What's Her Secret: Nicole Miller

The celebrated fashion designer loves whole, unprocessed food so much that her whole office enjoys wonderful lunches twice a week.

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How does a busy fashion designer stay healthy, happy, and balanced? For Nicole Miller, the secret lies in an active lifestyle, delegating stress and eating well. In fact, so passionate is the celebrated designer about whole, healthy, unprocessed food, that her office has delicious, homemade team lunches twice a week, cooked by a longtime member of the staff. We spoke with Miller about her thoughts on wellness.

Where did your passion for eating well come from? "First off, my mother's French, so we always had homemade bread at home. We didn't have any processed food or canned food—she never even bought mayonnaise. We always had homemade mayonnaise, homemade bread. She would buy a jar of peanut butter once a year, so we were really peanut butter deprived! Anyway, my mother was always very health conscious. She's 94 now."

I always have whole milk, I always have butter, olive oil. I just don't like food that's been messed around with."—Nicole Miller

How did your office lunches start? "In the office, around the Garment District, there's just no good place to order food from, so we started having design lunches, and Beverly, who works here, I'd send her out to Ninth Avenue, to the Italian store, and she'd buy bread and prosciutto and parmesan, and she would make a salad. It evolved from design lunches to lunches for everybody. And then she started making lunch for everyone in the office. She's worked for us for years. She cooks lunch on Wednesdays and Fridays. Today she made pasta and pesto with fresh basil, it was delicious, and usually on Friday she makes something with meat in it."

What's Her Secret: Nicole Miller

Sounds like to you, healthy, delicious, nutritious food is really about unprocessed, fresh food. "I was never into any food that was low fat or low this or low that. I always have whole milk, I always have butter, olive oil. I just don't like food that's been messed around with. [But] there's certain things you can't avoid. I'm always horrified at these people who eat yogurt. There are only one or two brands of yogurt that I buy. Most of the yogurt in this country is so horrendous, it's so over-processed and it's fat-free, sugar-free, whatever, it's just awful and tasteless. I just am appalled by what's happened to these yogurt companies. People think they're doing something healthy by having a yogurt and they're eating crap."

Right. The less processed, the better. "The more they mess with your food, it's gotta be the worse for you. You know, I like to have food that has as little done to it as possible. I just love the summer, the farmer's market—we have a farmer's market in Tribeca, there's one in Sag Harbor. I try to get the freshest stuff I can. I love it when they get fresh seafood and organic––I mean, the greens are always so much better."

Yeah I'm getting so hungry just speaking to you! What is your typical food day like? "Well, I go through phases. For awhile I was just into buying baguettes, my French is coming through. But normally, the one yogurt I eat a lot is by Ronnybrook. I like that, so I always keep some Ronnybrook yogurts in my refrigerator, and organic eggs. I also like eggs with a little parmesan on them, or scrambled eggs with parmesan, so I might have something like that for breakfast, and lunch I try to have some kind of meat and a salad. I mean, I like to bring in my lunch. I much prefer that to ordering out food. So on Monday, I brought in––I had asparagus from the farmer's market and mushrooms, so we had this whole big pile of asparagus and mushrooms and we had some chicken with it. And I never steam my vegetables."

What's Her Secret: Nicole Miller

How do you prepare them? "In olive oil. I cook all of my vegetables in olive oil. I'll put a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the pan, and I'll crush a garlic or leave it whole, for a little flavor, and I'll throw in asparagus and broccoli, and sautée it for a little bit. I like that so much better."

How about office snacks? "I always keep cheese in the refrigerator, so we have that, and our guilty pleasure here is potato chips. But as long as they're not processed I feel okay about it. And, you know, we have almonds around and that sort of thing. And fruit, sometimes, in the afternoon. [For] dinner, I'm very often in restaurants. If I'm in an Italian restaurant, I'll probably have pasta, if I'm in a Japanese restaurant, I'll probably have a whole mixture of different things. We eat at Nobu a lot. I like to not eat the same thing all the time."

How about fitness? "Well, I go to spin class a lot. I do a lot of sports. I ski a lot in the winter, and I water ski and wakeboard a lot in the summer. I've skied my whole life."

Are those passions reflected in your collections? "I think my resort collection was fun to do in the summer, and I used a lot of scuba because I'm always in a wetsuit. And actually, I started water skiing earlier this year, so I had to go for the full-body wetsuit this year because it was so cold. I've used neoprene for years, I think a lot of us have used neoprene for years, what's nice is that it's now selling. Now it seems everybody likes it."

Being so busy, what are some of the other things you do to feel good every day? "I'm always busy and if I have free time, I go to the movies or read books, things like that. I'm always doing research for clothing."

How do you stay balanced at work? "I like to delegate out the stress: 'You take care of this problem.' And somehow the problem will disappear and it generally does. I remember when we were doing a fashion show, I don't know, something happened to [a pair of] gloves. We didn't get the glove, so one of my [girls] was hysterical, 'Oh my god, we don't have the gloves in the show, what are we going to do?' I said, 'Somehow, the gloves are going to happen. The gloves will appear. We'll get the gloves. Everything will happen. We'll make it work.' And it did. I don't remember how, but we had gloves somehow."

Things do work out! That's a great tip: delegate. Do you have another stress-management tip to share? "Maybe have a glass of white wine. That's always a good one!"