After looking at her separates in a new light, Nicole Miller has been inspired to single out her sportswear, giving it a separate label. “We started photographing clothes on interns and people around the office, and having them style themselves, so they would take our dress and wear it with their army jacket,” Miller said, adding that she then circulated some of the photos online. “We got a huge jump in Internet sales right away. It just evolved into this Artelier collection.”
The new lineup will make its official retail launch for spring, but on Wednesday Miller presented Artelier’s pre-fall looks for the first time as an individual collection. Her inspiration ranged from Sharon Stone’s character in “The Quick and the Dead” to the work of New Zealand jewelry designer Nick Von K, particularly his penchant for wings and skulls. The clothes had a Southwestern vibe “without being cowboy,” Miller noted, referring to tie-dye, eagle and western prints, fringe details and feathers; the latter appeared on the shoulder of a draped and twisted dress, as well as on the lapel of an embossed leather python jacket. There was also a waxed coat and a coated canvas poncho.
There was more than just fashion behind this move. Over the years, Miller had built a significant sportswear business in specialty boutiques, but department stores largely typecast her as a dress resource for the fifth floor. Sensing an untapped potential for growth, she and chief executive officer Bud Konheim aimed to correct the notion, thus creating Artelier. “We had gotten nowhere in department stores,” Konheim explained. “Specialty stores are no problem because they don’t have departments, but the department stores, they always sell on five.”
This new move will allow stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom to sell Artelier on their third floors, while continuing to sell the designer’s evening and cocktail looks in dress departments. Neiman’s, for instance, is launching Artelier with five shop-in-shops in February.
Wholesale prices go from $55 to $585, and Konheim said those sales projections are in the $10 million to $15 million range, though it should be noted that even though Artelier is a new brand, it’s not an upstart per se since Miller has already been offering the sportswear category in 1,000 specialty stores under the Nicole Miller label.
As for Artelier’s moniker, Miller is a collector of contemporary art, from Terence Koh to Damian Loeb, which has inspired much of her clothes over the years. Plus, she said, “My mother is from Paris so I grew up speaking French, and we have a workroom in the back which we call our atelier.”