INTRODUCING: MILLI MAIER
Upon completing her Master’s degree in Economics and Entrepreneurship in 2012, Milli Maier started developing the concept of precious hair jewelry. Being herself long-haired, she had always felt that the ritual of setting hair up could be much more significant and full of mythic grandeur than it has been to date, regardless of gender-specific traditions. Maier created her first hair adornment as an apprentice to an experienced goldsmith where her knowledge and interest in fine jewelry evolved. In 2013, she was presented with an international design award in the A’ Design Award & Competition for her first multifunctional hairpin, and formally launched her brand in London. We caught up with her to discuss her product range, the niche industry her product is positioned within and her business-development model.
How did the transition from economics to jewelry happen?
The idea developed some years ago when I wished to have a practical hair piece for myself and I couldn’t find any suitable hair jewelry on the market that could be unique, have a meaning, stand out for its quality and complement my personality. So, I decided to create one for myself. Unexpectedly, the first multifunctional hairpin won international design award from A’ Design Award and Competition which marked the moment when I realized that this is something I’m passionate about and would like to commit to.
I have always had long hair and I felt that the daily ritual of putting the hair up can be much more significant and full of mythic grandeur than it has been to date. I started by doing research about the history of hair and its adorning traditions in different cultures, where hair had been appreciated long before the modern times. While doing the research, I learned the significance of human hair, and how it was valued as a true source of intuition. My ambition in making precious hair jewelry is to recreate the story of “human highness;” people who strive to be the best version of themselves, so they could always wear their “invisible crown” as a symbol of their mind; being inspired to give to those around you because of your sense of gratitude, love and abundance.
Do you have any industry experience? Have you hired any external help to help you make the decisions?
I don’t have previous jewelry backround. I just followed my passion and started to design pieces that I would love to wear. I got a chance to be an apprentice to a goldsmith to do the first piece for myself and experience the process. At the moment, I’m designing all the pieces, and I have teamed up with an amazing goldsmith who brings to life all the ideas that I have. I also work with mentors who help me develop my dream on a business level.
How do you perceive your products: a practical accessory or a piece of jewelry? How does this concept influence your decisions on moving the brand forward?
Initial mission was to make fine hair jewelry for the modern man and woman. It had to be elegant, simple, something that could be worn every day instead of being locked up in a safe only for special occasions. I compare my jewelry with luxury watches; they serve a practical purpose, yet they are made with the highest quality of craftsmanship and from the finest materials. Even brides are making more conscious decisions; when they are buying a bespoke piece of Milli Maier fine hair jewelry for their wedding, they know that they can continue wearing their symbolic item even after the occasion as a practical everyday piece.
Could you please discuss the idea of androgynous hair accessories? Do they sell equally to men and women?
Many cultures around the world knew that hair has a special significance, and how it can affect us goes back as far as recorded history. Both men and women were encouraged to grow their hair, and some cultures believed that hair is a physical manifestation of the growth of the spirit. For me, it was very natural to start creating something for both. Although it’s true that women embellish themselves more, it hasn’t been always like that and I think men are also looking for some significant works of art that they could easily wear. It’s so exciting to think that men could also wear one of my totem pieces in their hair to symbolize what they stand for. Kings and Queens both have crowns. It’s about offering the best you can; therefore I see no disconnect between gender and hair. Design should have a purpose and a story to tell, and my jewelry carries forward the message of the Human Highness – the ones who strive towards the best version of themselves.
Tell us about your business model and how you are developing it. Are you more interested in raising exposure about your brand or magnifying your sales at this point?
At this point, I am working more on spreading the Milli Maier fine hair jewelry story, educating clients about how to use the pieces, and I am trying to gain more visibility in different markets. The most effective way is to have one-on-one meetings with people, because they can see the pieces, try them on and hear the story directly from me. It’s about building relationships with them.
Are there any designs you cannot wait to incorporate in your line soon?
Yes, there are. I have many designs and ideas waiting to be born. I’m one of the pioneers in the field of everyday luxury hair jewelry, and I’d like to develop the brand, and spread my story in a best way that I can. Sometimes it can be challenging. But, overall, I continue creating pieces which value extends beyond its material value, and that could inspire people to reach for their higher selves.
Is the fine hair-accessories industry a competitive one? Who do you consider to be your main “competitors?”
Overall, the hair-accessory industry is a competitive one, but more on the level of fashion accessories and lower-price level practical items that are made from cheap materials, like plastic. There used to be real artisan hair items like combs and pins that now are left behind in the museums or in the hands of collectors. Milli Maier fine hair jewelry is at the high end of the luxury hair jewelry market, because I saw the need from my own perspective. I also love to create things that have eternal spirit around them. Gold is a material that holds its value for centuries and you can reuse it as much as you want.
Do you take custom orders?
Yes, I take custom orders. The designs I have created, for example, give a chance to add some special details or significant characteristics that could be cherished by the client. I’m also open to new ideas that we could work out together with the client on a level that fits with the core values of Milli Maier fine hair jewelry. People have different hair thickness and hair-styling customs, so there are always some customizations needed in this area.
What are you currently working on and what are your future plans?
In February I launched the hair jewellery brand in London and I’m working to establish it there. I’m also planning to widen the hair jewellery range and preparing to expand my brand outside of Europe to such markets as Dubai, India, Japan and China. I’ll go step by step and I am excited to see where the path leads me.
Images © Milli Maier