Traveling Through Time, Space, And Art Periods At Milly Spring 2011
The late New York-bred heiress and influential 20th century art collector Peggy Guggenheim served as the muse for designer Michelle Smith’s Milly Spring/Summer 2011 collection. Guggenheim’s progressive tastes in art made her an oddity in the art collector circuit of the ’40s and ’50s. Rather than investing in paintings as a profit-making means (or to flaunt her stature in society), Peggy Guggenheim bought works simply because they brought her joy, because she was able to discern something magnificent and sublime in them. An early supporter of the Cubist, Surrealist and Abstract art movements, Guggenheim used her wealth and connections to proselytize about the artists she loved — from Jackson Pollock to Salvador Dali, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst, Piet Mondrian, and many others — most of whom achieved legendary status. Aside from her connoisseurship, Guggenheim was known as a frequent traveler, having ventured to locales raging from her native New York City to Venice, Paris, Amsterdam, Zurich, Milan, London, Venice, and Brussels in search of tantalizing works of art.
The Milly Spring/Summer 2010 collection, then, references Guggenheim’s enviable art collection — not to mention her privileged New York roots, eccentric mannerisms, and the appreciation for different cultures facilitated by her many journeys.
The most successful designs embraced Guggenheim’s penchant for modern art, integrating these art movement references into the traditional Park Avenue princess aesthetic associated with the Milly brand. A white cotton voile skirt with a Kandinski-style print of overlapping red and black discs was paired with a tomato red and navy blue cotton jacquard cardigan that recalled Blair Waldorf’s ensembles in Season One of Gossip Girl. A mustard yellow, matte red, ochre, minty green and chocolate brown cubist print was used for a slightly retro silk and linen shift dress (pictured above, second from top), which was then paired with a simple black jacket with cropped sleeves. The square red, white and black beads adorning the bodice of a navy sheath dress nodded to Mondrian’s color-blocked pieces. Overlapping circle shapes in kelly green and black adorned the voluminous, pleated skirt of a white cotton voile dress featuring a fitted bodice and a scoop neck outlined in kelly green and black. And, in terms of accessories, bat wing-styled sunglasses (also designed by Milly) recalled the original frames Edward Melcarth custom designed for Guggenheim but featured brighter colors like a glossy violet
The floral prints in the collection, though relevant to the Guggenheim theme, were far less appealing, often appearing dowdy and old-fashioned. The styling also misfired on a few looks, particularly when printed pieces were paired with handbags or shoes bearing the exact same print. Also disappointing: the anticlimactic finale look, which consisted of a cumbersome, matronly navy cotton eyelet jacket and eyelet tiered skirt.
Still, the turban-like head wraps adorning models’ heads added a delightfully Bohemian globe-trotter feel and many of the tribal-flavored jewelry pieces spiced up pieces in traditionally feminine silhouettes. A few rare missteps aside, the Milly Spring/Summer 2011 collection functioned as a worthy homage to Guggenheim while staying true to the line’s Upper East Side chic roots.