Designer Spotlight

Nicole Miller on the Danger of Gatsby and the Lure of Neoprene

Five questions for the Fort Worth-born designer.

By Kerry H. August 15, 2013

Ubiquitous designer Nicole Miller materialized in Houston again yesterday, showing off her  Fall 2013 collection (of which this slim denim patchwork suit is Houstonia’s favorite look) at a Tootsies benefit. We caught the designer before the event, and subjected her to Shop Talk’s five-question interview. 

You left Fort Worth when you were very young; does anything of a Texas influence remain?

We lived there for a couple of years and then moved to San Francisco. Basically I grew up in Massachusetts. But I was always called “the Texan” in my family – I was the only one in my family born in Texas. I was the only one that was Texan. I felt very special.

Is there a piece in your fall collection to which you’re especially attached?

I do like the collection a lot, and there are some great jackets. There’s a great shearling piece that I think didn’t get produced; we brought the one-of a kind here.

Is there an unmissable fall trend?

It gets a little crazy because everybody keeps rehashing the past. I just feel like you have to wear what looks good on you and create your own trend because in New York you see some people are really into the ‘50s, and they’re always doing this fit-and-flare thing. And there are people who are always doing the ‘60s, and people buy just into these time periods. I try to stay away from anything that’s that literal.

And in that vein, do you bemoan the influences of Gatsby and Mad Men?

I think all the movie trends are very short-lived. The Gatsby influence lasts like, kind of, for one party. It’s dangerous—oh it’s Gatsby, lets do some ‘20s dress, so there is a flurry of parties for a week and a half that are Gatsby-influenced, and then of course you don’t want to wear that stuff anymore so it’s back in the closet. That used to be big—movies creating trends—but I don’t think it is anymore. Unless it’s some kind of indie thing.  Like an indie film some current thing, a movie about a movement or a style or something that’s more street-fashion-oriented, that might take off. But as far as big movies creating trends, no. They create a department store’s window for a week. And then it gets like “oh my god, I can’t believe they’re still wearing those clothes.”

You’ve said that American women are safe in their fashion choices, which many people would say applies here. Any advice on how Houstonians can break out of the mold?

I feel like the women in Chicago wear very avant-garde fashion, but they don’t wear color. They’ll wear everything black and grey and avant-garde. If you go to a black-tie event in Chicago they’re wearing black but they are wearing assymetric styles and every avant-garde designer there is. So I feel like every city has their own thing. New York is really kind of—color, and girly dresses. They wear less edgy. They wear a lot of expensive clothes but they wear a lot of lady-type dresses. I think every city has their own identity. I think in the south they tend to dress pretty; and of course the south does color well. You go to places like Omaha and they’re super hip.

What material are you most excited about at the moment?

It’s not just me – everybody is into neoprene right now. But now that we’re into neoprene, it’s what can we do with neoprene, so now there is this embossed neoprene and laser-cut neoprene, and printed neoprene. I have some printed neoprene dresses here. It’s not the first time neoprene has come around, I mean we did it 15 or 18 years ago, it never really sold, we kind of gave up on it. But now it seems to be hitting the mainstream.


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