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12/09/2016

SAVANNAH MILLER X FIORELLI

Like any mother, Savannah Miller has a natural concern for the health and wellbeing of women and children. The fashion designer was one of four celebrity women (newsreader Mary Nightingale, Cactus TV co-founder Amanda Ross and presenter Pollyanna Woodward also took part) selected by British handbag brand Fiorelli to design a tote as part of a new capsule collection, for which 50% of profits will go to the charity Wellbeing of Women.

The 37-year-old mother of three tells me how fortunate she was that none of her children ever suffered from serious illnesses growing up, nor did she have any problems conceiving. However, as she gets older, Savannah is witnessing many of her friends experiencing both minor and major issues. Indeed, despite ongoing progress in the UK, there are still some frightening statistics – for example, one in five women suffer from reproductive or gynaecological problems; one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage; and 12 babies a day die at or near birth. Therefore, Wellbeing of Women is a vital source of funds for doctors, scientists and midwives, who carry out pioneering medical research into women’s reproductive health to improve treatments, find cures and advance knowledge.

While Savannah’s children have never had any medical issues, three years ago her eldest son Moses was in a serious boating accident at a nature reserve in Panama (where the family was living at the time), with his leg being badly injured by a propeller. Thankfully, he got to the emergency services in time, but the experience was no doubt a scarring one for all involved.

However, this isn’t the subject of our interview. As the only fashion designer among the ambassadors, Savannah was the perfect fit for this collaboration, especially given that she has always been a fan of Fiorelli. “It was a very fun project to work on because Fiorelli is such an iconic English heritage brand,” she says. While she had to remain loyal to Fiorelli’s 25-year style heritage, Savannah was able to inject some of her own personal style, which she describes as a cross between “classic and non-classic”. “I like playing with contrasts,” she comments. “If you’re going to wear a pretty blouse, wear it with ripped jeans, or if you’re going to wear smart trousers, wear them with a sweatshirt so you don’t look overdone.”

Highlighting this juxtaposition, Savannah’s tote comes in classic black leather, but has been decorated with gold studs that have been arranged to give off an ombre-like effect. This design element very much nods to Savannah’s fashion background, the bag possessing a “more rock ‘n’ roll edge” than one would normally expect from Fiorelli.

Savannah has been working as a fashion designer for the past 12 years. In 2007, she and her sister, the actress Sienna, founded the label Twenty8Twelve, which was backed by denim brand Pepe Jeans. The pair worked together as creative directors for 12 seasons until 2012 when they both stood down and Savannah announced that she would be going it alone with her first solo collection.

A departure from Twenty8Twelve – which was summed up by British Vogueeditor Alexandra Shulman as “wearable, a bit romantic and very sexy” at one of their early London Fashion Week shows – Savannah’s eponymous range comprised pared-down, everyday basics at a far more accessible price point than her previous line. Following this, Savannah has gone on to create an exclusive range for Debenhams called Nine. After launching last September, it has been going from strength to strength and is due to introduce more product categories next spring.

The sisters continue to live together whenever Savannah is down in London (she splits her time between here and Gloucestershire) and so she often feels like nothing has really changed. “I consult her on stuff all the time and I constantly ask her questions: ‘What do you think of this?’, ‘What do you think of that?’ She is a phenomenal sounding board because she is very forward-thinking when it comes to trends. She has always pushed the boat out and done things which others have then cottoned onto. She’s

very intuitive.”

With her timeless boho-chic style, Sienna has been dubbed a global fashion icon by the press. And yet, it was always Savannah who was passionate about pursuing a career in fashion. As children, she tells me how she was “always knitting, drawing, dressing up”, while Sienna was busy putting on performances. And yet, Savannah was clearly drawn to her sibling’s theatrical side too; she used to make costumes for Sienna’s plays and became “obsessed” with Alexander McQueen while studying at Central St Martins (where he was also an alumnus) because of “the drama and theatre” he brought to his creations. After graduating, Savannah went to work for the British designer, which proved an invaluable experience.

“He would have such a mixture of inspirations – Peruvian tribal culture and punk all on the same mood board – and within that he would find something completely unique, which I think is very hard to do nowadays. He was mind-blowing.” Savannah’s second job was working for Matthew Williamson, who is to this day a very close friend of both sisters: “He is incredibly creative, but I believe his true strength lies in colour and print. I’ve always been drawn to doing things in quite a plain way, but he really woke me up to beading and embellishing.”

Savannah is a very interesting woman to speak to. On the one hand, she is self-deprecating and funny, joking about how she used to get hit on by girls at school (with her short hair and waifish appearance, she was sometimes mistaken for a boy) and how she is amazed at where she has got to considering she never achieved the necessary art GCSE or A-level to get into fashion college. On the other hand, the designer is very assertive, confident and occasionally a little brusque, particularly when I try to find out whether she has ever found her family’s name a hindrance (a question she cuts off immediately). Savannah has undoubtedly had a bumpy ride throughout her career and has therefore shown a remarkable amount of resilience and determination to keep going. This was no doubt helped by her stepmother Kelly Hoppen, the successful interior designer and entrepreneur. “Kelly always said to me, ‘If you want it bad enough, you can get it. You just need to work hard.’”

And this Savannah does to an almost frightening degree. Alongside Nine, last year the designer launched a bridal range with US brand Stone Fox Bride, which will be arriving in the UK in October. Retailing at between £1,000 and £5,000, Savannah is excited to be designing bespoke wedding dresses for customers. Like her ready-to-wear, all her dresses have a bohemian, relaxed and urban vibe, with no corsetry – “There’s nothing worse than a bride suffering from chronic indigestion.”

The designer has very fond memories of wearing her wedding dress – a simple but stunning empire line chiffon over satin number with hand appliqué detailing. If she had to choose, this would be the one thing she would save from her wardrobe in a fire (although the Chanel bag gifted to her by her sister for her 30th comes in at a close second). Savannah is also launching a make-up range for QVC and Debenhams in October, comprising an edit of handbag essentials.

With all of this going on, I’m amazed Savannah has any time to spend with her family. Weekends spent doing extracurricular activities with her children (“One rides, one loves ballet, another plays cricket”) are intermixed with dinners with friends and her husband Nick. Having finally discovered exercise at 37, she jokes, Savannah is now a regular gym-goer, but is particularly partial to yoga: “I’m really flexible so for me it’s a complete walk in the park.” And so, it seems, is everything else to Savannah Miller.Read more at:celebrity dresses | evening dresses

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