Friday, August 3, 2007


Mignonette, which is French for “cute girl,” is a fitting name for a company dedicated to making clothing designed to make women feel girly, cute, and modern. Kpoene Kofi-Bruce, the owner and designer behind Mignonette, unites patterns and fabrics in unique combinations, or reclaims a piece of fabric in unexpected ways. She strives to use reclaimed or recycled fabric and trims in her pieces in order to maximize the feel-good factor of wearing her clothes.

Starting Mignonette
“I started Mignonette in 2003 after a bad experience freelancing for a major company. I decided that I wanted to challenge big business by creating a high-quality, viable product line that would appeal to hip young women. I drew on my background as a costume designer and obsessive fashion-mag reader and started creating designs that I wanted to wear and hoped others would like as well. Since then I’ve been featured in magazines, done tons of indie fashion shows and craft fairs, and tried to build community with other business owners through the collective I started, the Ladies Independent Design League.”

Catering to the Artistic Fashionista
“My typical customer is between 22-35, with an artistic bent. She loves fashion and knows what looks good on her but doesn’t want to always get her clothing at the same places that everyone else shops. She puts herself together with funky one-off pieces or vintage accessories to make a design her own. She loves a bargain and shops constantly because she never knows when she might find an amazing deal, too – hmm…my typical customer sounds just like me!”

Background for Mignonette
“I have worked Fashion Week, designed for the largest purveyor of hip urban apparel in the nation, and made costumes for companies of dancers. I think that my experience as a woman who needed cute, appropriate clothes for daily life made me a good judge of what women, especially those of us who aren’t built like dressmakers forms, require. My pieces have room for busts, hips, booties, and arms.”

“I like to think that my years as an administrator gave me good insight into how to research the industry and keep track of my competition.”

On Outsourcing
“I only recently began outsourcing my pieces to an offsite assistant because I’ve been getting store orders and wedding dress orders and can’t sew everything myself. I would like to figure out a way to get more help and pay them fairly – maybe develop a Project Alabama-style sewing coop to work on my items. It’s a tough decision because I really want to maintain the handmade touches on the clothing while getting greater exposure.”

Business Challenges
“When I first started out, it was really lonely and confusing trying to figure out what I needed to know to make the business work. Living in New York means constantly having to prove yourself against thousands of more established companies and designers all fighting over the same resources. In a way, being in the fashion capital of the world has been the most challenging part of all – its always discouraging opening a magazine and seeing that your competition beat you to the punch with press or even just good design ideas.”

“I haven’t entirely gotten over these challenges but I try to keep ahead of my competition – I read the Wall Street Journal every day and subscribe to about 9 magazines. I also read tons of blogs and am a member of sites like the Switchboards. Honestly, the best advice I can give is to find a support network. I couldn’t find one so I created one with the Ladies Independent Design League.

The Power of Research
“I ask other indie designers about their experiences with stores and do research online. If I am visiting a city I try to setup visits with store buyers and also check out shopping guides like Lucky and local chambers of commerce or blogs.”

Marketing Products
“Right now I am developing a plan to aggressively pursue blogs and websites aimed at the plus-size market because there are so few outlets for women over size 10 to find great clothes. It has only been about a month so I don’t know if this approach will work yet. I am also doing lots of craft fairs and markets to get the word out. It has actually been a great way to streamline the designs because people can try items on and give me feedback.”

Low-Cost Advertising
“My websites are in my email signature, and I also keep a mailing list. I always have cards with me and if I can’t hand them to people I leave them in coffee shops and clubs so people will pick them up. The Switchboards and Glitter are great ways to get people to look at your site too.”

Recommended Business Resources
“The Switchboards, Ladies Independent Design League, Get Crafty, the Crafty Bastards Blog, the Sampler, Design Sponge – these are all great resources.”

Inspired By…
“Women on the street – I know that’s a cliché answer, but I live in New York so I really see a huge variety of individual styles every day.”

Grace Bonney from Design Sponge, Grace Wang from Unsung Designers.

Words of Advice-No Fear
“Don’t give up! Find other women in your area who are doing what you want to do and ask them questions. Don’t be afraid – they’ll be happy to help you out.”


Kpoene Kofi-Bruce



kathy said...

Thoroughly insightful and enjoyable words of wisdom!
You are inspiration.

Johanna Resnikoff said...

Mignonette makes THE most beautiful dresses! Affordable, wearable and best of all, they're durn purty. (that's "darn pretty" for you city folks)

Renee KB said...

The creative, original designs coming from Mignonette make me wish I was a cute "girl" once more!!