I can sum up Mignonne Gavigan in one word: chic. Her apartment, her jewelry, her personal style... Everything about her just oozes chic. Mignonne worked for the likes of Rachel Roy and Loeffler Randall for nearly a decade before launching her own jewelry label just three months ago. I spent a morning in her gorgeous TriBeCa apartment soaking up her Southern charm and advice for young women who want to make it in fashion.
Name: Mignonne Gavigan
Title: Founder and owner, Mignonne Gavigan
Location: TriBeCa, New York
What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to design jewelry?
I love designing, creating, and making things. I grew up in North Carolina teaching sailing but my first internship was at Marc Jacobs, where I got to work with couture dresses. I wasn't paid anything but I did it because I loved the art and the craftsmanship — I know what it takes to make something that crazy beautiful. That's where I got the idea for my collection and what has propelled me every day. Everything I make is on beaded crinkle chiffon; the idea is to bring a piece of couture to every day.
When did you know it was time to start your business?
I was ripping up a couture dress and picked up a piece of the dress to tie it around my neck. I walked down the street and had people asking where I got it! Then I started making them for friends and family. I knew I wanted to work my way up and learn as much as I could from each job opportunity. I was head of Rachel Roy's design team and then left for Loeffler Randall, where I really felt like I could bring a feminine element to their designs. Eventually I built up enough want and need for my necklaces and had saved up enough money to make the first round of samples, which is always the most expensive.
Tell me about the process of designing a new piece.
I do my research! I always check out what's happening on the runway but I take it with a grain of salt — a lot of fashion to me is how something feels. I pull tears from magazines, go to art shows, stumble upon colors and patterns on the street. Then I see what sticks out to me and pull it all together. Each piece has to be interesting; you have to design a product that you know is going to catch. You have to make wearable things and make a little something for everybody. It's a very organic process.
How did you figure out the production side of things?
Working for other people definitely helped me develop connections in production facilities. And my southern roots! I'm always kind to the people I'm working with. Right now we're making everything in India.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I try to do a couple personal things before the team shows up at noon. I have a business partner who's really bright and has a strong finance background. One of my best friends is our sales director; it makes such a difference to work with people you trust. We have seven people on the staff right now so we'll have a meeting every Monday and then everyone heads off to work on their individual tasks.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Being creative is the best and worst part. I get to do what I love but there's also a lot of pressure to make the right choices. You can't just make things that only you want to wear!
I know what you mean! I hate when I buy a ton of one product that I love and it just doesn't sell. What's one pinch me moment you've had so far?
Every week there's something cool and fun happening. We've had sales meetings with our ideal top three vendors. Net-A-Porter is putting us on their special finds. We just landed a PR company who's stoked to get the ball rolling.
I can't believe you've only been at this for three months.
The demand for production is the most exciting part. We did a trunk show last week and sold 42 necklaces. And a couple nights ago, I gave one off my neck to Katie Couric at a restaurant!
That's amazing. When will you know you've made it?
I don't think I'll ever know that. I am having so much fun but it takes a long time to build a brand and get your name out there. I hope it keeps growing and evolving — next year you make some more necklaces that do really well and the year after that you roll out shoes that really resonate. Being successful isn't selling 100,000 necklaces; it's continuing to do it year after year.
That's such a motivating sentiment! I can't wait to see where it all takes you. Do you have any advice for the next generation of women entrepreneurs?
It was really hard for me to break into fashion; I didn't have any connections so I was just scraping away one day at a time. Continue to follow your heart. Don't burn bridges. You can learn something from everyone. Once you stop learning, change jobs. It's scary, but make that leap. Believe in yourself!
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