Nicole Miller

The fashion mogul shows us around her headquarters.

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  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    "[Nicole's logo] is super iconic. Obviously they've refined it into a logo, but that's just how she's always signed her name," explains PR and marketing director Heather Schmidt.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    "The 19th floor is PR, licensing, our entire JCPenney design [team], finance, order entry and accounting," says Schmidt. "Upstairs on the 20th floor is design, patternmakers, sewers, the whole atelier, sales, retail, e-commerce and production. The PR and licensing [people] run up and down the stairs all day. I get my workout and I try not to wear really, really high [heels]."

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    The constantly changing wall of pictures in the main reception area features artwork by Miller's friends, images from fashion shows and celebrities sporting her designs.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    "This is a full working atelier, which is extremely rare in New York. We can produce everything in-house," says Schmidt. "Nicole is in here constantly. She'll be hemming things, playing around with how things are on the form, going through the fabric rolls...hands-on doesn't even begin to describe it."

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    In addition to the atelier's plentiful fabric selection, the company also keeps an outside warehouse fully stocked with options.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    "We [ship products to stores] 12 months a year, so it's not like there's any downtime for inspiration to come. It's constant," says Schmidt. "Nicole always says that the city inspires her; she lives down in Tribeca. We did a whole series of handbags with all of these bike elements because all these bike messengers were always zipping past her or locking up their bikes in front of her apartment. I think there will be a potential bike theme in the next show."

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    Miller is known as a "fabric junkie" and adores using innovative textiles and custom prints for her designs. One new concept that has everyone in the office particularly excited is this foil dress. "Everyone's obsessed with [it]. The dress below this [foil] is definitely one of [Nicole's] signature fabrics, but the foiling aspect was just stumbled upon. It's done by a screen-printing house," explains Schmidt.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    "[The office culture] is definitely social, but I'm not one of those girls [who goes out with everyone after work]. I can't be seen like this," a pregnant Yoon-Krupkin says with a laugh. She's due August 4, adding "I may miss our fashion show...or maybe I'll take a car service in!" 

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    "Our company is as good as our people are. These girls would do anything for us: They would work countless hours to make sure that something's right. And they don't complain---because that's not who they are," says director of retail Desiree Thomas.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    Nearly everyone keeps at least one spare pair of shoes at her workspace. "It's a fashion thing," says Thomas. But no one's stash compares with the "closet of shoes" e-commerce coordinator Lauren Teslia keeps under her desk. 

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    CEO Bud Konheim's door is always open. "I'm really open to anything that's new, or anything that's hot that's happening---anything at all," says Konheim, posing in his office in front of a wall of family photos. "It doesn't have to be successful. The main thing is to try."

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    In the summer, Konheim's dogs roam the office and are sometimes treated to walks by volunteering staff members. "They're not actually [employees]," he jokes.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    "This is why everybody wants to work here: the potato chips and the tequila," Nicole Miller says, revealing her junk-food-filled closet. Employees are welcome to grab a bag of chips at any time, and during the stressful weeks leading up to Fashion Week, half-finished bags are reportedly littered all over the office.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    "I have a lot of vintage clothes here, and it keeps getting more and more crowded!" Miller says of her personal collection, which takes up an entire wall of her office. Even more drool-worthy vintage sits out in the hallway, and newly acquired pieces sometimes hang in the conference room where the design team holds meetings. Currently on display is a Nicole Miller dress that Naomi Campbell wore in 1991; the designer purchased it off eBay or etsy, since it wasn't previously in her archives.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    When asked about the shelf in her office devoted primarily to Tabasco products, Miller muses, "I just seem to get a lot of it." The company started regularly sending her its hot sauces when they heard she was a fan.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    Miller poses with mannequins in the showroom; they're wearing looks from the latest resort collection, which will be out in 2012.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    The sales team holds appointments with buyers in the showroom on a daily basis. The space is also used for look-book photo shoots, presentations and an annual Christmas potluck.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    To make the blank white walls of Schmidt's office a little more exciting, she hung a Haitian voodoo print from the spring 2009 collection behind her desk.

  • Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

    Schmidt uses magnetic boards to design the seating chart for runway shows. "Nicole's friends are yellow magnets, and she seats all of her friends herself. But there is an unspoken hierarchy amongst magazines and editors, so as you can see, Time Out New York is on there, but...Vogue has the better seat," explains Schmidt apologetically.

Photograph: Jani Zubkvos

"[Nicole's logo] is super iconic. Obviously they've refined it into a logo, but that's just how she's always signed her name," explains PR and marketing director Heather Schmidt.

For the headquarters of a high-powered fashion mogul, the atmosphere at Nicole Miller is pretty casual. "We're not very corporate," explains VP of sales Sandy Yoon-Krupkin. Communication is wide open between departments, particularly the sales and design teams. CEO Bud Konheim regularly walks the halls to check in with staffers, and Miller herself is in the office daily—she's involved with every aspect of the design process for each of the brand's 25 different licensees. "You'd be shocked by how many people don't think she's a real person," says PR and marketing director Heather Schmidt with a laugh. Not surprisingly, everyone who works at the midtown office dresses stylishly, but there's a definite lack of the overblown primping and preening you might expect from people working in the fashion industry. Most of the women forego makeup, though there is an unofficial footwear policy: "You will be shot if you wear flats in our office," jokes Yoon-Krupkin, adding that if Miller starts seeing the offending style too frequently, she'll ask that a memo be circulated reminding everyone of her preference they wear heels. When asked about her pro-stiletto stance, Miller responded simply, "Well, I'm not a fan of flats."

The staff of around 70 employees regularly works late to meet project deadlines, but even weekends aren't entirely work free; the team checks in with each other via text message or e-mail. "Nicole reinvents herself constantly, so there's such a level of respect that we all just want to work really hard for her," says director of retail Desiree Thomas, who has been with the company in various capacities for 15 years, starting as an intern. "It's a genuine love. Is it a lot of work? Do we always have something to do? Is it cutthroat? Yeah, of course. But it's a really wonderful opportunity, too," she adds. Retail coordinator Ali Goldfarb agrees: "[I feel lucky to] work in a space where creativity is welcome and you get to wear a lot of different hats." As expected, there are some big sartorial perks here: You'll never see advertisements for a Nicole Miller sample sale, but every month, there's an internal one for employees only—and they get their clothes for free. "[Nicole] loves looking at employees in her clothing. I think that's her favorite thing," says Schmidt. Members of the sales team travel several times a year to cities like Paris and L.A. for trade shows, and "we try to make the best of it and get as much shopping in as possible," says Yoon-Krupkin. And while other fashionistas may feel compelled to live off Diet Coke and lettuce, no one at Nicole Miller goes starving: Twice a week, a chef cooks elaborate lunches for the entire staff. Miller also keeps a constant supply of gourmet potato chips in her office that anyone is free to snack on—as long as they don't take her last bag of spicy crawfish-flavored Zapp's.

Wanna work here?
Nicole Miller welcomes submissions of sketches or complete pieces by motivated designers. The company also hires up to 15 unpaid interns at a time, four times a year, and Schmidt says they're currently on the lookout for capable applicants. Anyone interested should send a rsum to info@nicolemiller.com. "Intern first," says Yoon-Krupkin. "You need a multi-line showroom experience, a private showroom experience and a corporate showroom experience, so you know what you like best." Once you've got a foot in the door, former intern Thomas advises, "Have an opinion, speak up and volunteer to be involved in as many things as you possibly can, whether you're asked to or not. [If you] take the initiative to go the extra step, not only will you learn something, but you'll also be recognized. If you go above and beyond, it's very easy to make a home for yourself here."

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