PhilaU Fashion Student Creates Nicole Miller Retrospective

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Nicole Miller’s fashion-forward suit designs are on display in a storefront window of the Nicole Miller boutique at The Bellevue in Center City.

Carolyn Connor, a fashion merchandising and management senior, used her archiving skills to create a retrospective of fashion designer Nicole Miller’s vintage designs as part of her internship with Mary K. Dougherty & Associates.

The designs will be on display through Oct. 20 in the storefront windows of the Nicole Miller boutique at The Bellevue, on Walnut and Broad streets in Center City.

Nicole Miller is an acclaimed American designer who was awarded the Spirit of Design Award at Philadelphia University’s 2013 Fashion Show.

Connor’s retrospective includes about 10 displays featuring some of Miller’s most notable designs, including an iconic little black dress and a colorful display of her many whimsical neckties. The oldest pieces date back to the late ’80s.

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Carolyn Connor, a fashion merchandising and management senior, catalogues archived items to create a retrospective of fashion designer Nicole Miller’s vintage designs.

Connor, who had no previous archival experience, helped plan and implement the retrospective by cataloguing archived items, researching the evolution of Miller’s designs and styling a photo shoot for an advertising campaign around the display.

“I was exposed to a whole new side of the fashion industry that I never knew existed,” said Connor, a Baltimore resident. “I’ve gotten to meet so many new people.”

Connor said the experience provided valuable real-world opportunities and that she is now interested in pursuing a career in fashion curation after graduation.

“Carolyn has really shown her passion for archiving through this project and did an amazing job to celebrate Nicole Miller’s brand,” said Mary Dougherty, owner of the Bellevue boutique and Nicole Miller Manayunk. Dougherty has collected more than 300 of Miller’s pieces and almost 800 neckties over the years she has been promoting the brand.

Although she didn’t have prior experience archiving or creating fashion retrospectives, Connor said the knowledge and skills she learned in her survey of textiles class prepared her well for the project. “My knowledge of textiles really helped me,” she said.

She said her favorite part of the retrospective is the suit display that features this Nicole Miller quote scrawled on the display window: “You don’t have to wear a suit to feel strong.” Connor said she admired that Miller had fun coming up with suit designs at a time when most other contemporary designer suits were more traditional.

Building on her new skills, Connor currently is volunteering at The Design Center at Philadelphia University, which houses more than 200,000 rare and historic textiles that reflect a broad spectrum of artisanal techniques, designs, cultures and time periods, as well as for East Falls Historical Society, which is creating a retrospective of the life and career Grace Kelly.

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