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Interviewing designer Michelle Smith in the middle of the packed opening of her first Milly store in the US, was probably a bit like trying to pull Mick Jagger away from a Rolling Stones concert—if devoted Stones fanatics wore brightly colored vintage-inspired clothing that Jackie Kennedy would have loved. To enable us to conduct our interview, the beloved Smith had to sneak away from her mid-century American and French accented store's main room, which sells women's ready to wear, accessories and Milly Minis childrenswear, to its small bridal salon featuring a new capsule collection of Milly wedding gowns.
Racked: How did you decide what the décor would be here? It's beautiful.
Michelle Smith: It's very much my own tastes—it's like the décor of my own apartment.
Racked: And the artwork is your own?
Smith: Yes, we're really excited to share our art collection. The piece that you see outside is by Margeaux Walter. It's a photographic lenticular. She photographs herself in lots of different poses as different people. She used to work for Jeff Koons.
Racked: You have a lot of socialites wearing your line. What is your background?
Smith: I'm from Connecticut. Went to high school in New Jersey; fashion school in New York City. Then I lived in Paris for three years, then came back to New York, worked for a few companies and then started Milly.
Racked: And were your family blue bloods or socialites?
Smith: Well, my family has been in the United States since 1640, maybe.
Racked: So yes.
Smith: Pretty old...but I'm very low key.
Racked: You also have a lot of celebrities wearing your clothing. Is there anyone you haven't dressed that you'd like to?
Smith: Natalie Portman! She's very smart and accomplished and I love smart accomplished women.
Racked: Who are some of your favorite designers?
Smith: I love Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, I love Prada, I love Marni. I love Lanvin. Those are my favorite labels.
Racked: Is there any item of clothing that your fans would be surprised to find in your closet? Like say a motorcycle jacket?
Smith: Oh boy, I have a Milly Motorcycle jacket from a few years ago. It has pretty gold buttons on it. I think people are surprised by my weekend and my morning attire. It's running tights and sweatshirts.
Racked: You consistently make the best coats—we're completely obsessed with your coats. They're always so stylish. Is there a certain aesthetic you aim for when you're designing a coat?
Smith: I've just always loved statement coats. It's the first thing people notice when you enter a room. I think it's a very important put-together piece. You could be dressed like a slob in jeans and a T-shirt, and you put on a polished coat and you're good to go. It's funny, my husband's father's business was a coat company. They really have the knowhow of how to construct a beautiful coat. So I think I learned a lot from that.
Racked: You recently started making wedding gowns. What made you decide to do a bridal line now?
Smith: There's this whole new thing going on with brides where they buy two dresses. They have the wedding dress and then the reception dress, which is usually shorter and sexier. So we have a collection of reception dresses and a few of the bridal dresses. (pointing to a ruffled gown on the wall) This one was an exclusive for Elle Japan. It was purely editorial, but now I've added it into my collection. It's great, I have my first order on this from a girl from San Francisco.
Racked: So you're now doing wedding gowns, jewelry, purses and the Milly Minis children's line. Are there any other areas that you're looking to branch out into in the near future?
Smith: I would love to do shoes, eventually. And maybe open more stores once I get used to this. I like to take baby steps and not take on too many projects at the same time.
Racked: Any last things you'd like us to know?
Milly: I'm just so excited to finally have my own store. I started my collection ten years ago and this is such a fun way to show everyone my true vision. I hope they enjoy being here. I really want it to feel like my own home.
· Milly [Official Site]