Jewel of New Orleans: Mignon Faget

Like her sought-after jewelry, the beloved designer is synonymous with Crescent City style

Lift the lid on most any New Orleans jewelry box, and you’re likely to find one of Mignon Faget’s signature pieces inside. Over the years Faget has made a lasting imprint on Crescent City style with her popular jewelry line that incorporates local icons (fleurs de lis, oysters, red beans, etc.). A Louisiana icon herself, the designer continues to create and charm in her trademark fashion nearly half a century after she launched her first ready-to-wear collection in 1969.

You got your start as a clothing designer.

I’ve been aware of fashion ever since I was a child. My mother made all of my clothes, and let me do the designing and the choosing of the fabric. She was teaching me, but it felt like an adventure. Fashion has always felt adventurous to me. I began my career doing hippie clothes for affluent hippies, mixing textures and hand-printing suede vests. Then I started using nail heads; these beautiful soft lambskin vests stamped with hardware.

You often incorporate nature into your jewelry designs.

I’ve always been close to nature without really having an objective to do so. The first piece of jewelry I made was from a seashell I found during a visit to the Gulf Coast. Shells are like pieces of architecture; they’re the housing of an animal, and that fascinates me.

Mignon Faget sea charm bracelet
Faget's sterling sea charm bracelet, part of her early Sea Collection. (©Mignon Faget)

Architecture is also prevalent in your work.

Romanesque architecture is my favorite. I did a collection based on Henry Hobson Richardson’s building at Lee Circle, which is now part of the Ogden Museum. When it was being restored, the architect called and said, “Whatever you are doing, stop and come down here. You’ve got to see what I’m doing. The whole lawn is covered with parts and pieces from this building and it looks like huge links of jewelry.” I spent a whole day sketching and taking photographs. I also did a collection called Ironworks based on the wrought iron used on the early buildings in the French Quarter—the balcony on the Cabildo, the roof at Le Petit Theatre.

What is your preferred piece of jewelry?

A cuff bracelet; you have more space to make it sculptural. The cuff I’m wearing today is my Marcellino II cuff, part of the Ironworks collection, which I just finished redesigning as a chandelier for my Canal Place store. That’s something I like to do, taking something apart then putting it back together differently. So it went from a piece of ironwork to a cuff bracelet to a big chandelier!

Mignon Faget Marcellino II cuff
Marcellino II cuffs, plain and accented with chalcedony, from Faget's Ironworks Collection. (©Mignon Faget)

What place most inspires you?

I’ve always loved the beach; it’s freedom to me. I have a house outside of Beaufort, South Carolina, and my gentleman friend has a house in Maine right on the ocean, which is a wonderful place to be in the summertime. Traveling is one of my favorite things.

Name one piece of jewelry a traveler should pack.

I try very hard to be a light traveler. You can throw in a few pair of earrings in a little pouch; they’re light and small and won’t add much weight.

You’ve created dozens of collections. What’s next on your drawing board?

I did a bridal collection in the spring based on ideas from lace called Luz. Then I made the dark side of it, called Obscura. So it’s all about day and night; that will be released any day now. The next collection is totally different. It’s all connected to something tough that you might find in a hardware store—very elevated hardware. The tough/soft theme is a recurring one.