After graduating from the University of Derby with an M.A. in Fashion Design, John Robert Miller worked as a costume designer for the British Repertory Theater. Upon returning to the United States, he opened his own clothing company, dressing celebrities such as Vanessa Redgrave, Chaka Khan and Barbara Streisand.
However, it was his work as a freelance writer for both Internet and print magazines that led to Miller’s collaboration with Burrows, working together on a book that detailed the latter’s contributions to the fashion industry. Miller is now a fashion designer for, and the manager of, SBX Holdings LLC & Stephen Burrows. Yesterday, he was one of many notable guests to attend the fashion show, one District jumped on the chance to interview.
District: In your opinion, did working as a costume designer influence your work, and if so, how?
John Miller: Ehh … historical references in regard to cutting a garment, and a lot of times in costume design you work with fabrics which aren’t necessarily fashionable at the time. So you have a broader fabric knowledge.
District: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Miller: Completely different than Stephen Burrows who I work with. When I was designing, I was more about embellishment. Very much the cut, a fit. I do verticals and horizontals.
District: Who/what are some of your inspirations?
Miller: My original inspiration when I was in college in the U.K. was Paul Poiret and Doucet, all around the beginning of the 19th century. I love the French designers.
District: You have worked with big names like Chaka Khan and Barbara Streisand. Do you ever get starstruck?
Miller: No. I had a period of my life where I worked retail on Madison Avenue, and I saw a lot of ladies in their undergarments. I just wanted to help them, make them look good or feel good.
District: Who are you dying to see in a Burrows?
Miller: Actually Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. If she can wear Jenny Packham, if she can wear Issa, then she certainly can wear Burrows.
Advice from John Miller:
District: Sbx Holding LLC & Stephen Burrows has been really busy lately working on shows and with people as fabulous as the First Lady of the U.S. Recently on your Twitter, you mentioned internships due to the high demand. What do you, as a managing director, look for in new interns?
Miller: Someone who’s enthusiastic, computer savvy, follows instructions well, willing to learn. Not necessarily in that order. A complete understanding that fashion is not glamorous 99 percent of the time. It’s hard work.
District: Once a private label designer and owner of your own clothing company, do you have any advice for fashion design students who want to open up their own businesses?
Miller: I would say two things. Take some business courses, and know that it’s going to cost much more than you really think it’s going to cost.
District: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Miller: Be prepared to work very hard, and be prepared to be a little underpaid until you have the knowledge that makes you a very valuable employee or designer. Learn as much as you can. If you’re smart, you will never ask someone to do something you haven’t already done yourself.
Contact Jireh Maddox.