Milly Park found her love of fashion in a flamenco skirt. The youngest of five children born to a Venezuelan mother and a Chinese father, Milly grew up in a family full of artists, including painters, musicians, and, perhaps most importantly for Milly, a seamstress. While living in Venezuela, she discovered the traditional Spanish dance from her grandmother’s native country and yearned to master it.
“I can remember coming home and saying, ‘Grandma, please, please, you have to make me a flamenco outfit,’” she says. Milly and her family consider her grandmother, the now-85-year-old Neri Bruguera, to be “the perfect woman,” thanks to her long-lasting marriage and masterful career as a seamstress, having made wedding gowns, flower girl dresses, and outfits for all kinds of special occasions.
As she worked, Bruguera took 5-year-old Milly under her wing, giving her sequins and beads to hand sew to scraps of lace. Milly thought her grandmother’s attention was as magical as her creations, not minding an occasional poked finger as she learned. Eventually, her grandmother agreed to make the flamenco skirt.
“We went to the fabric store and had to hunt for the right pieces,” recalls Milly, now a 36-year-old mother of two. “I had to wait and wait for her to be done.”
With the first flash of white ruffle (accented with red hearts), Milly knew what it meant to be loved. “I felt special in everything she made,” says Milly, voice thick with emotion.
In her grandmother’s tradition, Milly became a skilled seamstress and fashion designer in her own right—making clothing for herself, her friends, and her family, even showing her grandmother some new tricks that today’s technology allows.
Now Milly is taking the first steps to share the special feeling she first felt as a little girl more broadly. This month, she will launch an eponymous website (millypark.com) to tell her story and introduce her brand of old-world craftsmanship and intergenerational outfits to a wider audience. In the new year, she plans to debut a line of clothing for sale on her website.
“It’s a God-given gift,” Patrick Park says of his wife’s talent for design.
Patrick and Milly first met through friends but then fell in and out of touch for some time before he asked her to dinner.
“We talked so much, I went home hungry,” Milly recalls of that first date. By that time, she had moved to Boca Raton with her entire family, including her grandmother and two more younger siblings her father shares with his second wife. Milly and Patrick’s common interests included the arts, philanthropy, and devotion to their families.
The couple, who recently sold the Jupiter home they shared with their 9-year-old fraternal twin daughters, Mia and Camila, are excited to unveil Milly’s designs, which she makes without so much as a sketch or a pattern. Her ideas come constantly, like visions, she says. She draws inspiration from the places she’s lived and traveled, as well as from fashion designers whom she admires. However, no one inspires her as much as her daughters do.
“When I became a mother, I had a whole different dream,” says Milly, who is teaching her girls in the same way her grandmother taught her, with small projects and gradually more complicated old-world techniques. “I’d always been into fashion, but at that moment, I wanted to create something special for them.”
Caring for newborn twins wasn’t the season for creativity, Milly learned. “There was absolutely no sleeping,” she says with a laugh. Even so, she found things she could make between feedings and diaper changes—pieces of jewelry suitable for children, for example.
Soon, she was back behind a sewing machine, assembling dresses for her girls and herself. “The way Milly looks at our daughters is extremely beautiful,” Patrick says. “When she puts her outfits on them, my eyes get watery.”
Celebrating the special nature of children and their connection to their mothers is front of mind for Milly as she creates and seeks to tell a story about the preciousness of childhood, a time of protection and play. Her goal for her mother-daughter collection, however, is to coordinate and blend individual pieces that can be worn with or without counterparts.
“The idea is to be similar but not the same,” she says. “The outfits have the same feel, maybe the same fabrics. They’re meant to be playful but sophisticated, not like wearing a costume. A woman does not need to be a mother to appreciate a dress.”
Her often-embellished clothing is perfect for a special occasion, though she also has selections for every day. Her looks are always feminine and, whether for mother or child, are well-fitted and suitable for movement.
Milly’s friend of 15 years, Rosa Miranda of Guadalajara, Mexico, attests that she has accomplished these goals. “The one thing I love about Milly’s dresses is that they’re made so well to fit your body,” Miranda says through a translator. “I feel comfortable, day or night. Her clothes are so comfortable, so light, and so elegant.”
As for the future, Milly says the possibilities are wide open. The Parks are planning to relocate to Spain, but they’ll maintain a property in the Palm Beaches; they’re waiting for a place in The Residences at Mandarin Oriental in Boca Raton to be constructed and anticipate traveling between their homes frequently to spend time with family. Milly hopes her website and clothing line will be well-received, allowing her to create seasonal- and location-inspired designs.
“We aren’t looking to be a Fortune 500 company,” Patrick says. “She has an innate talent that we’d like other people to experience. When you have a passion, you will find success along the way.”
As for Milly, she says seeing her family bloom is her No. 1 goal, but she has dreams for this new venture, too. “For this to be established means that other women will know what I know,” she says. “I want other kids to feel as special as my girls. That’s what I want to share.”
Wardrobe: Milly Park
Hair and makeup: Deborah Koepper, Deborah Koepper Beauty, Palm Beach