Nicole Miller Is in an Empire State of Mind

It is almost as if Nicole Miller is having a New York moment. The designer is based here, but there is something about her most recent sportswear push that is distinctly of the five boroughs. Firstly, critics praised Nicole’s spring collection by saying she nailed the major trends attributed to young New York designers like Alexander Wang, like bright whites, sheer fabrics and paired down minimalism. Then her recent sportswear collection (if you can even call it that—there was nothing sporty about her leather adorned leggings and super-pleated skirts) is inspired by urban artwork. Now, for those familiar with Miller’s talent, which includes sexy mini-dresses and embellished, sophisticated wedding wear, her turn for the gritty may sound strange. Yet, the designer executes the graffiti-inspired details with a type of surprising femininity. Not girlishness, please: “I hate the word girly. I am not one of the ‘girly designers.’ I never do bows, I stay away from ruffles. But I do like man-tailored things, ” she explains. “I love the contrast between boy/girl clothing.” Graffiti makes its appearance as abstract sequins on a slouchy sweater, or as a stark black print on a white sleeve. Most obvious is the digital city-print, complete with subway walls and dripping spray paint, on a pin-tucked silk frock. Even when she is doing streetwear, Miller sticks to tailored and refined. (PHOTO BY LEILA BRILLSON)

As she walks through her store to demonstrate her recent fall arrivals, she wears a vest from the collection currently in stores marked by high, geometric shoulders. She also wears a carved skull necklace and mega-high heels, resembling more of the Soho girls she designs for than an established member of the fashion elite. She stops to look at a slim, butter-soft pair of zipped leather pants—which was later revealed to be inspired by an Interview shoot—but she explains that is how she works. One print can get her really excited, the possibility of taking a street artist’s scribbles and elevating them to a pattern on a cashmere sweater. Though Miller has an entire lifestyle line, with accessories to furniture, she seems envigorated by this chic, more luxe casual push. “The sportswear is now really neck and neck with the dresses. That’s a gradual change, but there has been a huge reaction,” she reveals. Glamorous and edgy, her fall pieces have a sense of being well-crafted but almost vandalized with markings and ornamentation—a bit like the city she lives in. Clearly, then, Nicole Miller currently possesses a New York state of mind.