Meet MILLY’s Michelle Smith
Meet MILLY's Michelle Smith
MILLY founder and designer Michelle Smith discusses her journey to success and how she learned her value as a designer in the ultra-competitive fashion world.
What was your experience when you first launched MILLY?
MILLY had a fairytale start. From the launch, I exceeded my greatest expectations. I met my yearly sales plan in the first three months of bookings. I always knew I wanted to be fashion designer and an entrepreneur. I love being my own boss, calling my own shots. My beginnings were very humble; I feel like I am living the American dream every day.
Have you ever questioned your value?
Yes, during the financial crisis of the late 2000s. This was probably the first time I had to sit back and realize having my own business was not just a piece of cake. Running MILLY had been quite easy up until that point. The fashion industry, particularly, became a confusing place as the market lost confidence — people stopped shopping almost overnight. It took a long time to recover.
How did you handle that challenge?
I lost my direction for a few seasons when I became confused from a fashion point of view. It was difficult to design from the heart but also design to please an industry. Fashion had shifted to a tough, aggressive, leather biker-look around 2009, and that’s never who I was as a designer or brand. I found myself adapting, even though it was not where my heart and soul was. I was very dependent on the large luxury retailers buying my collection, and that’s what they wanted.
What did you learn? How did you rediscover your self-worth?
I took a step back and asked myself what I really wanted for MILLY and what I loved as a designer, and I stopped worrying what other people thought or expected. This was a turning point, and so I rebranded MILLY from the inside out. I re-evaluated my look, my philosophy, and my professional inner value. I am a mother and a business woman, but I am not perfect, and I think my customer is a lot like me. I knew I wanted to create pieces that made women feel amazing, empowered, and beautiful, so I refocused and redirected my attention to making MILLY not just another clothing label, but a lifestyle brand.
You can also check out more MILLY advice here:
Five spring fashion trends for the office: How to incorporate the spring 2015 runway trends into your work ensemble.
Dress like a boss with 8 key pieces: Michelle Smith’s top mix-and-match wardrobe essentials.