The notions of fashion as art or art as fashion often seem forced, but for Alison Miller, they’re a blending of two loves.

An avid painter who studied painting in Italy and has a fine arts degree from Cornell, Miller always had her eye on the fashion world, as well as on the canvas. After completing an accelerated degree program at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, she decided to launch a new collection under the label AlidioMichelli (a combination of her name and her husband’s).

Miller feels that the transition from painting to fashion is a natural one, and it shows up to best advantage in her attention to cut and detail, as well as her innovative use of fabrics and leathers. Alison says she attempts to give "a sculptural feel to the movement of the clothes" and uses "fabrics as surfaces to be manipulated." Accordingly, she uses pleated leather in all sorts of configurations, as well as glazed lace and a gauzy silk filament.

Miller also has a penchant for the dramatic, and the clothes often suffer from an overdose of artsiness. But there also are simpler pieces here: beautifully shaped pantsuits, tailored shirts and sleek black leather coats, the best of which has a pleated band running down its front and spine.

The 40-piece collection, which will be produced in Italy, is expected to retail from $275 to $4,000. Several top retailers have already checked out the new designer, including Joan Kaner of Neiman Marcus who said, "The fabrics are exquisite, the workmanship is great and the fit, especially for a first collection, looked good. But I think she adds a bit too much drama to the clothes."

And Janet Brown, who spotted some Oscar-night dresses in the collection, said, "Alison spent a great deal of time and effort to bring an artistic approach to her fashion collection. And she studied it beautifully."

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