Designer with punch

May 29, 1991|By Genevieve Buck | Genevieve Buck,Chicago Tribune

New York fashion designer Nicole Miller is getting a reputation for leading a "zippy existence."

Witness:

* She's been pictured in People magazine rollerblading in her New York loft, which is so long and huge she calls it a "one-bedroom dancehall."

* Another magazine recorded the way she celebrated her 40th birthday: by dancing on the bar of Manhattan's Punsch with her friends from the New York City Ballet.

* One of her best-selling items is a $60 tie that features a vice theme from cigarettes and dice to martinis and coffee.

But Miller says she's just a fun-loving, 40-year-old redhead and her biggest vice is potato chips.

Miller has been designing women's clothes for 16 years and has had her own business for eight years and none of the magazines that are now calling her "zippy" or writing about her night life even knew she was alive.

But then she became a hot item during the past year because of two things: For the first time, she put on a fashion show for retailers and press and was "discovered," leading to nationwide publicity for her and her graphic and pop art '60s dresses; the other factor was a simple suggestion from her partner that she turn some leftover printed silk into men's ties. The funky ties in comic-book art among them, one showing women's wacky shoe styles, another a mermaid and diver were instant hits. Those first few ties (worn by the likes of Chevy Chase and James Woods) turned into a $7 million business in less than a year. Her women's clothes (with fans like Demi Moore and Meryl Streep) racked up $35 million in sales last year.

The philosophies that have made her successful in business and pleased with her personal life are simple.

"I only make clothes that I would wear and I only want clothes that make me feel good. And I think that's exactly what women want of their clothes. Everything I do is for a woman who thinks young, no matter what her age is."

Of her personal life, she says "I like to ski, to wind surf, to scuba dive. I got the rollerblades to treat myself and celebrate my 40th anniversary. Every time I go to a sports store, I go nuts. I love all kinds of sports stuff.

"I'm fun-loving but I don't do things to get into trouble. I wouldn't go into a random place and start dancing up on the bar. When we did it, it was St. Pat's Day, it was my birthday, it was a festive party and so five of us got on the bar and danced.

"I believe you have to try. But mostly what I believe in is work hard and play hard."

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