Miller in her New York Studio                                                                     

“Years ago you could do this type of photo printing, but it had to be on synthetics, and there were not many good polyesters out there,” she continues. “When printing on fabric went digital, all of a sudden, you could produce these amazing effects on silks and georgettes and cashmeres and wool coating. It is a whole new world now; anything is possible.”

 
  From her studio wall, a portrait of Miller by Philadelphia pop artist John Stango

Indeed, adhering to that yin and yang—wearable must-haves that, upon closer inspection, push design to new levels—has always been at the heart of Miller’s philosophy. “I am definitely someone who believes in design innovation, and I am always a little amazed by designers who make expensive clothes but [make it] about buying super-expensive fabrics,” she says. “It is easy to buy three yards of $200 fabric, but that is not design—that is just buying someone else’s expensive fabric.” She mentions another designer whose prices far exceed Miller’s: “A friend said they saw someone in one of my dresses, and it was actually [not my design],” she recalls. “It was funny and flattering, thinking they might have been influenced by some of the things I am doing, and my dresses are $500, whereas others [out there] are $2,000 or more.”

“One of the greatest things about Nicole is that she is an incredible designer, but there is absolutely no ego there; she just puts her head down and works, no matter what,” says Dougherty, who was one of Miller’s wholesale reps for more than 20 years before opening the Philadelphia boutiques. “She loves to push boundaries while still producing collections that are timeless and an amazing quality and affordable. You just cannot get a better combination than that.”

On the Road
With the economy still a hot topic in just about every retail or fashion conversation, I cannot help but ask Miller if it is more vital than ever to get out on the road and do personal appearances and fashion shows like this month’s event in Philadelphia. “Sure, you have got to keep doing everything, otherwise it is too easy for people to forget about you,” she notes. “There are so many celebrities being designers and socialites being designers, it is not enough to just sit back and design clothes anymore. You have to be out there and on top of everything nonstop. The world has changed, and you have to keep up with the world.”

While a few of her new looks boast more than a bit of “Rebel Rebel,” there is already a hint that another culture will soon be finding its way into a future collection. “I went down to do a fashion week in Santo Domingo recently; I kind of went on a lark, but it ended up being a great experience,” Miller says. “It is a colorful country with a lot of great people, and it gave me some great ideas. I met these crazy guys who dressed really eccentrically, and I think you will see bits of that in my Resort collection.”

Dougherty, for one, is not surprised. “One of the things I love about Nicole is not only that she is always looking ahead, but also that she is pretty fearless and always ready to embrace new ideas and new experiences,” she says. “It is one of the reasons Nicole just gets better and better.”

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