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We love all of the amazing independent designers out there. In order to find out more about just what makes all of these creative types tick, we present to you an ongoing segment called Indie Designer Interviews.
Today we'd like to introduce you to independent fashion designer Kpoene' Kofi-Bruce of Mignonette, which means 'cute girl' in French. Kpoene' recently launched her new bridal collection, which includes custom gowns.
Tell us a little about yourself and your company.
Mignonette Designs is a line of handmade custom and ready-to-wear dresses for sophisticated girly girls. I've been running Mignonette since 2002 when I first moved to Brooklyn. We've gotten a lot of press and been in a lot of stores and had a great time with it. I recently scaled back to work on the launch of Mignonette Bridal in June of 2008. This is a higher-priced (but still under $500) collection of dresses that can be modified for brides or bridal parties, and we're also offering custom gowns.
How did you get started as a designer?
I worked for a large company for a few months and realized that I really didn't want to work for anyone other than myself. Luckily, I moved to New York at the right time - Indie business, especially indie design, is really heavily encouraged there and it's easy to find other crafty entrepreneurs. In fact, I learned so much just in the first 3 years of running the business that i decided to start my own networking group, the Ladies Independent Design League, to work with other women who were trying to get their businesses in shape. It's not that I'm an expert, but I've been around the block a few times. :)
What inspires your work?
I am an unabashed Francophile so I love watching French movies, reading French blogs, and of course listening to the music of my favorite singer, April March (she's an American who mostly sings in French). I recently took up flower arranging, which is such a fun, random old-lady hobby, but it really helps to clear my head and think of new designs.
Who are your favorite designers?
Yves St. Laurent was a genius, and of course I also love Nannette Lepore, Catherine Malandrino, and Rebecca Taylor. My girlfriend gave me a Viktor and Rolf skirt for Christmas and even though it's more architectural than I am used to I like wearing it.
What are your top fashion & beauty must-haves?
I am a shoe fanatic. I have lots of different pairs of pointy-toed black pumps, and maybe nobody else can tell the difference between them, but I know.
For beauty I will take any concealer that hides my under-eye bags, which are enormous - lately I really like Cover Girl Trueblends. It's inexpensive and it actually works great. I also always need Pucci Vivara perfume or Mark Jacobs Daisy perfume or I don't feel ready to leave the house.
Any advice you would give to aspiring designers?
I would say that you have to really believe in your product. I'm repping a friend of mine who is a fellow clothing designer and she is the perfect example of what an indie business owner should be: She wears her designs nearly every day and really personifies the label. I think that's important. Refusing to take "no" for an answer is another thing any business owner should do. If Etsy isn't the best way for you to sell, create your own website. Can't seem to get into craft fairs? Maybe you should try boutiques. Since it's so hard for little businesses to stay afloat, you always have to look for new opportunities and they are usually in very unexpected places.
Where can people find your work?
Right now I am only online at www.Mignonettedesigns.com, www.mignonettebridal.com, and at Pandora's Trunk in San Francisco.
Please contact me if you are a new designer looking for advice! I can dish it for days!