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She has made her name, and her brand, by shar­ing her life on­line, but Mil­lie Mack­in­tosh knows the down­side of over­shar­ing, too. Sarah Caden talks to the In­sta­gram star about her tran­si­tion from re­al­ity TV to fash­ion de­sign

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - COMPETITIONS -

When Mil­lie Mack­in­tosh was at board­ing school, she learned to sew. Of course she did, you say, but don’t pi­geon-hole her as a posh girl with a mar­riage­able ac­com­plish­ment just yet.

The school had sew­ing ma­chines and taught its pupils how to use pat­terns and make clothes. By the time she was 16, Mil­lie was sell­ing dresses to her friends.

At that young age, she was do­ing an in­tern­ship for a lin­gerie de­signer, Mil­lie ex­plains to me over lunch in the Marker Ho­tel. The de­signer gave her of­f­cuts of silk to ex­per­i­ment with. “I’d make th­ese very sim­ple baby­doll-style slip dresses, and I’d sew my school name tapes into the back as the la­bels. I’d give them to my friends. Then, af­ter a while, peo­ple started want­ing to buy them.

“Then when I moved to Lon­don when I was about 18, I brought my sew­ing ma­chine and was still mak­ing dresses. I loved it, but I had no sense that I could turn it into a busi­ness or how you would do that.”

A decade later, Mil­lie is mak­ing clothes for a liv­ing. That’s some­thing of an un­der­state­ment, re­ally.

She’s sit­ting in front of me in one of the de­signs for her epony­mous la­bel, a sheer black blouse with a flo­ral pat­tern, frills on the shoul­ders and sleeves and a high neck. A fem­i­nine biker-style leather jacket, also from Mil­lie’s line, is thrown over the back of the empty seat be­side her. Mil­lie’s hav­ing lunch with me in Dublin be­tween an ap­pear­ance at Arnotts Style Ses­sions — to launch the clothes on their shop floor — and the shoot for th­ese pages. The in-store event went well, she says, and cov­ered not only the clothes, but the very busi­ness of turn­ing one­self into a brand as a means of achiev­ing your dreams. On In­sta­gram, where she has 1.3 mil­lion fol­low­ers, Mil­lie is quite the phenomenon. She’s an ex­am­ple of some­one who has grown with the so­cial me­dia app, first ap­peal­ing to those who had been fans of her on Made in Chelsea (MIC), then win­ning over ev­ery­one and any­one who was drawn to her style, her honey-tinted hol­i­days, the begin­ning, mid­dle and end of her mar­riage to mu­si­cian Pro­fes­sor Green and, lat­terly, her ro­man­tic re­u­nion with and en­gage­ment to MIC cast­mate Hugo Tay­lor. Mil­lie con­cedes that In­sta­gram has done won­ders for her pro­file, her brand and her ca­reer, which in­cludes a new make-up line in Boots, as well as her clothes line. She is also, how­ever, an ex­am­ple of a cer­tain In­sta­gram arc of ex­pe­ri­ence — a young, am­bi­tious, smart woman who has learned the value of shar­ing, but also the down­side of over­shar­ing. The former can get you far. The lat­ter can hurt you. “It’s hard — it’s a strug­gle,” she says of keep­ing up In­sta­gram and know­ing when enough is enough. “I do en­joy it, but it’s a re­ally small edit of your real life. Ob­vi­ously, you want to show off the ex­cit­ing, glossy things, be­cause it’s all im­age-based and you want to make a good im­pres­sion, but it’s im­por­tant to peo­ple that they know that this is what it is. And I think peo­ple do get that. They get that what I show isn’t my whole life — it’s the best bits.

“I used to share a lot more than I do now. I used to post more con­tent, more images. Now I like it to be more edited.”

There’s no deny­ing, though, that peo­ple re­ally en­joy what Mil­lie calls “the best bits”. Also, it’s pos­si­ble that she un­der­es­ti­mates the ex­tent to which peo­ple imag­ine her life is all gor­geous out­fits and fab­u­lous hol­i­days, lived in the glow of what she con­fesses is her favourite fil­ter, the hon­eyed Va­len­cia.

Of course, Mil­lie first came to our at­ten­tion in a for­mat that was all about the best bits. She was work­ing in the Space NK beauty chain when she was first ap­proached by the pro­duc­ers of MIC af­ter they had re­cruited cer­tain mem­bers of her so­cial set to star in what they hoped would be a UK ver­sion of sleek and soigne US se­ries The Hills.

It would be staged, semi-scripted and not re­ally re­al­ity. It was orig­i­nally go­ing to be called Chelsea Girls, Mil­lie re­calls.

Tele­vi­sion hadn’t been some­thing she had in her sights, but it sounded like fun when she was 21 and keen to train as a make-up artist and pur­sue a ca­reer in beauty and fash­ion. And, she ad­mits, it was fun — un­til it wasn’t any more.

“You know, they had us al­ways step­ping out of Bent­leys and things, and my life wasn’t re­ally like that — I took the bus,” says Mil­lie, whose fam­ily fa­mously in­vented Qual­ity Street.

“Go­ing into it, I had no idea how big it would be, and that was prob­a­bly a good thing. If they had said, ‘It will have this many view­ers’, it would have been a dif­fer­ent thing to agree to. It was a fun time, but af­ter two years, it felt like my time had come to go. It didn’t feel nat­u­ral for me any more. I look back and think it was a great ex­pe­ri­ence.

“What came from do­ing it was that it was a re­ally good plat­form for where I am now, but it took me a good long time af­ter­wards to work out what path to go down.”

If she was pro­fes­sion­ally up in the air when she left MIC, then pri­vately Mil­lie was putting down roots.

Months af­ter she left the show, she mar­ried mu­si­cian Pro­fes­sor Green, and images of their wed­ding and life to­gether were widely shared. They sep­a­rated af­ter two-and-a-half years of mar­riage, in Fe­bru­ary 2016, and that Hal­loween Mil­lie ripped and splat­tered her wed­ding dress for use as fancy dress.

Not that she talks about this when we meet. In fact, I’m told in ad­vance that she re­ally won’t stray into the per­sonal at all. I can con­grat­u­late her on her en­gage­ment to Hugo Tay­lor, who was a cast­mate and her boyfriend on MIC be­fore she re­vealed on the show that he had cheated on her. Later, though, Mil­lie con­fessed that the sight of him still gave her but­ter­flies and that she still loved him, de­spite their his­tory.

We don’t talk about this, though. I ad­mire her en­gage­ment ring — a vin­tage ring that seems huge on her pe­tite hand — and we talk in general terms about the im­por­tance of pri­vacy in an in­creas­ingly pub­lic world.

“You def­i­nitely have to keep back some­thing for your­self,” she says with a small smile. “Some things are meant to be kept pri­vate and they feel more spe­cial that way. Some things are per­fect to share, but some are just for your­self.”

Of course, she says, she has felt pres­sure to over­share, but it’s some­thing that she has de­cided to step away from.

“You can’t please ev­ery­one, that’s for sure, and you’d be ex­hausted if you tried. I post

what I post, and I think that I’d be mis­er­able if I was post­ing just to try and keep peo­ple happy.”

When Mil­lie fin­ished with MIC, she took some time to con­sider her next step.

There were a few prod­ucts to which she put her name, but her cre­ative in­put was limited and it wasn’t very cre­atively ful­fill­ing, she says. She likes to im­merse her­self in things, and her love of mak­ing clothes and work­ing with colour and make-up and fash­ion was not go­ing to be sat­is­fied by sim­ply stamp­ing her name on the work of oth­ers.

When she did her first clothes col­lec­tion, Mil­lie knew she’d hit on what she wanted to do. She loves the long road from con­ceiv­ing a col­lec­tion to get­ting it on sale and seems hon­estly amazed and thrilled to have it in shops here in the UK, but also ex­clu­sively in Arnotts in Dublin and in a few stores in the US, where her TV and Christ­mas-choco­lates back­ground barely mer­its a men­tion.

She is also grate­ful that peo­ple are tak­ing her se­ri­ously as a de­signer. “It took a bit of time,” she says, “for peo­ple to see that I’m not a char­ac­ter, I’m a real per­son. And as time has gone by, I think peo­ple have seen the real Mil­lie.

“It can be hard to go from re­al­ity TV to fash­ion. Peo­ple have pre­con­cep­tions of you and I do think I have to prove my­self, but, you know, then you get to the point where Vogue has writ­ten pos­i­tively about you and it’s very ex­cit­ing and re­ward­ing.”

In this ever-chang­ing age, ca­reers are chameleon-like and, as Mil­lie puts it, the peo­ple she ad­mires are those who “switch and change”.

Elle Macpher­son — su­per­model/lin­gerie de­signer/su­per­food guru — is one source of in­spi­ra­tion, but Ni­cole Richie is Mil­lie’s su­per­hero, and you can see why.

Richie was the ditzy side­kick to Paris Hil­ton on The Sim­ple Life who went on to lose a lot of weight, com­pletely restyle her­self as a fash­ion­ista and launch a very suc­cess­ful cloth­ing line. Richie caught our at­ten­tion on TV and used that as a spring­board to rein­vent and re­launch her­self. And we bought it.

That doesn’t al­ways hap­pen, and Mil­lie is cog­nisant of that. Of­ten, we are so wed­ded to the per­sona that ini­tially won our at­ten­tion that we re­sent any re­jec­tion of it. We don’t al­low char­ac­ters to change and so, we ditch them. It is the blessed few who are al­lowed to “switch and change”, but Mil­lie might be one of them.

Cer­tainly, she feels that she has switched and changed enough since MIC for that to be a footnote to who and what she is now.

Also, she points out, re­al­ity TV has changed a lot even since her day. When I ask her if she would ever have con­sid­ered a show such as Love Is­land, she im­me­di­ately says no, but adds that she was a mas­sive fan.

She and her girl­friends would dine out early to­gether, dash back to their re­spec­tive homes in time for the open­ing cred­its and then mes­sage each other fran­ti­cally through­out. Mil­lie even had a fi­nale party, with “He’s not my type on pa­per” T-shirts. Camilla and Jonny were her favourite cou­ple, she adds.

It was so much fun, she says, but from afar, from a life that has moved away from pub­lic over­shar­ing that is out of your con­trol and on an un­pre­dictable tra­jec­tory. Mil­lie has been there and done that and, while it was fun, it’s the past.

The fu­ture, she says, is the “re­bel­lious English fem­i­nin­ity” that de­fines her de­signs. Cheeky, girlie and all in­fused with a Va­len­cia hon­eyed glow. The best bits, you might say. The Mil­lie Mack­in­tosh range is stocked ex­clu­sively in Arnotts

STYLE QUEEN: Mil­lie Mack­in­tosh and (be­low) mod­el­ling some of her cloth­ing range

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