Alyssa Miller is a woman of many talents. Already a super-model, musician and vintage-enthusiast, Miller can now add fashion designer to her resume with the release of her collaboration with Texas-based brand Understated Leather debuting on August 1st. Filled with dreamy suede and embroidered leather, the collection feels as authentically-rooted in the brand’s Southern roots as one can get. Miller explained to W that she was inspired by the classic Nudie and Roncelli suits – the epitome of western wear. “I wanted to take those concepts and make it more modern and wearable for every day,” she explains. Miller also took on a three day road-trip to West Texas with Understated Leather designer Jennifer Kassell and photographer Harper Smith, to create the picturesque campaign for the collection that she happened to also style herself. Oh, and the three of them just happen to be best friends. Talk about a dream team.
How did this partnership with Understated Leather come to life?
Jen, who owns and operates Understated Leather, and I became close friends and just started chatting about it casually and eventually decided to collaborate. It’s been a dream to work with my bestie on my first collection.
What was your inspiration for the collection?
I was very inspired by Nudie and Roncelli suits, and western wear in general. I loved the idea of having a few pieces of the same collection and being able to wear them together as suit wear, throwing a jacket on with jeans, or the shorts with a classic white button up tied at the waist.
From music to modeling, you’re a multi-hyphenate. Did you always plan on venturing into design as well?
I wear many hats, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Having been a model for so long I learned a lot about clothes, design, and style. So I think it was a matter of time before I started working on my own designs. I didn't realize exactly how rewarding it could be to see your concepts go from mind to paper to being born into actuality. I loved the process. I imagine it will be even more so seeing all the beautiful women of the world actually wearing them.
Take me through the design process with the Understated Leather team. How did this collaboration work?
Jen was amazing, she was very hands off and let me conceptualize the entire collection and every piece I wanted. We then worked with a designer on fit. We worked very hard to make sure that every piece was as flattering and flawless as possible. I relentlessly pushed every detail, the pants I am particularly proud of. A good suede pant is very hard to come by—I know because I’ve searched endlessly. So I'm proud to say I think we made the perfect pair.
The collection seems to be based around the brand’s Texan roots. Was this intentional?
With both Jen and I being based out of Austin I think it was impossible to avoid. We both love and embrace western culture and are inspired by it every day out here. I wanted to find a way of meshing city wear with Texas country cowboy wear. I want to take a bit of Texas with me everywhere I go.
What would you say is your signature touch in the collection?
The embroidery is to me, what makes this collection so special and spectacular. It reminds me of something you might find on a vintage piece. Something that if you were to find in a vintage shop you might die from excitement.
You also styled the campaign—what is your styling philosophy?
In this case it was less is more. I used only vintage white blouses and t- shirts from my vintage collection for Pilgrim, a bit of a signature of mine. The great thing about this collection is that it really speaks for itself, it didn’t need much.
You took a three day road-trip to West Texas for the campaign. What was that like?
I wanted it to feel like a journey, like an adventure, and it was one. We almost ran out of gas on a country road with nothing around for miles. We talked for hours, we shared our stories and offered our advice. We almost peed our pants while waiting for the next rest stop, then ate all the crappy convenience store snacks and drank wine straight from the bottle at night. We shot when we came upon something interesting that helped tell our story. We shot when it felt right, and when it didn’t, we didn’t. It was perfect.
Do you feel your friendship helped shape this collection?
My friendships shape everything I do, but this one in particular especially. Jen offered me a safe place to design my first collection and Harper offered me a safe and open collaboration in image making as well. Having been in the industry for so long I know how hard that is to come by. To be able to speak freely about what it is I want and need to convey and to have Harper be so receptive was truly a gift. Capturing an exact mood, a feeling, is incredibly hard to do and I would never have been able to do it with out them.
Who are your style icons?
Bianca and Mick Jagger, Françoise Hardy, Pattie Boyd... too many to count.
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