brand initiatives. Can you tell us about the path that brought you to begin the process?

Michelle Smith:  The initiatives I’ve been launching have been a natural progression – my collection is constantly evolving. As a logo is a filter to your brand, I felt it was important to debut a new logo that was representative of my design direction. My new logo is bold, modern, and feminine with an edge, just like my collection. Since then, I’ve unveiled two international advertising campaigns for fall ’13 and spring ‘14 in major fashion magazines in the US, UK, the Middle East, and Asia. I have also launched The MILLY Mag, which gives a behind-the-scenes look at what’s happening at MILLY HQ and in my life.

THL:  Can you tell us a little bit more about The MILLY Mag (which we love!)?  How is that incorporated into the brand evolution?

MS:  Thank you! I launched it in September to coincide with the relaunch of the MILLY NY e-commerce site, which is very clean, modern, and streamlined.  I like to tell the stories behind the clothes and share sneak peeks of upcoming collections. I love to make themed playlists, which I share on The MILLY Mag. As a designer, art is always a big influence in my life, so I have a feature called “Exhibitionist,” which is all about which galleries to hit up.

The MILLY Mag

THL:  Do you envision doing any design collaborations in the future?

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MS:  I’m always on the lookout for fun new projects that feel right. I recently launched a paper collection – the MILLY for Dempsey and Carroll stationery collaboration infused with my personality. There are some signature MILLY prints that echo my ready-to-wear collection, like the zig-zag and cheetah, as well as my personal favorite for this post-holiday time: “Sorry for Partying.” They’re great hostess gifts year ‘round, too.

THL:  With a shift in design, who do you see as the ideal MILLY customer?

MS: I’ve always felt that I’ve grown with my customer. I don’t have an ideal MILLY customer, but I do think that my designs are appealing to both the downtown girl and the uptown girl – it’s a mix of both worlds. I still use very luxurious European fabrics—my designs are feminine with an edge, which appeals to so many women.

THL:  And of course, with change underway, what’s on the horizon for MILLY?

MS:  This past summer, I launched a pop-up shop in East Hampton, which will continue again this summer. And globally, MILLY is expanding in the Middle East – last month, we launched a boutique in Kuwait, and over the next few years we will be opening several boutiques in that region, including Doha, Qatar and Dubai. It’s very exciting!