CLOCKWISE TOP LEFT: MICHELLE SMITH, AKA “MILLY”, PREVIEWING A ONE-PIECE FROM HER MILLY CABANA COLLECTION WHILE ON VACATION IN CAPRI; MIX AND MATCH BRIGHT SOLIDS AND COLOR TRIMMED BIKINIS WITH INSPIRATION BOARD; MICHELLE, AMIDST HER CREATIVE MESS, IS HER OWN BEST FIT MODEL; FABRIC INSPIRATION; MILLY SKETCHES; BRIGHT CROCHETED BIKINI
Last summer, while photo editing “Models of Influence” by Nigel Barker, I spent a lot of time flipping though old Elle magazines looking for images of the 80’s supermodels. It was there that I found a new appreciation for those sexy sporty Gilles Bensimon pictures of models like Elle Macpherson, Rachel Williams and Famke Jansson, seen through the Style Of Sport lens. I knew my friend Michelle Smith, the Founder and Designer of Milly, would love them too.
Michelle and I are “Soulmates”, getting sweaty together on a regular basis at SoulCycle. But we are also connected by our obsession with those iconic moments in fashion history, a visual language that we share from years spent in the business — me, in editorial and her, in design.
It was, in fact, those 80’s Elle images that became the inspiration for her Milly Cabana swimwear collection in stores in November. Michelle gave Style of Sport an inside peek of what’s to come and shared how a bunch of old tear sheets evolved into this evocative and sporty collection.
STYLE OF SPORT: Alright… so tell me how this all begins. What is your creative process?
MICHELLE SMITH: It starts in two different ways. I start looking at images. I have this vibe in my mind, and I’m also looking at a lot of colors and fabric swatches at the same time. So you’re in my office right now and you see a lot of stuff on the floor that makes no sense (laughs), but to me this makes total sense. I know where everything is and this is actually really neat for me. When I’m working, when I’m like really into it, my whole floor is covered in fabric and so they kind of feed off each other. Like the fabrics and the colors are feeding off these inspiration images that I’m pulling, and it’s sort of building and creating this look and it’s focusing in on one particular thing. I was really inspired, and I actually reached out to you looking for that essence of the late 80s — Elle magazine, Gilles Bensimon, Elle Macpherson, really active, sporty, healthy, vibrant, gorgeous vibe.
SOS: And do you think that comes from your feeling fit and strong and powerful? Do you think it’s part of that?
MS: Yeah, you know, I’m getting fit (laughs) and losing that baby weight. Moods change from season to season. Maybe some seasons the collection might be more bohemian or more ethereal but this is definitely a vibrant, athletic, really exciting collection.
CLOCKWISE TOP LEFT: MICHELLE SHOWS OFF THE CUT-OUT RACER BACK STYLE OF THE NEW ONE-PIECE WHILE ENJOYING THE VIEW WITH SON WILLIAM ON THE FAMILY’S RECENT ITALY VACATION; ANOTHER GRAPHIC COLOR BLOCKED ONE-PIECE INSPIRED BY MATCHING DRESS FROM MILLY RESORT COLLECTION SHOWN BELOW; CLASSIC 80’S SWIM STYLE; MICHELLE AT WORK SKETCHING; THE NOVEMBER MILLY CABANA COLLECTION
SOS: And so this is going to come out November?
MS: Right. For Milly Cabana I do 4 deliveries: November, December, January, February, and then that flows all the way through to June. The trends I’m feeling now are the return of the one piece swimsuit, which kind of retreated maybe fifteen, twenty years ago…
SOS: I feel like Norma Kamali rocked it for a while and then that kind of went away.
MS: But I remember as a kid, maybe in junior high, mid to late 80s, how sexy one piece swimsuits were. It wasn’t the “mom” suit, but women like Elle Macpherson and Rachel Williams, they were rocking a one piece!
SOS: They were like these amazon sexy beasts too.
MS: There were these cut outs and racer backs… so I’m feeling a return of that, and also the color blocking I’m super into right now. You can see the slice and dice of color on the board that you’ll see in the collection, and also the cuts in the bikinis. The cuts are getting a lot more skimpier, a lot more cheeky. Everyone is kind of used to this now, like this is the new normal I think.
SOS: I know and I’m so not ready to rock that.
MS: Yes you are! Now I put on my regular cut from a few seasons ago and I feel like a grandma
SOS: Get cheeky with it!
MS: And also I like the athletic, surf vibe. I’ve got those really skimpy cheeky bottoms, and I’ve also got more like a boy-cut surfer girl, like a California surfer girl bottom.
SOS: That’s gonna be my look! You can go cheeky and I’ll go sporty. See you in November, although you can always hook your girl up earlier!