A woman can’t live on cocktails alone. So why do designers churn out so many cocktail dresses? That’s a question that nagged Sylvie Millstein, the designer behind the newly launched label Hellessy. Millstein, who was born in Paris to a French father and a Japanese mother, was the head merchant for Chanel in Japan before relocating to New York in 2007, where she’s been raising a family and acting as a personal shopper and stylist to private clients. “I don’t have a background in design,” she said at a preview of her Fall collection yesterday morning, “but I do have a background in merchandising, so I know how clothes work on the customer and what they want: beautiful finishings, price points.”
Her new label isn’t completely devoid of cocktail numbers, but seeing a void in the market for elevated daywear, that’s where Millstein put her focus. In the mix are pieces like a luxed-up parka with a fur collar, long-sleeve sheaths, flaw-concealing peplum tops, a trompe l’oeil jacket that’s actually a shirt you zip into in back, and leather jeans—”secret weapons,” Millstein calls them, “that come out every week, or every other week.” Fans of Victoria Beckham’s simple, body-enhancing dresses will want to take a closer look at Hellessy. Azzedine Alaïa, Rick Owens, and Stella McCartney are among Millstein’s favorites; their sensibilities inform her work, as well. The collection, which was picked up by Kirna Zabete in New York for Spring, retails for less than $2,000.