Mignonne Gavigan, Creator and Designer of the accessories line “Mignonne Gavigan”

Editor’s Note:  I’ve always wondered how a fashion label evolves from a simple vision to a tangible product.  Similar to launching your own business, I’ve always been impressed by women who recognize this vision, and then follow through in making it a reality.  I love Mignonne’s story because of her business acumen. I’m guessing that she considers herself the creative mind of her company, but I’d argue she’s pretty business savvy as well.  Mignonne traveled internationally in seeking out inspiration, and absorbed advice from anyone and everyone that would be willing to dole it out. She tucked this advice from around the world into her back pocket, letting it culminate into a bright and creative vision that would eventually turn into her stunning line of accessories.    Mignonne isn’t the “next big thing”…she’s already there…so enjoy the eye-candy but be sure to pay close attention to the story and “sweat equity” that brought this timeless collection to life.

Mignonne sitting in her studio in tribeca / Photo courtesy Erik Melvin  

Mignonne sitting in her studio in tribeca / Photo courtesy Erik Melvin

 

{timeless beauty}

When you first meet Mignonne Gavigan, you can’t help but notice her style. 

She’s nailed this cool hybrid of classic + boho chic + tomboy + girl-next-door, all polished off with a splash of ultra-glam high fashion. 

It’s the kind of look that every girl wants, but few can naturally achieve.  It’s this rolled out of bed and threw on this old flannel shirt with these boyfriend jeans and this gold fishnet necklace that just happens to make the entire outfit completely couture in an unassuming way kinda look.

Her style?  It’s perfection.

One of Mignonne’s staples, a Rails flannel shirt and her MG leather fishnet necklace / Courtesy of Mignonne Gavigan

One of Mignonne’s staples, a Rails flannel shirt and her MG leather fishnet necklace / Courtesy of Mignonne Gavigan

{pronounced “min-yon gav-eh-gan”)

Mignonne’s line of seriously stunning scarf necklaces, earrings and bracelets is turning heads in the fashion world.

Think of every high-fashion retailer you can imagine…Bergdorf Goodman…Net-a-Porter…Moda Operandi…Intermix, they all anxiously chomp at the bit to feature Mignonne’s beautiful creations. That is, until they sell out.

One of Mignonne’s best sellers, the Kinsey Necklace / Courtesy of Mignonne Gavigan

One of Mignonne’s best sellers, the Kinsey Necklace / Courtesy of Mignonne Gavigan

{la petite artiste}

The creation of Mignonne Gavigan was a labor of love, with countless years spent soaking in experience from fashion mentors who came before her and patiently waiting for that moment of inspiration that would spark a label that was uniquely her own.

“I grew up in North Carolina in a family of four children…three brothers and me.  My mom, who was artistic herself, was always looking for ways to keep us entertained.  I would sit in our basement doing crafts and drawing, and seemed to have a knack for seeing something and then being able to bring it to life on paper.”

Mignonne’s family supported her passion for the arts—sending her to an arts focused school during her summers.  Her talent was noticed almost instantly, she won awards for her paintings and was a standout among her peers.

“My parents told me that they’d support my love of art, but they recommended I get a liberal arts education first to have something to fall back on.”

She studied at University of Georgia and then University North Carolina, Chapel Hill, before moving to Paris and submitting pieces that would gain her acceptance into Parsons School of Design.

Mignonne’s drawing of a Lilac Breated Roller and her creations coming to life in the MG Bird Earrings / Courtesy of Mignonne Gavigan

Mignonne’s drawing of a Lilac Breated Roller and her creations coming to life in the MG Bird Earrings / Courtesy of Mignonne Gavigan

{cities of lights}

The experience of studying art in Paris was eye-opening and incredible, she says, and exposed her to couture unlike anywhere else in the world.

But, she says, New York City was ultimately where she wanted to be.

“My mom tells this story of me as a young child traveling to New York City and looking up at the skyscrapers, telling her ‘I’m going to live here one day’.  And here I am! {laughs}”

She transferred to Parsons in New York City, and that first year, she started interning immediately at Marc Jacobs and working at Asprey.

“I was definitely stretched thin but I knew what I had to do.” 

A look from Mignonne’s “Holiday Series” wearing the Layne Choker on the streets of Tribeca / Photo courtesy Colby Blount

A look from Mignonne’s “Holiday Series” wearing the Layne Choker on the streets of Tribeca / Photo courtesy Colby Blount

{a scarf is born}

After graduation from Parsons, Mignonne’s stacked resume landed her a job at FORM, a fashion collective, meaning a bunch of designers working collectively to design unique pieces.

“While I was at FORM I was draping a runway gown on a mannequin.  I was using a ripped up vintage gown for inspiration on how the beading should work.  I grabbed an extra piece off the floor and tied it around my neck with a safety pin and started walking home through SoHo.  People were literally stopping me on the street asking ‘where can I buy that?!”

one of our Top sellers from MG's new Spring Summer 2016 collection, the Narina./ Photo Courtesy David Bechtel

one of our Top sellers from MG's new Spring Summer 2016 collection, the Narina./ Photo Courtesy David Bechtel

{turning heads}

It was this random occurrence that sparked her creative genius, compelling Mignonne to consider the idea of a unique line of accessories combining her love of art with couture fashion.

She started making scarf necklaces for her family and friends, all the while gaining more experience working for exotic handbag label Khirma Eliazov, as well as the head footwear designer for Rachel Roy and Loeffler Randall.

“My wheels were always turning, I knew fairly early on that I wanted to be my own designer and have my own line but I needed more experience before I could take the leap.”

Heading up the design meetings and putting together inspiration boards for these ultra-successful brands gave Mignonne the push and confidence that she needed to launch her own line.  After a few years, she decided it was time.

Mignonne seen here submitting designs to her good friend and longtime embroidery agent, Najlah El Amin / Photo courtesy Mignonne Gavigan

Mignonne seen here submitting designs to her good friend and longtime embroidery agent, Najlah El Amin / Photo courtesy Mignonne Gavigan

{ready to wear}

“I was making shoes in Brazil for Loeffler and in China for Rachel Roy, and handbags in New York City for Khirma Eliazov.  Working with these factories starts the relationship, and the relationship continues while gaining their trust.”

She began sourcing materials from France and Italy, having the intricate and delicate pieces’ hand-beaded in India.  By March 2014, the Mignonne Gavigan line was ready to launch.

Mignonne during their “Holiday Series” shot here in Central Park / Courtesy of Colby Blount

Mignonne during their “Holiday Series” shot here in Central Park / Courtesy of Colby Blount

{sweat equity}

Mignonne brought two other women onboard, Layne, Mignonne’s business partner, an incredibly bright multitasker and Kinsey Fennebresque, who handled sales, and the three of them “hit the road” those first 2 years.  Most recently, Mignonne hired a new Sales Director, Jacqueline O’Reilly, who is also a talented and experienced accessories saleswoman.

“We’d travel from city to city, hosting trunk shows at people’s individual homes and then also sharing the line with the best stores in the city. We had a great reaction, but honestly, there was a lot of sweat equity involved and it’s exhausting.  But I will say, it’s definitely what launched our business”

Our Classics collection: the Aztec, the Le Charlot Pearl and the Le Marcel / Courtesy Mignonne Gavigan

Our Classics collection: the Aztec, the Le Charlot Pearl and the Le Marcel / Courtesy Mignonne Gavigan

{feeling haute haute haute}

With the expansion of their line to include bracelets and earrings, Mignonne's brand has become a trademark in couture fashion.

“It’s really fulfilling to have people so passionate and inspired by our brand already.  It honestly touches my heart, it’s such a beautiful thing.”

In the past two years alone, Mignonne Gavigan has been picked up by over fifty different retailers.  They’re at a sweet spot, demand is so high for their product that they get to choose wisely where they want to sell their products.  But Mignonne’s focus has always been, and will continue to be, on creating unique, timeless pieces, as individual as the woman who is wearing them.  

Photo Courtesy Mignonne Gavigan

Photo Courtesy Mignonne Gavigan

{driven q&a}

Where do you pull your gorgeous design inspiration from?

“Anything and everything…I begin by doing research on what is happening on the runway, colors, themes, but at the same time, I like to gather interesting design details, artwork, knick-knacks that inspire me.  I travel a lot as well and I love going to local markets for inspiration.  We source materials primarily in France, Italy and India. Also, living in New York provides daily inspiration from what’s happening street style wise, to the latest textile I’ve discovered. The energy of New York City also provides so much inspiration. You feed off of it. Everyone is operating at the top of their game, being the most productive, reaching the most people…it’s infectious.”

As an independent designer, what does your "average" day look like?

“I live in New York in an area called Tribeca, on a cobble stoned street, in a 100-year-old building. You can still see the markings on the floor in our apartment where rice barrels used to sit…our entire apartment was a refrigerator. This space is also our studio so as soon as I wake up and make some coffee, the huge old windows are already letting in the first light of the day. The idea of coffee gets me out of bed and then I start running through emails. Depending on what time of year it is, I could be holed up in the studio all day designing or we could be in market, where it’s helpful for me to be in appointments and help shed light on the essence of the brand.  We usually have several interns that come for a semester at a time.  My business partner and Sales Director all come over each day along with the interns to get the daily routine taken care of…pack orders, run production errands, manage boutique inquiries. There is also a lot of travel. My husband and I love to travel so when I’m not going somewhere with him, I’m usually on the road doing trunk shows to help build the brand. We love our neighborhood for many reasons, one being the incredible restaurants at our finger tips.  Dinner out happens several nights a week.”

What is the hardest thing about working for yourself?  What's the most rewarding?

“Right now, there is a lot of sweat equity going into the brand … the traveling for trunk shows and store visits means time away from my husband and wears me down emotionally and physically. But it is crazy fun and exciting at the same time. Sometimes I have to say no to events, opportunities and just be present here in New York and at home."

What are your staple items in your closet you can't live without?

A pair of Givenchy studded buckle strap ankle boots. A pair of black and white Nike Air maxes.  A pair of ripped boyfriend jeans. A rag and bone t-shirt. An Iro leather jacket."

Which piece of your collection is your absolute favorite?  Why?

“This is a difficult question because new samples are coming in all the time and whenever I see a drawing come to reality, it makes my heart race with excitement! But lately, I’ve been wearing the Gunmetal Le Marcel because it literally goes with everything. I love the weight of the necklace as well. You can really feel how substantial it is which makes you appreciate all the work that goes into making it.”

What advice would you give a woman who is trying to bring her creative vision to life in a big way?

"1.)  Always have something in writing....always be honest and upfront about what you are looking for and what you expect.

2.)  Take a deep breath and just do it.  Get as much experience as you can in whatever endeavor you are thinking about doing so that when you do it on your own, you don't waste time or money.  Finding a capable and trustworthy business partner was a necessity for me, so I would recommend finding one.  Finding a Sales Director was as well.  In business, I can't do everything, so finding people who excel in different fields than me helps me focus on what I do well."

  Who is your "dream" person to accessorize?

Michelle Obama because of her support for emerging designers.  Oprah.  Shalah Monroque. Taylor Tomasi Hill.  Cate Blanchett."

What's the best advice you've ever received?

1.)  Ally Hilfiger was our intern at FORM and she brought in her dad, Tommy Hilfiger, to give us some advice.  He said to start with one product and be known for doing that one product really well.  Until you've achieved this, don't go into other product categories.

2.)  When I was at Rachel Roy, we were owned by the Jones Group and were sent on mandatory inspiration trips all over the world.  Through this, I was able to live out one of my dreams of traveling the world...several times over :)"

You can see Mignonne’s gorgeous collection at here.

You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Next week, meet Amy.  She was born blind as a result of albinism, but is now one of the most sought after photographers in the country.  Her incredible story is up next, on DRIVEN for Women.  

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