Style: People: Q&A with Michelle Smith
Q&A with Michelle Smith
From Punta del Este to St. Tropez, a breezy yet sophisticated look is just as important as the right hotel (or villa). One designer whose new resortwear has a chic modern flair is Michelle Smith, an FIT graduate who also studied at the renowned ESMOD school in Paris. When designing pieces for her women’s line Milly, which features lots of bold colors, geometric patterns and shiny silk fabrics, the Connecticut native and current New York resident draws inspiration from her many travels abroad. The beautiful cover-ups and sunny cotton polos from Smith’s latest resort collection are based upon the designer’s journeys to Punta Mita, Mexico. Below, Smith, whose designs are available at stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Harrods and Takashimaya talks to Indagare about fashion, Punta Mita and her (other) favorite places around the world.
Where has been your greatest inspiration for work? Paris. I lived there for 3 years while I trained in design at Christian Dior Haute Couture, Louis Vuitton and Hermès. It’s the fashion capital of the world, after all, and such a breathtaking city!
Are there places that you travel to that you find particularly inspiring? I love beach vacations. They help me to decompress and renew my energy—I design 12 collections a year, so I get pretty tired after a while!
What are your favorite travel destinations? Punta Mita, Mexico. It is so beautiful, luxurious and relaxing, but also very charming because of its proximity to local surfing and fishing villages. It is the perfect getaway from my hectic life in New York! I also love Italy and Anguilla.
What are your favorite hotels? 1. The Four Seasons Punta Mita. It’s right on the ocean; there are breathtaking 180-degree views of the Pacific and the grounds are beautiful—so lush and tropical! The service is also top-notch, and the restaurants are all world class. Another plus is that the resort is very child-friendly…perfect for my little 11-month-old girl! 2. Hotel Cala di Volpe. There are gorgeous sweeping views of the Mediterranean and the best poolside buffet lunch I have ever had in my entire life! Ask to stay in the Aga Khan’s room, which has a huge terrace. 3. Hôtel Raphael. I travel to Paris 4-5 times a year, and this is where I always stay. The hotel is small and cozy with wonderful service, and the rooms, all of which are decorated with French antiques, are beautiful and very spacious.
Where do you dream to travel next? Perhaps the South Pacific- I have never been there.
Where will you travel next? This Friday I am going to Palm Beach for a long weekend (for both business and pleasure).
What are your favorite restaurants? 1. Aramara (at the Four Seasons Punta Mita). I love the chino-latino menu and the sexy, oceanfront vibe…the chili chocolate soufflé is to die for. 2. L’Ami Louis (32 rue de Vertbois, 3e, 3rd, Paris; 33-1-48-87-77-48). There’s amazing foie gras, ecargots, confit de canard and chocolate mousse. Need I say more? 3. Shun Lee West (43 West 65th St., NYC; 212-595-8895; www.shunleewest.com ). I eat here at least once a week; it has the best Chinese food in town as well as amazing service.
What are your favorite shops abroad? 1. Matches. This is my favorite fashion boutique in the world; it’s chic and very well-edited. 2. Pachamama (Calle Delfin 4b, Sayulita (near Punta Mita); 52-329-291-3468) has the coolest, sexiest “boho babe” clothing I’ve seen in a long time. I love their leather and pearl necklaces! 3. Didier Ludot for exquisite vintage clothing and accessories.
Whose style do you most admire? Screen legends of the past like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly had a timeless chic that still looks fresh and exciting today. They were sexy in a discreet way.
How would you describe your own style? Feminine, smart and sexy.
What is your favorite item of clothing? My vintage 1960’s black Christian Dior cocktail dress.
What do you never leave home without? A credit card, lip gloss and my BlackBerry (but I refuse to use it on vacation).
Is beauty or function more important? A combination of the two…why can’t they co-exist?
Do you have a travel uniform? I never realized this, but I do! For warm destinations I prefer jeans and a cardigan over a tank top (I can take off the cardi when I arrive). For cold destination: jeans and a cashmere turtleneck. For both I like ballet flats—they’re good for running around airports in style.
Do you have a packing routine? Yes! It’s always last-minute, un-organized and chaotic.
What kinds of clothes are particularly well suited for travel? Anything made out of jersey is perfect—it doesn’t wrinkle so you can literally throw it into a suitcase, as I often do.
When did you last find a bargain? A very long time ago, what with the low value of the dollar over the past few years. Gone are the days of “power-shopping” in Paris!
What was your latest splurge? A Chanel handbag—I tend to splurge on classic, well-made things that don’t go out of style.
Do you collect anything on your travels? Frequent flyer miles and happy memories.