Edith A. Miller, A Star With Stripes
Two girls walk into a party wearing the same outfit: striped men’s T-shirts from the hard-to-find label Robert P. Miller. “Nancy and I had both come across one of the men’s tees separately and showed up at her house in Fire Island wearing the same shirt,” explains Jennifer Murray. “We were like, ‘Where’d you get that?’ ‘Where’d you get that?’ “
Fair question. The Miller shirts are produced in a rural Pennsylvania factory that’s been making them since 1906, but in recent years they’d been sold mainly by (and to) Americana obsessives in Japan. For some girls, the doubling-up might’ve led to a fight or a fuss. But Murray and partner Nancy Gibson sensed opportunity. They contacted the factory’s fifth- and sixth-generation family owners—via that very 1906 technology, the telephone—and a little convincing later, they’d sold them on the idea: a sister label to Robert P. Miller, christened Edith A. Miller, after a popular girl’s name of the era.
Like the men’s line, Edith is 100 percent American-made, from the cotton (grown in North and South Carolina) to the construction. But it is the mill’s first venture into women’s. “It was kind of a challenge sewing with them,” Murray admits. “We’d ask them to make leggings and they’d come back with a 12″ rise—like, above your stomach. And all the colors at the mill [were chosen] by the whole team taking a trip to Home Depot; everyone picked a paint chip.”
With the guiding influence of Murray (a fashion-world veteran who worked in sales) and Gibson (who left a career in the financial sector to pursue arts and design), it all came together. (The rises, suffice it to say, came down.) For Spring, the debut collection—short and long-sleeve tees, minidresses, and a maxi dress—was picked up by Steven Alan, which recently hosted an Edith A. Miller pop-up shop, and Creatures of Comfort. For Fall, it hits the racks at Barneys, too.
Collaborations are now in the offing, as are new categories like made-in-New York knits. But easy striped tees are and remain the label’s cheery heart. “We chose Edith because we felt this warm, American feeling from it,” Murray says of the name, and that warm feeling extends all the way to its products. “If you don’t know what to wear,” she adds, “you can always put on a striped T-shirt and feel fine.”