“I was visiting a gallery that was exhibiting this art,” said Miller, in an interview with Vogue. “They had a collection of vintage molas that were absolutely beautiful. I bought them to frame, but then decided they would make beautiful fabric and embroidery.” And right she was.
Molas are pieces of traditional garments worn by the Kuna women in Panama and Colombia, which are bright colored panels sewn together. Essentially, the designer took lovely pieces of garments and brought them to life in new, fashion forward forms on a larger than life stage. The resulting styles were inherently versatile.
The beautiful geometric patterns of the mola style gained modernity thanks to the silhouette each piece was cut into. Miller also decided to play around with juxtaposed styles; in one instance, there was a knee-length hem that floated down the runway but was paired with a tight bodice and plunged neckline. As Miller said of this, “I love contrasts, and working with this Panamanian concept while trying to modernize it.”
It would have been a shame had Miller not created tight pieces featuring the mola fabrics, especially since some have speculated that the origins of molas stem from the designs being painted directly onto the wearers’ bodies. Perhaps in response to this, the designer did create a number of sleek looks.
Miller did an expert job at mixing patterns and fabrics within singular looks, such as the first look down the runway as described with the plunging neckline. The geometric mola patterns were showcased and appeared exotic with the colorful feather and flower details. At a glance, and especially from a distance, the pattern almost resembles the Pacman game screen, which unintentionally adds a touch of whimsy.
The Nicole Miller spring/summer 2017 collection continued with successful looks featuring exotic and tribal designs that brought that classic mola fabric into the modern age. For the most part, she maintained this level of cohesion, used for a piece here or there that brought in some new blips of other styles.
But she also showed her ability to mingle styles without pushing it too far from her central theme. For instance, her orange mini dress with a plunging neckline was sexy, modern, and also reminded one of the colorful mola body paint concept. It had geometric lines, both in the shape and as designed on the fabric; and it looked striking on the runway, to boot.
With these segue pieces, Miller continued to have a successful show without many deviations from her design strategy centered around Panama and the mola designs.
Photos courtesy of Vogue