Designer Mignonne Gavigan Created Her First Viral Accessory By Accident

Here's how a makeshift scarf led to fashion's favorite statement earrings.

Designer Mignonne Gavigan Created Her First Viral Accessory By Accident
Photo: Neiman Marcus/ Mignonne Gavigan

Sometimes, small decisions can change the trajectory of our whole lives. We hear the stories all the time: a person meeting their future spouse at a party they nearly skipped, or someone being fired from their crappy job, only to score their dream gig shortly after. It's fate at work, and for Mignonne "Maggie" Gavigan, it's easy to pinpoint that specific life-altering moment.

"My first job was an apparel design, and I was sitting there draping a runway dress," she tells InStyle when we caught up with her at a Neiman Marcus event. "I had ripped up a vintage gown, and there was a piece on the floor that I just tied around my neck. When I walked home through SoHo, three different people stopped me and were like, 'Where can I buy that?'"

Mignonne Gavigan Scarf Necklace
Courtesy

While that experience didn't immediately launch Gavigan's career in jewelry and accessory design, it did lead to her selling her scarves to customers. ("I was like, 'Great! Because I need help paying my rent!'" she jokes.) Even as she furthered her career in design, working for brands like Rachel Roy and Loeffler Randall, the universe seemed to push her down the path of starting her own brand, presenting her with unique opportunities. A work trip abroad, for instance, could be used as inspiration or to gather materials for her own creations.

"It was great to kind of see what different cultures were wearing and how they were wearing it. Or go to flea markets and find old trinkets and things like that," she explains.

Finally, in 2014, Mignonne Gavigan the brand was born. It has been on-the-rise ever since, counting an impressive number of celebrities as fans, including Blake Lively and Michelle Obama.

Jessica Alba wearing Mignonne Gavigan earrings
Jessica Alba wearing Mignonne Gavigan earrings. Getty Images

"[It launched] when [jewelry brands] Anita Ko and Eva Fehren were hot on the scene; everything was teeny tiny and minimalist. And here we are, colorful, with these big scarf necklaces — it was very different, which was good for us," says Gavigan. "The second year, I came up with the wing earrings, called the Madeline. We made them in two sizes and only three colors."

The Madeline ($225) — which, Gavigan says, was inspired by the "bodice of a couture gown and follows the shape of a woman's body" — remains the brand's most recognizable piece to this day. It still flies off the shelves at Neiman Marcus, where Mignonne Gavigan's offerings are sold. "They are their best sellers every single week," she tells us. "It's crazy."

Mignonne Gavigan Earrings
Courtesy

Considering that Gavigan began her career in apparel, it's easy to understand why clothes continue to serve as a source of inspiration. But a lot of what she creates also references nature, such as birds, fish, and butterflies, which helps when coming up with those eye-catching color combinations.

"If you look at bird's wings, the color story just from nature is so cool — how the gradient goes from beiges into browns into a black and then maybe a pop of yellow or red," she says. "That's usually how I take our color story for the next season."

Whether we're talking about the scarves, earrings, necklaces, or bags, Mignonne Gavigan accessories seem to be in a bold, whimsical category all their own. They're not subtle, but they're also surprisingly versatile — you can wear them for a fancy occasion, but also use them to spruce up your biker shorts and Tevas. It's one of the reasons why Gavigan doesn't feel a ton of pressure to keep up with current jewelry trends, like channeling Y2K or producing simple chains.

"That goes through my head, but I also feel like our brand is so different that it kind of doesn't matter," says Gavigan, although she is sure to note that the brand is now experimenting with other materials. "We started doing charms and more hardware-driven pieces during COVID, and it was awesome because it's inspired by world compasses, Zodiac signs, and things that are meaningful and fulfilling. But then we also always do florals, birds, butterflies, and animals."

Mignonne Gavigan Earrings
Courtesy

Just like the initial scarf design that unexpectedly launched her brand, Gavigan trusts that her next big idea — and best seller — is on its way.

"What kind of new techniques can we figure out? Or, how can we translate old techniques into something new and bring it to life?" she wonders out loud. "It's always like, the sky's the limit."

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