“I’m not pretending to be reinventing anything,” Savannah Miller says candidly a number of times throughout our interview about her new collaboration with Debenhams. Here you’ll find everything from comfy everyday basics like cosy jumpers and cardigans to a sequinned skirt and dresses that'll take you from desk to dinner and the perfect leather jacket, which tops the price bracket at £250.
The 36-year-old has joined the British department store’s impressive stable of designers, which includes Matthew Williamson, Jonathan Saunders and Julian Macdonald, and this month sees her first collection launch with 70 womenswear pieces and 48 accessories (a further 35 pieces will be added for Christmas.)
The line is named Nine, so called after her daughter Lyra, who in turn is named after the constellation of stars that shines brightest at 9pm.
It is Miller’s first big project since returning from a year-long ‘sabbatical’ in Panama, where she, her husband Nik and their three kids, Lyra, 7, Bali, 3, and Moses, 10, decamped from their home in Stroud, Gloucestershire in search of the simple life while Nik set up an adventure holiday company.
The year was difficult and wonderful in equal measure; Miller was unknowingly suffering from post-natal depression following the birth of daughter Bali 18 months previously, and a horrific accident saw Moses sustain a serious injury when he got caught in a boat propeller. But it wasn’t all bad; “the children loved it, they learned to surf, they learned Spanish and a lot of really positive things came out of that trip that haven’t been printed, which is unfortunate,” she says. It also gave her clarity.
“After taking some time out and assessing everything I realised what my mission was: to create accessible, wearable, affordable fashion for the everyday woman for her everyday wardrobe,” she says. “I’m not pretending to be reinventing anything; I’m not Christopher Kane, I know what I’m good at doing and I really get a kick out of it.”
She started to look for a British high street partner when the family returned to the UK last year and settled back in the Cotswolds and Debenhams felt like a “no brainer”.
“It’s been so effortless. My team there read my mind. It really works, I’d quite happily stay there for the next 20 years,” she says.
London-born Miller studied design at Central Saint Martins and went on to work for Matthew Williamson and Alexander McQueen (where she cringingly recalls putting the wrong toner in the photocopier and costing the company £2,500 on her first day as an intern) before starting up her own label with her famous sister, actress Sienna Miller. She was just 26 when Twenty8Twelve launched and admits she “didn’t have a clue what she was doing or what her personal style was”.
“Trying to be authoritative in a situation where you’ve got older people working for you is a little weird,” she says, adding that she now feels “able to speak with my own voice properly for the first time” thanks to Debenhams.
Nevertheless, she admits that she’s still sketchy on the business side of being a fashion designer, an element of the industry she was never taught at university. “There’s no other vocational training that leaves you so unprepared,” she says, “It’s crazy… nowadays I think people need to be a bit more savvy, there does need to be an element of that in the course framework.”
The Miller sisters parted ways with Twenty8Twelve in 2012 and Savannah went on to fulfil a one-collection deal with multibrand e-tailer Nelly.com, which set her on the road to realisation that affordable fashion was her forte.
Sienna is no longer involved in fashion design, instead she’s focusing on her ever-expanding Hollywood career, but she and Savannah are incredibly close and of course turn to each other for advice. “She has an amazing eye, Sienna. And she’s very visionary, it’s extraordinary. At Twenty8Twelve she’d say stuff, we’d do it and everyone would be like ‘we can’t do that’, and then a year later it would be the biggest trend. It was crazy; she has a real designer’s mind.”
Savannah hopes her collaboration with Debenhams will run and run and has visions of branching out into kids and homeware. “I’m going to get the execs wasted tonight and make them give me a children’s line,” she jokes. “No honestly, I want to do it all, I have so many ideas ... but I must not run before I walk, we have to check the Debenhams customer actually likes me before I take over the world!”
In October Miller will also launch a bridal collection with Stone Fox Bride, the hip, high-end New York label that specialises in kitting out cool brides. This, says Miller, makes her feel as though she’s finally got all her “boxes ticked”.
Nine by Savannah Miller is available in store and online now at debenhams.com