Gilt Chat: Michelle Smith of Milly on Motherhood, Artistry and Madison Avenue

Gilt.com is Mad for Milly! With its mix of vibrant prints, figure-flattering shapes and the right dash of wit, the ten-year-old line is at the top of its game, thanks to the design vision of its creator Michelle Smith. This artist-turned-designer not only inspires us with her ever-growing empire and her coveted collections, but with her ability to balance work and family so effortlessly.

We’re so thrilled Michelle took time out of her busy schedule (right before Fashion Week, no less!) to chat with Gilt StyleFile on her inspirations, process and career highlights. Shop our Mad for Milly event on January 26 at noon ET, and enter to win two tickets to the Milly fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in September 2012. And make sure to check out the Milly by Michelle Smith Spring 2012 collection at millyny.com!

Q: With Milly celebrating its tenth anniversary, what are the greatest highlights so far?
I can’t believe it’s already been ten years- so many memorable milestones! My first runway show at New York Fashion Week, back in 2004, really put Milly on the international fashion map. The launch of my e-commerce site in 2010, and flagship boutique at 900 Madison Avenue in 2011, have both been smashing successes. I recently expanded into the categories of handbags and childrenswear, with the Milly Minis collection, and, just this month, we launched our eagerly awaited exclusive VIP program. I guess you could say I’ve been very busy lately!

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with Milly in the next ten years?
Over the next ten years, I would love to open more boutiques both stateside and abroad and expand into more categories, especially shoes and home. The Milly girl knows no boundaries!

Q: What’s your best advice to aspiring designers?
Work hard and believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to realize your own vision.

Q: What inspired the spring season? Did you have a woman in mind to wear it? This spring, I was inspired by Sonia Delaunay’s brilliant use of color and line. I combined geometric cuts and prints with earthy materials for a modern look which any smart, confident, stylish woman would covet.

Q: Milly always has such great prints. How integral are they to the collection’s inception? I love designing prints- it probably comes from my background as an artist. I work with some of the most famous Italian print houses, which are able to translate my print designs into vivid, beautiful reality.

Q: We love the Milly minis line! How do you balance such a successful career with being a mother of two?
Thank you! It is not easy balancing motherhood and a career, but I’ve managed to figure it out as I go along. The most wonderful thing about having a childrenswear collection is that it allows me more fun time with my daughter! Sophia is my muse for the line so she makes frequent visits to my design studio. Outside of work, I always take her to school in the morning and am home at the end of the day for a little play and snuggle before bedtime. Weekends are reserved for quality family time.

Q: How important is it to you to create pieces that can be worn for years? How do you balance a piece being classic with being on trend?
My designs always have a certain classicism, which transcend the trend of the moment. I guess one of the keys to my success is my ability to evolve with the trends while maintaining my signature look. Milly is made with love in New York City of the finest-quality European fabrics. The collection is built to last for years to come. I love pulling out some vintage Milly each season to mix with my new collection pieces!

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