ESC: Trendsetters at Work, Milly

As a new designer, dressing Taylor Swift for her first, big world tour is basically as big time as it gets.

Michelle Smith, Creative Director and Founder of Milly, is crazy accomplished. The thoroughly modern clothing (and now accessories) line creator brought her industry knowledge (that she'd accumulated from her trainings at major fashion houses like Dior and Louis Vuitton in Paris) to the streets of New York, and thus her collections were born—loved by A-lists everywhere.

The gorgeous lines, playful colors and prints and hilarious sayings (like this swimsuit one on Lea Michele) that are Milly are truly perfect for any wardrobe. So read up on the designer, how she got her start and the other huge celeb moment that happened early on in her career. (Hint: It involves Jennifer Aniston.) 

ESC: Trendsetters at Work, Milly

What was your first job?
When I was 15 I baked cinnamon buns at TJ Cinnamons! Sounds sweet, but to this day I can't go near cinnamon buns.

How did Milly come to be?
I founded Milly with my then-boyfriend (and now husband) when I was 27. I had recently moved back to NYC from Paris, where I had gone to design school and trained at Christian Dior Haute Couture, Louis Vuitton and Hermes. I wanted to create a women's clothing collection which combined my love of French couture and Parisian style with the inimitable energy and irreverence of New York City.

Who was the first celeb to wear one of your designs? 
Jennifer Aniston wore a dress from my very first collection on Friends. I believe it was a wedding scene, and I was over the moon! A beautiful, A-list celeb wearing my dress on one of the most popular TV shows of all time? I still pinch myself.

Who was the first celeb you dressed?
I dressed Taylor Swift for her first, big world tour, right after she won a CMA and Grammy for best new artist.

ESC: Trendsetters at Work, Milly

What's the best part about your career?
I love to make women feel confident and empowered through my designs. I'm an artist—I love creating—and I'm so thankful I get to do that every day, and have the infrastructure to make my design dreams come true—from initial sketch to finished product.

What's a typical day like for you?
My morning is devoted to my kids—getting them ready for school, dropping them off, etc. Then I take care of myself. I work out almost every morning (either yoga or running or spin). Exercise keeps my creativity and positive energy flowing, and it's great for my body, too! Then I go to the design studio—sketching, fitting, strategy meetings—then I'm home to help my kids with homework and have dinner with them.

What fashion trend do you wish would go away?
Jeggings with holes and rips all the way down the leg. Ugh. So tired.

ESC: Trendsetters at Work, Milly

What's the most daring career risk you've taken?
I redesigned my logo 5 years ago. I am constantly evolving as a designer, and my former, vintage-inspired logo no longer represented what I was about. I like clothing that is modern and forward-thinking. Happy to say, the risk in changing my logo was successful!  I was passionate about it, and when there is true passion behind a move, I believe it is felt and appreciated.

Who are your career heroes?
Gloria Steinem, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Michelle Obama. They are all strong, trailblazing women who are confident, compassionate and fiercely intelligent. They feel a moral obligation to speak out for what they believe in and they each have a great sense of humor.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
My father always told me, "Whatever you do in life, do it right or don't do it at all." Simple and true.

ESC: Trendsetters at Work, Milly

Finish the below sentences.

Today for lunch I had…a spinach salad with mandarin oranges, green peas, cherry tomatoes, corn, bacon bits and mushrooms.

The first website I log onto every day is…

The last thing I Googled was...Star Wars conspiracy videos. I am a huge Star Wars fan, as are my children. 

My usual coffee order is…mocha latte with an extra shot, light on the chocolate with whole milk.


If I wasn't doing this job, I'd be…a painter or sculptor. Actually, both.

List five things on your desk right now…sketches, fashion magazines, a container of raw almonds, Smith's rosebud lip balm, lots of pencils, pens and markers.

The book I'm reading is…The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

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