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Interview: Designer Nicole Miller shares her inspirations and love of Philadelphia

Miller is perhaps best known for popularizing statement prints during the 80s. A master of pleating, her collections have evolved to include graphic prints, structured blazers, and flowing skirts.

Nicole Miller celebrated twenty years of business in Philadelphia last Thursday, April 24 during a private reception at Mary K. Dougherty's Bellevue boutique. Dougherty, who started out as a road saleswoman for Miller, is throwing twenty events in 2014 to celebrate her milestone working with Miller. The region's top customers were invited for a night of champagne toasts, hor'dourves, shopping and glow in the dark cotton candy.

Bud Konheim, CEO of Nicole Miller, was there in spirit. The duo started working together in 1976 when Miller took over design of Konheim's newly formed P.J. Walsh collection. Six years later, P.J. Walsh closed when the pair opened up the eponymous line, Nicole Miller.

Miller is perhaps best known for popularizing statement prints during the 80s. A master of pleating, her collections have evolved to include graphic prints, structured blazers, and flowing skirts.

As vintage looks from the Miller archive stood at the step-and-repeat awaiting attendees, I sat down with Miller to ask some of our burning questions.

Where do you look for inspiration? Do you have a process when designing a new collection?

Different years I've done different things. I feel you have to just turn everything upside down. Some seasons it's harder to find inspiration than others and sometimes I've been on a trip and I'm so inspired by that trip and boom there it is! Sometimes I research history or look at art or old movies. Sometimes you have to hunt for inspiration and sometimes it lands on your lap. Every year is different. Every season is different.

What's inspiring you this season?

Right now we're working on our resort collection. I've been inspired by the color blue. Inspired and obsessed by the color blue. It's funny because I'm back and forth between favorite colors, blue and green. As far as stones go, I always like emeralds better than sapphires.

Do you have a most successful dress? How long did it run for?

Yes, I've had a few over the years. One dress that I made in 1980, 7525 was the number, we made it as a blouse and a dress and we sold tons and tons of them. There's a dress I've been running since the 90s. It has a double v-neck. In the front and back with two pleats at the waist. Customers love it because the pleats go across their stomachs and flatten. That dress was a huge phenomenon. We still make it today. We made it short and long and then I evolved it into more pleats. I'm really into innovative pleating.

How do you feel about jumpsuits?

Oh I'm totally into jumpsuits now. I remember we were really into jumpsuits in the 80s, 70s and 80s. Now we see them again. Another thing I'm into is long pleated skirts. We did a couple of pleated dresses on the runway last season. I think we're hitting a long skirt period. In the old days when miniskirts were out, you had to wear the maxi skirt. When maxi skirts were out you'd have to wear the next trend. Now all the trends run concurrently. Everyone can wear the same things at the same time.  Platform shoes are never going away. Flats are never going away. Stilettos aren't going away. Your shoes don't go out of style. Before you couldn't wear a shoe for more than a year or two. Now I have shoes that are eight years old that I'm still wearing because they're totally in style.

How do you feel about wearing a shorter dress to a formal?

Well I think that's totally fine now. There's more and more wearing shorter dresses for black tie.

What has it been like working with Mary the past twenty years?

Well we've spent a lot of time together over the years. We've done a lot of fun things. I don't think we've ever had a fight. We've always gotten along on every level. We were just getting our kids into college this year.

You have collections with JCPenney and Bed Bath and Beyond. Any other collaborations or collections in the works?

Well we have a new shoe line which is doing really well. I have a new iPhone case coming out with a mirror. Everybody needs an iPhone case with a mirror! You really can't put makeup on well with the phone camera.

Why do you feel such a strong connection to Philadelphia?

I've always had a connection to Philadelphia. My father was from here. I had two relative who were mayors of Philadelphia in the 1700s. I have deep roots in Philadelphia.