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by victoria rivers veilleux | November 14, 2012 | Style & Beauty
Mark Miller with his wife and business partner, Miyuki Tachibana.
Thread spools covering the color spectrum.
A vintage-inspired patch adorns many pieces in the luxury skiwear collection.
A fur-trimmed winter coat.
Mark Miller opens the door of his newly remodeled 7,500-squarefoot South End showroom and manufacturing headquarters with one pant leg still rolled high above his wing tip—a telltale sign of his bike ride to work from his Brookline home. His conscious decision to not own a car, to ride a bicycle or take the T, and to live as sustainably as possible might seem out of character for someone known for creating a lavish line of outerwear and skiwear. However his dedication to doing the right thing is exactly what ensures there’s no skimping on fabrics, every last grommet is artfully designed, and all raw materials come from what he considers the world’s best resources.
Despite being a favorite of the international ski set, with his apparel sold in more than 275 stores worldwide, Miller remains relatively unheralded locally. The M. Miller brand is distinctly retro-inspired but completely high-tech, using the best cold-weather textiles, including Swiss-made aerospace fabrics, Canadian goose down, and Thinsulate linings, not to mention Swarovski Elements crystals for the details. He and his wife, Miyuki Tachibana, design three lines for the brand: the Alpine Heritage with this year’s vintage-inspired, hand-designed patches, a flashier Luxe Sport line, and Ski Classic. “Both Miyuki and I like things that have heritage to them, that have ancestry,” he says. “They don’t necessarily look antique, but you feel that they could be from a different time even if they are modern and new.”
Perhaps one reason Miller flies a bit under the radar here in New England is that he is as choosy about the outlets his lines appear in as he is about the materials that go into them, giving only the best ski shops in a region an exclusive. He competes with high-profile lines like Bogner in both look and price (prices for skiwear range from $800 to $1,200) when it comes to his plush, body-conscious jackets, headbands, earmuffs, scarves, and boots.
Miller grew up in the trade with a family tree leafed out with furriers. His father established the business in 1977. The line centered around sportier furs, a trend that Miller would take one step further by incorporating more skiwear into the line, after obtaining his degree in design and merchandising in 1981 from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Luxurious fur accents and accessories remain hallmarks of a Miller creation to this day, and the family’s many years in the business have helped maintain the quality of each season’s collection. “We are about luxury, so we want the line to look and feel beautiful, but we’re also about it being long-lasting and durable,” says Miller.
Miller also makes it his mission to create versatile looks that work both on and off the slopes. Ski-specific details like hoods and powder skirts are often detachable or hidden under decorative finishes, seamlessly engineered to transition from active pursuits to city outings. “It doesn’t really matter if you’re going downhill or downtown; the functionality of your outerwear has to be environment specific,” says Miller. “There are other bells and whistles that go into making a ski garment, and we put those in.”
He credits much of this thoughtful design to his wife, who serves as partner and lead designer. “I do this cooperatively with my wife, and sometimes not so cooperatively,” jokes Miller, who feels the retro-inspired line with a modern twist is the by-product of their shared vision. He adds, “She understands the concept of a complete look,” a skill she honed while working as a designer for a monolithic sportswear label in her home country of Japan.
Another conscious choice by Miller is to exclusively distribute to better boutiques and ski sport specialty shops rather than blanketing department stores. He currently makes only one exception: Harrods in London. While one can purchase the full collection of base, mid-layer, outerwear, boots, and accessories for both men and women directly from the Boston showroom, most seek it out in places like Woodstock, Vermont or Vail, Colorado. “We want to be a unique brand sold in beautiful stores around the world,” he says. And within the past decade, the brand, whose skiwear collection is often embellished with its iconic stag logo, has taken a leap into international territory, selling in 15 countries on four continents. Next in Miller’s sights is the possible expansion of the line into two seasons by adding a sportswear and resort collection. As his collection grows and his showroom gains more traction in the local market, that stag might be seen in Boston’s toniest neighborhoods as well as on the world’s poshest ski slopes. 519 Albany St., 617-426-1259; mmillerfur.com
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TRACY AIGUIER (PORTRAIT); JOEL BENJAMIN (THREAD, PRODUCTS)