Mignonne Gavigan, Fashion’s Innovator

Mignonne Gavigan
Mignonne Gavigan in CLT

Mignonne Gavigan herself is as radiant and exuberant as you’d expect from the owner of the self-named business that specializes in the bright, bejeweled, and statement-making. Her style is a little southern and a lot progressive, so it’s no wonder she was noticed quickly by fashion-forward celebrities like Jessica Biel, Selma Blair, Sofia Vergara, Kate Mara, and Katy Perry. Her signature beaded scarf necklaces, the piece that started it all for Mignonne, can be seen on the streets from L.A to NYC, and her line is carried at stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.

Mignonne is a warm, friendly personality, dressed in an effortlessly stylish getup that reminds me right away of where she’s made her new home (New York City). But when we meet to discuss Mignonne Gavigan, both the woman herself and the business, it’s on her hometown turf here in Charlotte on a mild, early summer day. It’s a fitting place to see what the brand creator and artistic visionary has built over the past years; in a relatively small window of time, Mignonne has carved a major niche for herself in the fashion industry and joined rank in the industry’s fast-paced hub, but her roots are here. In an old friend’s home, she pours over pieces she’s brought along with her and talks to us about her journey from start to present day.

You were born and raised in Charlotte. How has your upbringing in Charlotte inspired your work?
Through my use of color and texture. Charlotteans have a colorful style that is whimsical and fun, yet still sophisticated. I’ve never been shy about bold colors, which is something I attribute to growing up in Charlotte, too. Plus, I make jewelry for people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. Inclusivity is one of the cornerstones of my brand.

How did Mignonne Gavigan go from an idea to an actual business?
In 2007, I ripped up a vintage gown to use the beadwork for inspiration. I was placing parts of the dress on a mannequin to get an idea of composition and there was a piece on the floor that I picked up, tied around my neck, and fastened with a safety pin. I walked home through Soho in New York and literally was stopped three times to be asked where I had gotten my “necklace”. From that day, the MG scarf necklace was born. For years, I made the necklaces for friends and family, and then formally launched my brand in 2014. I found my business partner, Layne, who is also from North Carolina, coincidentally. She had years of finance and business experience, so we balance each other out perfectly.

As an artist, how do you keep yourself inspired?
I’m constantly inspired by everything around me; the pattern a crack in the sidewalk makes, the color story in the sky a setting sun makes, or even a detail found in traditional materials from a new place I’ve traveled. I’m very visual, so I’m always looking at details, colors, and textures.

When did you become interested in jewelry specifically?
Growing up, I was always making things. I have three brothers, and if I wasn’t asked to round out a wiffle ball or football team, I was in the basement creating things. It was usually drawing, or painting, or building anything out of paper. I wasn’t always a jewelry person, but when I draped the first scarf necklace, I couldn’t go back.

Now that you’ve had the brand for a few years, how do you begin the design process for each season?
I start designing a season a year in advance. A color story comes together as I research trends, but mostly I act on a feeling. I collect items from my travels, and each collection is usually inspired by a place that I have visited. I focus on specific techniques and the collection’s color story as a way to bring this place to life and translate the beauty in color, details, and textures into the Mignonne Gavigan pieces. I translate prints and textiles into modern day jewelry that is still reminiscent of the past, and then master artisans create each piece by hand in India.

How would you describe your own personal style?
Fun, elevated, colorful, comfortable, and easy! I love color and textures and love t-shirts or a good button up. I like to play with volume. I’m obsessed with jeans… designer or cheap kinds.  I’m really into sneakers and flat boots. Rarely will you find me wearing high heels to work.

What are some of your favorite things about returning home to North Carolina?
The people! Living in New York, where life is fast and people are busy, you realize how refreshing it is to be surrounded by Southerners who take the time to say hello or even just flash a simple smile when you cross paths. I love (and miss!) the incredible weather, the access to good food, rich culture, the ocean, and the mountains.               

How would you describe the experience of running your own business?
The highlights are definitely the small victories I share with each employee on a daily basis.  We are all-hands-on-deck and are all very passionate about building this brand so it means a lot to all be working for the same goal. Also, becoming a new mom and balancing a start-up might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There is no manual that walks you through the struggles those first months with the baby can be, not to mention adding that to the new balance of work and family.                            

What are a few basic style tips for adding jewelry to an outfit?
For me, more is more! I love mixing and matching colors and textures. For those that are just getting into experimenting with bold jewelry, I first recommend trying to incorporate just one bold piece into a look. A great way to dip your toes into the water is by pairing an oversized earring with a sleek pant.