A designer who understands a woman's shape
If you've ever enjoyed one of designer Nicole Miller's carefully constructed creations, you might have General Electric to thank for that.
Miller's father, Grier Bovey Miller, worked for General Electric in Pittsfield as an electrical engineer where he designed a fire-control system for submarine-launch missions until he retired in 1987. According to an article published in New York Magazine in 1993, the designer credits her father's engineering mind for inspiring her career as a designer.
"My mother was always clothes-minded," says Miller in the article, of her French mother Jacqueline Mahieu "... But I have my father's mind. The way you figure out how to make something is engineering."
And figuring out the perfect cut of a dress is what the fashion designer and businesswoman would become known for in the fashion industry. That and a menswear line of graphic ties and boxer shorts that put her company on the map in the 1980s. Today, Nicole Miller's women's collection apparel is sold in more than 1,200 independent specialty stores and namesake boutiques in cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and La Jolla, Calif. Her fashion line is also sold in department stores such as, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom.
Miller was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1952. During her father's early years at GE, the family lived in several places, finally settling in Lenox in 1958, where the budding designer grew up with her sister and brother, Michele and Alan. But it was her French mother's aesthetic (Jacqueline was born in Paris, and met Miller's father during World War II, emigrating to the U.S. after the couple wed in 1946) that would later have a larger influence on her designs. Her mother never changed her citizenship, according to the New York Magazine article, and insisted her children have dual citizenship, dressing her daughters like little French girls.
But it wasn't until Miller was 19 that she make her first trip to France. (Her mother was notoriously afraid of flying, so much so that Jacqueline's obituary in 2017 mentions that she still enjoyed traveling abroad despite that fact that she "never drove a car or flew in an airplane.") It was her sophomore year at Rhode Island School of Design and she arranged to spend a year in Paris to study at L'Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. There, she learned the art of fabric drapery and the classical method of dressmaking.
"It was an haute couture school, and it was intensive," she says in the article. "I got incredible training in the aesthetics of clothing that I never would have gotten anywhere else. I think the cut of clothes is most important, and it's been instrumental in making my clothes sell."
Miller started working as the chief designer at P.J. Walsh manufacturer of dresses a few years after graduating. Bud Konheim, who was the company's president at the time, hired Miller. In 1982, Konheim and Miller collaborated to start the Nicole Miller company and in 1986, her first store opened on Madison Avenue. She married her husband, Kim Tiapale, in 1996 and the two have a son, Palmer. While Miller calls New York City her home, her sister, Michele Miller, still lives in Berkshire County and is owner and founder of BOLA Granola.
Nicole Miller's designs — best known for form-flattering dresses in bold colors and creative necklines — have been worn by many celebrities, including Anjelica Huston, Beyonce Knowles, Angelina Jolie, Brooke Shields, Jennifer Stone, Susan Sarandon and Eva Longoria.
— Lindsey Hollenbaugh, The Berkshire Eagle
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