Fashion Designer Michelle Smith of Milly

By Marianne Ilunga
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Photo Cred: Anthony J. Scutro, MSNBC

Michelle Smith, founder and designer of MILLY

The opportunity to have a fashion designer picking out your outfits is surely a dream come true! As one of the speakers at  the “Know Your Value” tour, fashion designer Michelle Smith of Milly, will be performing a makeover session for the 3 finalists that are participating in the “Grow Your Value” contest.  Every fashionista who is familiar with the Milly brand knows that her designs don’t disappoint.


Why did you get involved with the “Know Your Value” project?


Mika and I became friends a few years ago as we were involved in a charity called Grace Outreach.  I am honored to be involved with “Know Your Value” – I think it is so important to be able to help other women, showing them how to dress for their workplace and how to dress like the boss. I love that I get to meet women from all over the country, all who have amazing stories to tell.


Who would you qualify as the “Milly Woman”?

I want to dress women who are smart, ambitious and real. The women here at the conferences are unbelievably inspiring – they are all the MILLY woman. My fabrics are luxurious and the silhouettes are modern but classic enough for the workplace. I want a woman to feel beautiful and confident when they’re wearing my clothes, so I pay close attention to detail.


What is the biggest misconception about the importance dressing up in the workforce?

Research shows that appearances matter, whether we like it or not. While your clothes might not seem as important as your resume, studies show that within the first seconds of meeting someone our brains come up with a laundry list of impressions about a person’s character and abilities before they even open their mouths. It is really important to dress in a way that doesn’t distract from your message and who you are as first impressions are so important. I am really honored to be able to help show women about dressing for work, and for interviews to put the whole package together.


What has been some of the reasons why you think Milly has been so successful?


From the beginning I was fortunate that my mother encouraged me from a very young age. At around 11, I was sketching ballerinas on the kitchen floor, and my mom suggested maybe one day I would go to Paris to study. I didn’t have fancy family connections, so I worked toward that goal, taking classes and beefing up my portfolio. I had an almost blind ambition, which I feel fortunate about because to be really honest, I never questioned my dream and kept looking forward. I started MILLY at 27. Now I’m 42, and looking back, sometimes I look back at myself and think “Who was that girl?!”  I took a step back and realized I had to be true to my brand DNA, which is bold, modern, and feminine with an edge. I opened my own stores and launched e-commerce so I wasn’t beholden to just the retailers. I was able to create a world of MILLY, and that has been incredible, incorporating all of my categories, from ready to wear and handbags to MILLY Cabana swimwear and MILLY Minis childrenswear.


What is your ultimate woman empowerment advice?

I truly believe that if you have passion and are doing what you love, you are destined to succeed.



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