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She's the mother of reinvention

"To stay in business you have to keep reinventing yourself," says designer Nicole Miller.

During her 16 years in the business, she has used her creative wizardry to design everything from couture collections to ties to shoes to fragrances. Nicole Miller brands include handbags, socks, women's swimwear, cigars, bridesmaids' dresses, sleepwear, leather coats, eyewear, jeans, belts, kidswear, watches and sportswear. She launched her first fragrance, Nicole Miller, in 1993, and has gotten into home furnishings with a tabletop line that includes dinnerware, barware and mugs.

She wanted her new scent to be "something with "futuristic' appeal." The result is Nicole, which Miller calls a "delicious" fragrance: "I really wanted it to be modern. That was the main idea. I didn't want it to be whimsical. I was thinking about the millennium, and I wanted it to be sleek. I also wanted something that wasn't going to go out of style."

Miller was in Tampa last week. For an hour, fans lined up at the Dillard's at Westshore Plaza.

The perfume made its official debut last month in the 30 Nicole Miller boutiques across the country. There are two in Florida, in Miami and Boca Raton. Now, Miller is on the department store circuit. From Dillard's in Tampa Bay she went on to Miami, where she introduced Nicole at Bloomingdale's and met with artist Romeo Britto. Miller and Britto met years ago when they did a promotion for Absolut vodka.

"We've kept in touch, and it recently occurred to me how wonderful some of his very brightly colored prints would be when transferred to a fabric palette," she says.

She plans to use Britto's designs on the cruisewear she is designing for 1999.

Home for Miller, 47, is the TriBeCa area of Manhattan, where she lives with her husband, Kim Taipale, and their 2-year-old son, Palmer. She has been designing since she was a child in Fort Worth, Texas.

Although actors such as Jennifer Aniston, Angela Bassett, Winona Ryder, Kate Winslet and Demi Moore often are seen wearing her designs, Miller is widely known for her ties. The neckwear business came about by accident. Thirty-six ties were made from an unsuccessful dress print that featured theater tickets and were sent to the Madison Avenue boutique. When her security guard wore her Metropolitan Opera ticket tie to the Met's tourist shop, where he had another job, the shop ordered some. The ties sold out. A year later, with prints on scarves, ties and boxer shorts, the company's business doubled.

Miller has designed ties for President Clinton (the one with donkeys on it) and for New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (scenes of New York). A recent big seller has been her hot air balloon tie.

The designer's Web site (http:// www.nicolemiller.com) offers visitors a virtual boutique of her bridal, runway and menswear collections.

"Street fashion, rather than designers," Miller says, "is setting the only meaningful trends. In the 1980s, Norma Kamali would make a statement at her show, and you would see them everywhere you looked on the street. That's not happening to any designer any more. The T-shirt under the slip dress, which I did in my collection, was everywhere on the street. Whose idea was it? The street's."

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