A Peek Inside the Milly x Man Repeller “Make New Friends” Dinner

In partnership with Milly

In the “adult world,” you don’t have many opportunities to walk up to someone at the playground and ask if they want to push your swing, or sit down in a cafeteria and offer the person next to you half of your almond butter and jelly sandwich.

That means making friends as a so-called grown-up is pretty tricky. You have to get creative. You also have to make small talk. None of it feels very natural. In fact, it can sometimes feel downright awkward. Why isn’t there an adult equivalent to a school cafeteria — a designated safe space for sidling up to would-be pals, rubbing grass-stained elbows, exchanging those first few tentative jokes and eating foods off each other’s plates once you’ve had enough juice (or, you know, wine) to let your whole self hang out?

Well, that’s exactly the kind of environment Man Repeller sought to curate when we partnered with Milly to co-host a “Make New Friends Dinner Party” in celebration of the brand’s fall line. We wanted to bring people together — a pursuit intrinsic to both Man Repeller and Milly’s broader mission of making women feel more understood.

At 7 p.m. on Monday evening, the makings of a potential group thread began trickling into the Milly pop-up shop in Soho, located at 158 Mercer Street. In a serendipitous twist of kismet, Milly’s fall collection provided endless material for one of the most effective means of bonding: outfit compliments — the adult equivalent of “wanna be my friend?”

“I love your [insert Milly item here]” was the conversation starter heard ‘round the room.

Leandra and Michelle Smith, Milly’s Co-Founder and Creative Director, put together a guest list of women they admire who would conceivably get along simply because they’re all the bee’s knees and the cat’s pajamas (a tall order). Milly’s brand DNA is entwined with chromosomes of the bold, vibrant and empowering variety; you could say the same for the evening’s guests without even looking at their birth certificates.

Leandra Medine and Milly Co-Founder and Creative Director Michelle Smith

It was interesting to observe how different people styled various Milly statement pieces. Actor, vlogger and TV host Franchesca Ramsey wore a multicolored faux fur coat with dark jeans, a black T-shirt and bright pink lipstick. Julia Gall, Senior Fashion and Accessories Editor at Interview Magazine, paired a rainbow-striped turtleneck dress with a black leather jacket. Leandra added a seashell belt to her gray Milly suit. (At one point, before the guests arrived, she wore the suit with a shredded gold and silver lamé collection dress over the suit pants, under the jacket.) Looking around the room was an exercise in potential friendship detective work, with each outfit providing a clue of insight into the wearer’s personality.

By the time everyone sat down for dinner, the initial get-to-know-you small talk transitioned to the warm buzz of easy chatter. Following the family-style meal, there were DIY bouquets to be made, salted caramel profiteroles to be eaten and racks of Milly clothing to return to during store hours.

I’m still thinking about the question Tahirah Hairston (freelance writer, Man Repeller contributor and internet pal turned real pal) asked me when dessert was being served: “So, what’s something that’s making you really happy right now?”

Making new friends as an adult is definitely a contender. Shopping all the Milly outfits worn at the party is also in the running:

Photos by Alexandra Arnold; follow her on Instagram @thealexandraarnold.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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