Nicole Miller sees dress sales rebound – WWD
Like many designers, Nicole Miller has listed 2020 as a “very difficult year,” but she is now optimistic about an office move, strong dress sales and sustainable materials.
In a few weeks, the company will downsize its two-story offices at 525 Seventh Avenue and move to the third floor of the building. The layout is similar to the existing business space, but the square footage is about half the space. The designer decided that she no longer needed two floors, one of which was used as a photo studio. “We’re trying to move 35 years of stuff,” Miller recently said with a laugh.
Other than about three or four weeks last year, Miller walked into the office. Design, production and pattern creation teams worked out of Garment District offices a few days a week during most of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Gordon Brothers announced that it is providing a secured credit facility to the company. The facility is secured by Miller’s intellectual property and will be used to fund strategic growth initiatives.
Regarding working with Gordon Brothers, Miller said, “There was a lot going on here after Bud [Konheim, her longtime business partner and the former chief executive officer] deceased [in 2019] and with the pandemic and all… these are great partners to have for the future. I am always very focused on the creative part even though I am the CEO.
Gordon Brothers is not looking to sell the business. “No, no, no – not at all,” she said, confirming that they were helping with the funding. “They’ll also come in handy as they’re involved with a lot of licensing companies,” Miller said, citing handbags as a priority. Gordon Brothers was also selected because they are strong internationally, she said.
The introduction of a casual clothing collection last summer (something Miller had in the works before the pandemic) helped boost sales. “It was really all we sold for 10 months. Sweatshirts and sweatpants were the top selling products. There’s a lot less feedback on these things too, ”she said.
In addition to fueling the business, this served as a gateway to many places where the brand would not normally have a presence, namely the sportswear departments. She also ended up making a lot of sweaters, which has been another bright spot in retail over the past year or so. More recently, dresses have been going strong, and they now sell in sportswear rather than clothing-only departments, the designer said.
“It was easy to predict that this spring my dresses would be in action again. The minute people can have an event or whatever, everyone can’t wait to dress up again, ”Miller said, adding that the business was prepared.
Having always felt “kind of trapped” being placed in apparel departments, Miller said selling more dresses in athletic wear departments was a fun result. In addition to second-hand clothes, it offers more casual styles such as “fleece dresses, easy to wear and comfortable”. There are also dresses in washable silks, cotton, ripstop, floral prints, blends of silk and rayon without anything being overdressed.
Providing good value for money has become a priority. While the company routinely offered dresses over $ 400, with around $ 1,000, in past seasons, there weren’t many recent offers above $ 325, with many dresses on the market. order of $ 200.
Online sales were “very good”, driven by dress blouses and dress blouses adapted to Zoom. “They weren’t worried about everything else,” Miller said. “There has been a change. We are probably selling as many dresses as we do separate clothes now. We sell a lot more than we used to be. I don’t know the exact percentages. The rise in dresses has been very significant over the past three or four weeks. “
Online shoppers also buy dresses. So much so that the company had to come up with more – fun, classic styles with more color options. About 15 weeks have been sold, the creator said. The label also brought the bride back on a limited basis.
As more people get their shots and coronavirus restrictions ease in some areas, Miller expects to host another influential event with The Daily in the Hamptons this summer, as she does. has been doing in recent years. As to whether consumers’ perspective on influencers has changed in light of the pandemic, Miller said, “A lot of these influencers have a real stronghold and a huge customer base. But every year the room gets more and more crowded. I think all the girls who came early have a solid foundation. But it’s going to be more and more difficult for people who are starting now. It’s like everything. I was listening to Clubhouse the other day. Every day there are more and more things on it. It is becoming more and more overwhelming. All of that social media is all good ideas. But the more they are there, they just get more crowded and more and more people come by every day. “
Turning to sustainability, Miller said the August delivery was sustainable by using recycled fabrics and organic cotton. Referring to the drive to update the Federal Trade Commission ‘s green guides, Miller said, “Everyone should be held accountable.”
However, finding durable materials can be difficult, and minimum orders for durable fabrics can be significant, she said. “I think the only people who can really do this are expensive companies. Either way, we are doing what we can. We succeeded in this one delivery. We’re always looking for recycled fabrics, yarns or whatever we can get. “
From his perspective, consumers should focus more on their daily habits to improve sustainability. “Everyone is against the clothing trade and blah, blah, blah. If you want to help, you should. Do not use plastic cups, plastic water bottles. Don’t order everything from Amazon all the time. Go to the store and collect it yourself. I’m just pissed off here when I see people putting their plastic in the trash or their paper towels in the recycling, ”she says.