MILLIANNA is the creation of Sharmilla Persaud and Arianna Brooke. Friends since 1995, they met while working at BCBG Max Azria, where Sharmilla worked in design and Arianna worked in the marketing department. “We knew that we always wanted to start something together and we saw that there was an opportunity in the market for our vision of fashion jewelry,” says Arianna. The friends joined professional forces in 2010 to create MILLIANNA.
Drawing upon their professional experience, Sharmilla and Arianna approach jewelry design from the perspective of fashion rather than accessory trends. Their unique interpretation of pop culture and fashion is infused with inspiration from historical eras such as Elizabethan England and various art movements, like Art Deco. “Our pieces are sophisticated and statement driven, reflecting a woman’s inner beauty and confidence,” says Sharmilla, “and that’s sexy.” MILLIANNA accessories appeal to a broad range of women, from young fashionistas to established jewelry and fashion connoisseurs, such as Iris Apfel. What these women have in common is a strong love of fashion and great sense of confidence.
Combining form with function, one of the most unique elements of MILLIANNA’s pieces is the closure used on all the cuffs and many necklaces. It is magnetic, lined with leather and topped with either hand-painted python skin or stamped lambskin. “It makes putting pieces on and taking them off very easy as well as comfortable,” says Arianna, “and because they’re so beautiful, many of our customers wear our cuffs with the closure showing on top of their wrists!”
While Sharmilla drives design, Arianna oversees production in her hometown of Spokane, WA. Each piece is intricately handmade by skilled artisans in the U.S. “It was really important to us to keep production here. Doing so allows us to focus more on design while maintaining speed-to-market,” says Arianna. As all of the pieces are labor-intensive, quality is immensely important and each piece is painstakingly inspected upon completion. Many of the artisans who work with MILLIANNA are immigrant women who arrived in Spokane with the World Relief Organization. MILLIANNA is proud to support this organization and these determined women. “MILLIANNA is an American, female-owned company that makes products for women by women,” says Sharmilla, “We partner with so many talented and interesting people-it’s a lot of what makes our work so gratifying.”
Fashion and design fascinated Sharmilla from an early age. As a teenager she was known for pulling off savvy and daring outfits, and for stealing away to off-Broadway shows in her hometown of NYC. She pursued her love of fashion at the Fashion Institute of Technology where she earned her degree in Design. After graduation, Max Azria hired her as a designer at BCBG where she excelled at creating fabric trends. Her wholehearted belief in the quality of certain fabrics often convinced even the most skeptical to invest in her vision, with great success. She brings this intuition to MILLIANNA, where she especially enjoys the creative process from first imagining a concept to the physical production of the design. She finds inspiration in fashion designers such as Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.
Arianna was indelibly influenced by her childhood summers spent in Italy. There she was exposed to the mélange of old and new: the crumbling architecture and fine paintings of Italy melded with innovative fashion trends, years ahead of their American counterparts. Her fascination with Italian design, as well as her love of the vibrant colors and sculptural form of the ‘80s fashion trends, led her to develop an interest in fashion. Arianna turned her interest in fashion into a career, working first at BCBG Max Azria and later at The Sak as vice president of marketing. Arianna observed how the creative and structural can work together to create a unique product, and has used this philosophy at MILLIANNA.