A Very Milly Conversation

Monday, December 5, 2011

As we enter into this season of celebrations, between giving thanks and giving gifts, I thought I would take some time out to see it from a different point of view. The lovely and talented Michelle Smith of Milly and I sat down to discuss the holidays, entertaining, giving and of course—holiday fashion.

Melissa Berkelhammer: Happy belated Thanksgiving! How did you spend the holiday?

Michelle Smith: I spent Thanksgiving with my whole family – 3 generations together under one roof.  The holidays are all about family and food! Each year I prepare a special recipe – Bread Pudding with Peaches and Caramel.  I use my great-great grandmother’s recipe– I am thankful her favorite dessert has been enjoyed by so many.

MB:  We’re now entering what is going to seem like a marathon of holiday cocktail parties and celebrations.  What are your can’t fail entertaining tips?  Or, what are some good housewarming gifts that are slightly more original than a bottle of champagne (not that there’s anything wrong with that)?

MS: Champagne is festive and fun, but a luxe, scented candle also makes a great gift.  I also like notecards from Smythson – they come with beautiful, often humorous motifs.

MB: You just had a wonderful success with your cocktail party to benefit Grace Outreach. How did you get involved in the charity?

MS: I have served on the Advisory Board of Grace Outreach for 2 years, and joined the Board of Directors one year ago. Margaret Grace asked me to join – she is the board’s co-chair and the driving force behind the program.  Grace Outreach is a free GED and college/career prep program serving women in the South Bronx community. I believe education helps people to help themselves.

MB: I’m amazed at all of the charities that you are involved with – from Grace Outreach to Central Park Conservancy to Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, and more! How to you balance your dedication to all of these causes with your ever-expanding brand, not to mention motherhood? I get tired merely thinking about everything you have on your plate!

MS: I feel lucky to have the opportunity to be actively involved with several wonderful causes and feel it is more of a blessing than a burden.  Motherhood and running Milly is a balancing act, but I am grateful to enjoy the best of both worlds, and help others who are less fortunate.

MB:  Continuing with the holiday theme, we couldn’t let this topic go without asking you for some expert dressing tips.  A lot of these holiday cocktail parties begin right after work.  Of everything in your collections, what looks of yours do you think make the best transition from day to evening (with perhaps the swap of an accessory or two?)

MS: A little black dress is the perfect day-to-night item, and works great for after-work holiday parties.  Pair your dress with a tailored blazer and classic pump during the day and switch over to a chic beaded jacket and strappy heels for night. Carry along a little jewelry and evening clutch in your work bag for a little added sparkle.

MB:  Obviously, it’s also hard not to repeat looks during this time of year, short of having an unlimited budget.  What are some recycling tricks that you have learned over the years?

MS: Accessories definitely help! One trick I have learned to add a statement necklace to a simple dress, or even a silk scarf.  Both accessories can change a look in an instant.

MB:  Your store has received much attention and praise for its decor, and your design aesthetic is evident throughout the space.  Surely, you must have already gotten offers to helm a home line.  Is that something you would consider in the near future?

MS:  I would love to launch a home collection.  My aesthetic translates very well to interior décor.  I thoroughly enjoyed working on the interiors of my apartment and boutique.

MB: What are you looking forward to the most this holiday season?  Where do you plan on spending Christmas and New Years? What will you be packing?

MS: I am planning a cozy, traditional Christmas here in NYC with my family, followed by some fun in the sun through the New Year, in Anguilla. In New York, I wear my favorite Toscana shearling vest and in Anguilla, a colorful bikini from my Cabana collection.

So now, my dear readers, we continue our voyage through the holidays with sound advice, some tips to get us through and a little fashion advice so we look our best celebrating.


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