Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
Mignonne Gavigan, the luminous statement-making jewelry line, has been elevating the everyday with “perfect finishing touch” accessories since 2014. While I am a natural born minimalist, the brand’s unique treasures – from rich, jeweled bandannas to the Raffia Madeline earrings that put Mignonne Gavigan on the radar – fascinated me; they simply complement my style. And that of the brand’s incredibly loyal following.
Mignonne Gavigan Jewelry embodies its vibrant namesake founder. I had the privilege of meeting Mignonne (whom close friends call Maggie) for our Quality Makers Series to discuss the colorful jewelry collections that quickly made an impact on the fashion world, her eye for design, and as a woman with wanderlust where she – and her line – will be exploring in the future for inspiration.
I love your infamous origin story – can you share it here for our TQE readers?
MG: It truly was a moment of being a young fashion person living in NYC and accessorizing yourself while not making very much money. I’d ripped a vintage gown and draped fabric around my neck before walking home – I was just wearing it; I wasn’t looking for anything. But I was stopped several times, asked where I got my necklace.
That is amazing, especially as scarf necklaces remain a staple in your collection!
Can you describe your experience launching Mignonne Gavigan—did you always know you wanted to go out on your own?
MG: I started making scarf necklaces, selling them to friends and participating in trunk shows. One day I was asked, “Are you going to start a company?” I was hesitant but decided it was something I could do. It’s scary to start a company. You wonder, “What if it doesn’t take off?” and “What if I don’t sell anything?”
I always knew I wanted to do something artistic, as it was easy for me and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t know how to make it a career. I knew I wouldn’t be a painter or visual artist initially because the road to making a profit is so long and I didn’t have the startup costs. My education [Parsons in Paris and NYC] and experience [designing for Marc Jacobs, Loeffler Randall and Rachel Roy] helped guide me to where I am today.
What was your strategy for launching? Any advice you can share with budding entrepreneurs?
MG: I started the brand in 2014 with a collection of scarf necklaces and the support of one of my best friends, who is an investor with her husband. She had worked for Tory Burch’s launch. Chris Burch [Tory’s then-husband and mastermind behind her initial business] said to me, “Nobody knows who you are or what you are selling. You’ve got to get out on the road and sell it.” So, we did 30 trunk shows in 52 weeks, which allowed us to be cash flow positive that year – and gain a following.
My Design Director, who has been in the jewelry design business for a long time, once had her own company but it didn’t work out. Our VP of e-commerce and brand creative used to have her own online business as well. They both have great vision, having once been out on their own, and remind me that some things work out…and some things don’t. I am also reminded there is not one right way or wrong way to launch a business.
How has DTC played a role in your brand’s development – and success?
MG: We found DTC (trunk shows) led to wholesale business, which then brought people back to our website. Today, we’re found in 250 small boutiques, but people use the website to purchase, as stores carry a limited selection.
We love and care for DTC because it allows us to have our finger on every pulse and dictate the visuals. With a clear identity, people understand our brand ethos, which is not common with jewelry brands. People have said they understand where the inspiration comes from and what to expect from Mignonne Gavigan.
What about the DTC space excites you?
MG: Being able to control every part of your brand and your customer experience – Customer service is really big for us. We listen, are available to fix problems and always want to understand ways to improve.
Because we have so many products, we are working to better show customers what we have, how to wear it, what to wear it with, and how to layer. Currently, you can make a virtual appointment, and a stylist will go into the showroom to try things on for you. Instagram is also a successful tool for us to show people how to wear the jewelry.
One thing we love about DTC companies is the community they’re able to build online. How would you describe your brand’s following – and how do you engage with them?
MG: Our community is enthusiastic and passionate, as so many of our customers feel they “found us” – We are like a hidden gem (which we are working on!). They feel special wearing the brand because they are often stopped and asked, “What are you wearing?” as our collections are so unique. We offer a completely different product, by skilled artisans who can do the beadwork.
Being a founder featured in our “Quality Makers” series, what does “quality” mean to you?
MG: Quality is everything to me. As evidenced by how much work goes into our jewelry – these are little works of art. Quality is also continuing to push yourself to go and experience different things, so you are not just looking online at what everyone else is doing, and “reinterpreting it.” You need to have a whole new visual experience to make something new and interesting. To set yourself apart.
Is that why travel is so important for you – and the brand?
MG: While we have five different factories in India (they are all good at different things – beading, embroidery, threadwork), I made sure we had a travel budget so that we could stop in various parts of the world along the way. After a material fair, we often go to vintage shops and flea markets in other countries; We are always looking for inspiration. For Fall, we were inspired by a region of Guatemala where there were five unique embroideries, each one corresponding to a dialect [local indigenous traditions]
around the lake. Another collection tapped into Uzbekistan inspiration, as we replicated gorgeous mosaic tilework found on buildings. [Note: By using the non-profit intermediary company Buildanest, Mignonne Gavigan is able to engage local artisans, while contributing to a mission of building a world of “greater gender equity and economic inclusion.”]
What dreams and goals do you have for your brand as you continue to grow – Any collaborations in the works?
MG: I loved my previous collaboration with Lela Rose, and look forward to planning another. A dream collab for me would be Prada or Miu Miu because they are so glamorous. We are currently selling a limited edition collaboration with Babiators sunglasses (for ages 3 to 12) that incorporates our signature Madelines as well as floral beading into fun frames.
I look forward to a lot of travel for inspiration. I am eager to go to Vietnam, Bangkok, Bangladesh, Peru. I have a long list; I will always have a long list!
“Wear, Love and Elevate Your Everyday”
Thanks again to Mignonne Gavigan for speaking to TQE and allowing me to experience the Fall Collection. While you can revel in gorgeous imagery here, explore the entire collection at Mignonnegavigan.com. This month, the brand has launched a swoon-worthy Resort Collection and developed a bright Valentine’s edit.
Have a founder you’d like for us to interview next? Let us know: email@example.com.