When Michelle Smith, designer and founder of MILLY, and Amanda Hearst, founder of Friends of Finn, decided to create an exclusive t-shirt collection to support The Humane Society of the United States Friends of Finn’s efforts to stop puppy mills, we knew good things would result. SHOP THE TEES HERE. Michelle worked with Amanda and Friends of Finn members Georgina Bloomberg and Kimberly Ovitz to a very special limited edition collection of graphic t-shirts, each with a hashtag phrase that relates to their dogs.
We were eager to get the inside scoop from Amanda about what inspired her to found Friends of Finn and what the man himself (her dog, Finn) is all about…
US: What prompted you to start Friends of Finn?
AMANDA: I had been working with The Humane Society of the United States and kept hearing all these horrible things about puppy mills, which are illegal breeding facilities where animals are usually treated terribly. I learned that over 90% of pet store dogs are from these types of places, so I did some research and found out that my own dog, Finn, was from a puppy mill. That’s why I started Friends of Finn, to raise money and awareness to end the industry of puppy mills in the US.
US: Tell us about Finn!
AMANDA: He is a foodie, so at the moment he’s probably not “sample size” - haha. There have been several occasions where I’ve found him on the dinner table eating straight butter! Not good for the waist line! Also he loves people, and usually kisses them on the mouth when he meets them. He also loves naps and his girlfriend Pequi, a Pomeranian that he goes on walks with.
US: Did you grow up with a dog as a child? Did you have any other pets?
AMANDA: I’ve always grown up with animals. In the city, we had Chili and Lizzie (two mixes) and a cat names Sarah. Then, my mom moved to a farm in the Hamptons, so now we have dogs, cats, ducks, geese, miniature goats, alpacas, miniature donkeys…it’s very much a Dr. Doolittle situation out there.
US: Where do you love to take your dog in NYC? Do you have any go-to spot, or places Finn loves to go?
AMANDA: Finn loves the West Village, especially Rag & Bone because they give him treats there. He also loves my local boutique wine shop…because they give him treats, too. So basically, anywhere where he can get food he’s happy! But the dog park in Washington Square Park is great, and he has lots of little friends there.
US: How can someone work with the The Humane Society of the United States to ensure their puppy is not from a puppy mill?
AMANDA: The bottom line is that the majority of pet store animals are from puppy mills. So if you really want to be safe, you should adopt or work with a reputable breeder. Please read up on The HSUS’ advice about how to make sure you don’t support puppy mills: https://www.humanesociety.org.
BEHIND THE SCENES: THE MAKING OF A GOLDEN GLOBES DRESS
Ever wonder what happens in a design studio behind the scenes before award season? We’re lifting the curtain. Michelle Smith, founder and designer of MILLY, created a couture MILLY dress for TV host Sara Gore to wear on the Golden Globes Red Carpet this Sunday on NBC. The challenge? Sara just so happens to be 7 months pregnant… Here, Michelle and Sara give us the inside scoop.
Looking for your own award-show-worthy look? Shop MILLY dressesnow.
MICHELLE: When I was pregnant, I designed my own gown for an event, and later lent to a few pregnant friends—I think it’s still making its way through the NYC event circuit! So designing Sara’s dress for the Golden Globes brought back some good memories—I was honored.
SARA: I’ve been wearing MILLY on-air for years, but it was the first time she designed a dress for me. Feminine yet modern, MILLY suits my fashion personality.
MICHELLE: First, Sara came by the MILLY NYC Boutique where I showed her some options and we talked through color, neckline, and embellishment options. We both agreed that a simple dress in a beautiful color with some slight drapery would be the most flattering silhouette.
SARA: Typically for an awards show, I would tend to go for a fitted gown, it’s hard to know what size you are going to be when you are pregnant, making the Golden Globes Red Carpet a high stakes guessing game! Michelle wanted me to be happy and was very accommodating.
MICHELLE: Once we narrowed down the options, Sara came to the MILLY showroom to test out different color swatches. We debated between pastels and jewel tones, sleeves versus no sleeves. After a few fittings together and ultimately decided on the final look. At the last second, we decided a train would add some drama to the dress. It was such a great experience and I can’t wait to see Sara on the Golden Globes Red Carpet!
SARA: It’s was a dream to work with Michelle. Personally I think we should just design my clothes together from here on out!
Watch Sara Gore live on the Golden Globes Red Carpet tonight, Sunday, January 12th, at 6pm EST for NBC’s “1st Look Live on the Red Carpet” Special.
The party’s over—now it’s time to get down to business and write those thank you notes. In celebration of the MILLY for Dempsey & Carroll stationery collaboration, our favorite etiquette expert, Rajiv Surendra, a New York based artist and calligrapher who specializes in lettering with pen and ink and chalk, shares some tips for how to do it the right way. You might just be surprised…
What are the components of the perfect thank you note?
Never start a thank you note with the words “thank you.” Always start from a personal place. Start with a specific comment or something you’re grateful for in terms of what it is you’re given.
What are the most common mistakes you see?
One of the common mistakes is not saying anything at all about what it is you’re given. Someone took the time to pick that out for you and give that to you and so that reciprocating that will extend why it is special to you or why it is great or what you thought of when you opened it up.
How do you write many thank you notes in a row without coming off like a robot?
If you write them all at once, they’ll all come across a little meaningless, so do yourself a favor and split them up over time.
What if you have terrible handwriting?
I feel passionate about someone expressing truthfully – you should write anyway – that shouldn’t stop you from writing with a pen. That representation on paper is a very special thing. It’s a piece of you. Don’t let that stop you or intimidate you.
Is it ever too late to send a thank you note?
It’s never too late to send a thank you note but generally what we tend to recommend, a week after you receive a gift is normal etiquette but after the holidays it’s nice to receive thank you notes within the first two weeks of the New Year. It feels a little late after that. Everyone is going back to work on Monday onward.
How should you go about choosing your correspondence notecards?
The card you choose should be a representation of you. Don’t worry about what the person is going to like, choose a card that you like.
Can you share any etiquette regarding addressing your envelopes?
Make sure you put the return address in case you get it back and you know the person didn’t receive it. A nice tip is to go an extra step and use a commemorative stamp that the US Postal Service creates every year. They look beautiful on the envelope. If you can take the time to pick out stamps that you like they add a personal touch.
This week’s episode of Project Runway All-Stars, featured a design challenge filmed at MILLY headquarters. Using MILLY fabrics, the designers were challenged to create a look that both exuded the MILLY feminine-with-an-edge aesthetic, and could retail for under $400 being manufactured in New York City.
With MILLY’s founder and designer, Michelle Smith as a guest judge, Seth Aaron, a Portland-based fashion designer, was chosen the winner of this week’s episode, creating a dress that is now being sold at MILLY, online and in-store, with 100% of the profits going toward Save the Garment Center.
Aaron took a moment to speak with us about the experience:
You’re no stranger to the Project Runway catwalk: as winner of Season 7, you’ve also filled in for Tim Gunn as head casting judge on Season 9. How is Project Runway All Stars different from the first time you competed?
In the regular season, you can tell who the 3 or 4 people you need to watch out for are after filming the first episode, whereas this time around, you have to watch out for everyone. You go and do what you do – I went in there confident in doing my thing and it wasn’t about outdoing someone else – you just have to do your thing and either it works or it doesn’t.
How do you stay cool under pressure? You didn’t have a lot of time to pull the dress together!
My process was to make a list of materials and put that down instead of doing a sketch. I can sketch, but by the time they give us the challenge I already know what it will look like before I make it - I have it in my head. You have very little time- we have 11 hours compared to 18 in the regular season of Project Runway. It’s easier in that you’ve done it before and you know the program, but much harder because you’re given much harder tasks in about half the time.
Tell us about the episode surrounding MILLY. What were the highlights?
The office was amazing. It was such a great experience. It wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about the label - I know all about it – when it was announced we’d be working with MILLY, I was really excited. I’m really into the business end of it and it was a great experience to see the internal workings. When it comes to budgeting down to the penny – I am good at that.
What inspired you to make the dress that ultimately won the prize?
Coming into the MILLY office, seeing the current MILLY collection and the theme—it was the perfect challenge for me to a T. Feminine with an edge is what MILLY is, and that’s what I’m about. I’m very structured. My girls are very confident, strong individuals, but they’re still girls.
You seem to have a business head for fashion – how did that come about?
Being an independent designer, I need to know how to put the cost and materials together. It’s something I’ve worked on. It’s still puzzling, with factories and retailers, how it all works, but it’s interesting to me so it’s fun. In a way, it’s natural. Just like design, it’s something I can always do. I wasn’t taught – I taught myself.
What has the response been from friends & family after seeing the episode?
This time around, not much! I’ve been on TV for awhile, so now it’s fun. And my kids watch it with me every night. They’re teenagers. They get behind it and they travel with me too.
In the past, you’ve been really into sustainable fashion – what’s next for you?
Right now, I need to work on capital. Then I can venture off and explore and do these things. I believe if you keep manufacturing in the United States, then it’s sustainable right there. That really interests me.
I want my label to be like MILLY - I want to support the local Garment District. To be part of saving that is a huge thing for me. I’m honored to say the dress I made on Project Runway All Stars is being sold at MILLY and I contributed to that.
Michelle Smith, founder and designer of MILLY, tells us about one of her favorite style icons, Jean Seberg, leading up to the re-release of the French New Wave film Breathless on Blu-Ray this winter.
I first saw Jean Luc Goddard’s Breathless at the Film Forum in New York City when I was a 19 year-old fashion student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Breathless is iconic in so many ways- especially from a style perspective.
It is hard to take your eyes off Patricia, played by Jean Seberg. Her effortlessly cool, gamine, left-bank style never goes out of style, even 50 years after the initial release. I can pick out French New Wave influences in my designs, from a classic graphic tee with the sleeves rolled up to slim cut tapered pants rolled above the ankles.
Experiencing Breathless is a rite of passage for any teen with fashion aspirations. As the first of the “French New Wave” genre, the film was shocking, cool and fresh.
Haven’t seen it? Pre-order it now or watch it on your holiday break!
The legendary fashion photographerRoxanne Lowit got her start in the ‘70s when her friend, the late fashion illustratorAntonio Lopez, gave her an Instamatic 110 camera. Before long, she was establishing herself in the fashion world by pioneering the art of backstage photography at a Halston runway show.
She captured what some call the “golden age” of fashion, when supermodels ruled the world. Feeling nostalgic? Us, too: Lowit’s photos from the last four decades are the subject of the exhibition “Roxanne Lowit: Be Fabulous,” on display through January 18, 2014, at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York.
Using ethereal textures like featherweight fur and lace along with gradient hues of black, charcoal, ballet pink and orchid to create a dramatic effect. Oversize gold zippers punctuate lightweight leather skirts and dresses.
It’s impossible to pick favorites, but some standout statement pieces include a faille midi skirt with a painted and hand-drawn print, a bonded crepe feather trim jacket, and a fil coupe gown with hand-cut fringe.
MILLY founder and designer Michelle Smith shares her gifting philosophy…
When it comes to gift giving, I try to be as original as possible while still keeping the “giftee” in mind. I love mixing high and low. The greatest gift isn’t always the most expensive one. Here are some of my picks for your favorite culture fiend, the social butterfly and everyone in between, these gifts are always crowd-pleasers.
The new Gagosian shop on Madison Avenue in NYC offers an exclusive selection of books, monographs, and limited edition products like portfolios by Ed Ruscha and even a surfboard designed by Richard Phillips. On my list: photographers Inez and Vinoodh’s new coffee table book, “Pretty Much Everything.”
For the social butterflies on your list, I designed a limited edition collection of stationery, the MILLY for Dempsey & Carroll collection. Your fun-loving friends will treasure the “Sorry for Partying” notecards, while your mother might prefer the silver zig-zag and your hostess with the mostess sister will appreciate the classic banana leaf.
A little pampering makes a great gift for just about anyone. Who doesn’t love a massage? At the Great Jones Spa, the treatments are fantastic, and a bonus comes in the form of a relaxing water lounge where guests can chill all day
Finding the perfect New Year’s outfit isn’t always easy- we understand- which is why we’ve picked some of our favorite pieces for inspiration. Whether you’re spending New Year’s on the beach or at a ski resort, we have a standout look for every occasion.
1. If you’re in Miami (or any warm weather location) for New Year’s, you need the MILLY Cutout Dress. Cutout details make this LBD sexy, and a fitted silhouette will flatter every body type. Add a pop of color to this getup and you’ll be set for a night in South Beach.
2. Going to a black tie event? You’re in luck. Our Racer Party Dress, made of Cheetah Lurex Lace, is bound to make a statement. A floor length skirt and racer back create a tailored and bold look.
3. For those headed to a hotel rooftop bash, sporting sequins is a must. Our Sleeve Cocktail Dress, crafted in black and gold stretch sequins, features a subtly sexy scoop back. You’re bound to catch the attention of your New Year’s kiss in this number.
4. If you’re someone who prefers a low key New Year’s then go with the MILLY Fly Away Rhinestone Tank and Leather Leggings. Rhinestone details enhance this black tank top and leather leggings make this outfit edgy. Good friends, great food, necessary New Year’s drinks and a favorite outfit = the perfect night.
5. At a ski resort for the holidays? A statement coat better make it into your suitcase. The MILLY Cocktail Coat is the ultimate topper to any winter look- layer it over your favorite dress and pair it with a bold bag for a glam New Year’s outfit. If you’re prepping for a cold night, you might as well throw in our Sermoneta for MILLY Studded Gloves. Talk about rocker chic done right.
Tell us what your go-to New Year’s outfit is by commenting below!
Here at MILLY, we take the holidays very seriously, which means we spend a lot of time dreaming up the perfect gifts to give everyone in your life, from your Secret Santa at work to your life-long BFF.
Michelle has curated her favorites from the MILLY Holiday Gift guide to make things easy. Get shopping! (From top left to right)
Your wildest friend will flip over our new stationery collection. We’d like to think you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a shoutout on Instagram stating, “Best. Gift. Ever.” Shop the entire collection here.
Leather has never made more of a statement. This season, Michelle gave buttery Italian leather an update with edge. Here’s a little Leather Lesson, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced leather wearer.
If you’re a beginner…
Dip your toe into the trend with leather detailing, which adds structure and edge to feminine looks.