Milly by Michelle Smith returned to the runway this fashion week with class, verve, sophistication and color. Forget fall lulls and winter whites, Milly, much like Anna Sui, is all about combating drab in favor of flavor. Seems she also likes layers, outfitting models in coat on top of cardigan on top of blouse and other combinations. While at times this assemblage obstructed separates I would have preferred to view in their entirety, the decision demonstrated both versatility and cohesion within the collection.
So, what flavors, said to be inspired by photographer Guy Bourdin, did Mrs. Smith bring to the table? Jewel tones like emerald, sapphire and ruby and veg and fruit (produce!) tones like plum, guava, raspberry and eggplant. Smith employed the use of color blocking, pairing unlikely hues together for added effect, yielding surprisingly delightful harmonies. The line included a number of black pieces, as well as some cream-colored items, but, by and large, Milly opted for eye-popping. And don’t think the designer neglected gold. Oh no. Her signature thread was woven in here and there, but visibly less so than in the past. (My favorite “precious” piece was a black metallic scallop jacquard dress, which looked to be influenced by the peacock.) While on the topic of prints and patterns, they were slightly scaled back this season, with limited plaids, poppies, stripes and a couple others. Textures, however, seemed to play a lead role.
In terms of fabric, Smith’s selection ran the gamut. From silk to wool, mohair to angora, lace to corduroy. To my (and countless others’) dismay, Smith isn’t yet hip to the fact that fur is a dead trend. Synthetic alternatives are equally luxe and where it’s at if one must flaunt fuzz. The only faux fur to be seen was a cheetah print belted coat; other than that, former foxes and lambs made cruelty-laden cameos throughout, in the form of vests and trims. Tisk, tisk, Smith! I adore your designs, but please get with the times. You’re a wonderful woman! Pave the way for fellow fashionistas who haven’t wrapped their head around the compassionate fact that these pelts look (and feel) infinitely better on the innocent animals. Have a heart?
The show-stoppers, to my mind, were a sapphire silk herringbone jacquard ruffle dress (said dress also came in emerald and one or both must be mine) and a black silk georgette dress with lace insert. I die. Each tells a different story, but both exude movement and communicate the power of properly proportioned and positioned angles and lines. The latter even bore a sexy open back. (Negative space is big for fall, I’m finding.) Swoon. Runners up include a silk charmeuse wrap dress featuring a digitally-created feather print, an ivory double-weave wool maxi coat, an eggplant/plum double-faced wool belted cape and a burgundy silk chiffon ruffle dress. In keeping with her penchant for youthful femininity, Smith incorporated ruffles and loose bows, but subtly, not tart-y. Always a win are her silk cascade blouses, which I noted in droves.
Not only did Smith draw inside the lines, with smart pieces suitable for work or play, day or night, she also dared to take some risks. Beyond simple and elegant ensembles comprising uniform jacket and skirt, Smith created wide-wale cord culottes (also referred to as gauchos), frequently worn with identical blazer. I applaud Smith in her fearless revisiting of these tubular shorts of sorts, but I can’t say they were my favorite. And it wasn’t an isolated incidence, either. Matching aside, it’s the cut that rubs me the wrong way. (Plus, corduroy?) I much prefer cute and conventional shorts to these toggle-latched atrocities. I will say that the midnight wide-wale corduroy high-waist trouser was hot. Nothing wrong with a cord comeback for fall, if formulated flawlessly. And culottes are cool, as Smith proved with other outfits. (I dug a pleated navy pair that tricked me into thinking it was a skirt both times it sashayed down the runway.)
Said Smith a few weeks back of what fans could expect of the collection, “A little taste of the ’70s.” She also told me who she’d like to see rocking her latest line: “Some ’70s icons, like Lauren Hutton and Anjelica Huston.” In addition to her reverence for boomer babes, Smith loves the fact that Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf dons Milly on the regular. Said Smith, “From the time Gossip Girl went on the air they’ve worn Milly. Leighton Meester wears it a lot on the show. I’m actually in the original books.” Smith and I recently caught up at Bergdorf Goodman, where Smith was celebrating the launch of her handbag, jewelry and “Milly Minis” collections. (For more on that, visit NBC Niteside.) Smith’s forthcoming Milly flagship store opens on Madison Avenue soon…
For the record, Milly proved the most wonderful and wearable collection I had the opportunity to attend this NYFW. Looking forward to fall thanks to Mrs. Smith!