Michelle Smith Launches Direct-to-Consumer Luxury Business – WWD
Michelle Smith, the designer behind Milly, is on her own.
Smith left Milly last year after she and her husband and business partner Andrew Oshrin decided to divorce and sold Milly to MMJ LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of S. Rothschild in April 2019.
After a hiatus, Smith is now launching his own eponymous luxury brand, focused on softness and comfort, mixed with luxury and sophistication. The limited-edition capsule collection consists of 17 styles that will be sold direct to consumers for pre-order at michellesmith.nyc, starting Monday.
The activity will be exclusively e-commerce, and Smith plans to release two numbered capsule collections per year.
“I started formulating my business plan before COVID-19, but I always wanted it to be a direct-to-consumer brand,” Smith said in an interview Friday. “I was ready for another change after Milly, which I started as a wholesale brand. I really liked the feeling of independence and control and the ability to speak directly to the consumer through a direct sell brand.
In addition to the two collections per year, she plans to sprinkle some surprises when she gets inspired or finds something great. It will only produce what is ordered, so it will not have to overproduce.
“Due to the age we live in with COVID-19, it’s important to be really nimble and careful,” she said. “In addition, it is more environmentally friendly not to take a large inventory position.
Smith makes everything in New York City except for its cashmere knits, which are produced in China. Smith funds the entire business itself.
This first collection will be delivered around mid-November. Smith will be offering the second collection in January for pre-order and delivery in March and April.
Ultimately, Smith would love to design cocktail dresses and going out pieces, “but that’s not really the life we’re living right now.”
“I focused on this collection of luxury pieces that you can wear at home and work from home. It’s very inspired by the way we live now. As life returns to normal and we can again socialize in groups and attend events, I will add these elements, ”said Smith.
Interestingly, there is no footprint in sight.
At Milly, Smith became well known for her bold and vibrant bespoke prints, as well as her feminine designs with an edge. Over the years, she and Oshrin, who founded the company in 2000, have expanded Milly’s ready-to-wear line to children’s wear with Milly Minis, as well as evening wear, swimwear. , handbags and their own independent and e-commerce stores. It produced around 28 collections per year.
While experiencing the pandemic, Smith gave a lot of thought to how women want to dress today, and his new collection reflects that.
“We want to feel and see something more luxurious on our body, but we’ve become very committed to the comfort aspect,” Smith said. For her first collection, she works in cashmere, silk charmeuse and Italian alpaca.
Looks range from bodycon turtleneck dresses with slits to sexy charmeuse midi tank dresses to alpaca maxi coats. There are cashmere cable sweaters, cardigans, sweatpants with a wide side stripe and bralettes.
Sizes range from 0-14, and prices range from $ 385 for a cashmere bralette top to $ 2,750 for an alpaca maxi coat. In between are stretch cashmere tank mini dresses for $ 625, cable knit cashmere sweaters for $ 925, charmeuse dresses for $ 975, and stretch cashmere midi dresses for $ 1,100. One of the knits is called Stacey, after Smith’s current partner, SoulCycle super instructor Stacey Griffith.
While Milly was clearly focused on the advanced contemporary market, Smith is moving towards a higher price point.
“I really trained in the field of designers and haute couture and that has always been my first passion,” said Smith, who early in his career did internships at Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. after graduating from Fashion Institute of Technology. “Over the years, I’ve created these amazing relationships with amazing European factories and artisans, and that’s what I really want to showcase and showcase in my new collection.
“My aesthetic is minimal, with an appealing touch or detail. When I design, I focus on what I want to reveal, both physically and emotionally, ”she said. That doesn’t mean she’ll never do prints again. “It’s just what I’m feeling right now, this Zen feeling, let’s take a break and take care of ourselves. Everyone’s been through a lot in the past eight months, ”Smith said.
She will work with a third-party warehouse to fulfill orders.
Unlike this new business, the majority of Milly’s business has been with department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s, as well as Revolve, Shopbop, and Milly.com. At the time of the sale, Milly was struggling with a lack of cash and slower sales, and the brand had a volume of around $ 43 million.
In 2018, Milly got a boost when First Lady Michelle Obama wore one of the company’s designs for her official portrait of Amy Sherald which hangs at the Smithsonian’s National Gallery in Washington, DC In addition to ‘Obama, Smith’s designs have been worn by celebrities such as Beyoncé, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Middleton.