Nicole Miller is bold. This should not be surprising—her eponymous clothing line is known for its signature prints and bright colors. But in person, the woman behind the brand’s presence is both striking and captivating. She has a straightforward personality and is incredibly honest, making it obvious that she doesn’t hold back when it comes to her opinions and the way she runs her business. With the brand celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, 20/20 had the exclusive opportunity to sit down and talk to Miller to learn about her current collection and what’s next.

It has long been said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at something. With that mindset, Miller is a skilled expert in the fashion industry as her brand celebrates this latest milestone. Founded in 1982 and headquartered in New York City, Miller’s fashion and lifestyle brand has made a hugely successful name for itself in the American fashion world. The Nicole Miller womenswear collection is synonymous with its feminine luxe fabrics and prints that have a youthful edge to them. In addition to her fashion line, the company has partnered with licensees in countless lifestyle categories including eyewear, handbags, shoes, jewelry, beauty, home and more. Distributed by L’Amy America, the Nicole Miller optical and sunwear collections are created to effortlessly complement her other designs, with the teams working closely together.

Miller’s latest spring/summer 2022 fashion collection features vibrant colors and was inspired by artists from the 1960s including Bridget Riley and Mario Passarelli. “It was very contemporary art inspired,” says Miller. “We used a lot of geometric looking ideas in the print. And then we used a lot of very bright neon colors. I felt it was kind of an aggressive collection in a way because everyone had been wearing these long dresses. They were covered up in very loose fitting boho dresses that went to the floor. I think everyone was really ready to break out.”

Miller is currently wearing one of her own blouse designs in a poppy bright colorway. She acknowledges that she cannot wear everything that she makes, but she also doesn’t wear other designer’s pieces anymore. “I kind of only wear my own clothes,” she says. “I really don’t see things out there that excite me that much. Every once in a while, you know you have that crazy impulse purchase. But, I think that the last thing that I bought of somebody else’s was about two years ago. I will occasionally buy shoes from somebody else, but for the most part I’m very happy wearing my own clothes.” The same can also be said about her eyewear. Her current sunwear rotation includes a mirror lens aviator and a pair of round sunglasses with royal blue lenses, both by Miller of course.

“What I like about eyewear is that I can implement some clothing ideas into the frames,” explains Miller. “If I have a print idea, or a theme, or an embellishment—like an embroidery or rhinestones, I can use that in the temple. I think it’s nice when I can incorporate something from the actual collection onto the eyewear.”

It was organic for eyewear to become one of Miller’s favorite licensee projects to work on because she wears optical frames and sunglasses every day. “I’m always wearing them so I’m always looking for something that is kind of cool and new,” she says. “I’m always trying to keep that in mind. People are wearing eyewear as a necessity so you want to look as good as you can.”

Something she is not crazy about? Rimless frames. “I think that is an interesting look, but it’s not for me,” says Miller. “I prefer something with more style. I’m always more excited about something that’s a real design, a real item. I particularly like the ones I have on. They are two colors, and they are an interesting shape. I think people get excited about things that are special and different. You’re showing off your eyewear like you’re showing off your new dress or your new piece of jewelry.”

The Nicole Miller eyewear brand features an assortment of sub-collections that offer options to women across the market. For women that need a larger frame without sacrificing fashion, Nicole Miller YourFit provides a fit solution while incorporating the brand’s modern design aesthetic. For teen and tween girls, Niki Nicole Miller’s contemporary assortment features pops of color, translucent finishes and Miller’s signature colorings and prints.

The Nicole Miller Resort collection’s polarized sunglasses are crafted with plant-based components including bio-acetate made from renewable plant sources, biodegradable demo lenses and recyclable stainless steel that is planet friendly. While the eyewear industry is becoming more and more sustainable, this is not a new trendy initiative for Miller. “I’ve been working on that for a long time,” she says. “Years ago, I did polar fleece, the skiwear fabric, out of recycled bottles. I did that in 1992 or something—way back. I have always been on that bend, and I’m just so insane about recycling. That’s my mentality, and in every collection I’ve had something that’s upcycled. We are always going to the L Train and finding something that we can remake. In the fall 2022 collection we have all these flannel shirts, and we cut them up and made corsets and dresses and everything—they look fabulous. It’s going to be a little tough for production, but I think we will make them to order.”

As Miller’s company celebrates its 40th anniversary, she reflects on how much the fashion industry has changed over that time. “Before everything wasn’t so automated,” she says. “If you sold something to a store, and they sold it, they would come back and say, ‘Can we have 100 more?’ Now, they will wait until there are computer reports and printouts, and it is like, ‘Next season we will buy 100 more.’ There’s a much bigger lag time because of the instant information. Some things like that are backwards for business. Also, when I started designing, I was competing against other designers. Now, we’ve got socialites, actresses, musicians, influencers—everyone is a designer.”

One thing that hasn’t changed for designers? Dedication to your craft and putting in the work to succeed. Miller’s advice for those trying to make a name for themselves in the industry is simple: “I just think you have to be really focused and stick to your guns. A lot of people get sidetracked. Sometimes you have no choice. But the thing you must do is really develop your own identity and stay focused. Don’t get too bogged down if things don’t always go your way because it’s not always a straight road uphill. Everyone has some setbacks now and then. Just stick to your guns and go for it.”

Miller did just that. She put in well over her 10,000 hours and built a global fashion and lifestyle brand. This past August, Miller was presented with the Fashion Icon Award for Designer of the Year at Hamptons Fashion Week. She closed out the week with the finale show, showcasing her most iconic styles from the past 40 decades and highlighting pieces from her vast archive. Miller’s boldness, determination and work ethic allow her to bring accessible luxury to the modern woman, and she shows no signs of stopping. ■