We talk to Michael Saiger, founder and creative director of jewellery and accessories label Miansai, about his design process, the importance of craftsmanship and why inspiration can be found anywhere in the world
Miami-based jewellery label Miansai stands out for many reasons, the foremost being, perhaps, that it began life as a jewellery label just for men. Founder and creative director Michael Saiger can take serious credit for encouraging gentlemen to look to jewellery once more: his minimal, masculine and utilitarian aesthetic has struck a chord with stylish men across the world.
'We put a lot of energy into our craftsmanship and everything we produce is made to the highest quality'
Miansai is also unusual in its absolute commitment to in-house production using only the finest materials. Precious metals, fine Italian leathers, military-grade ropes: only the best will do for Saiger and his team, who then transform these materials into beautiful jewellery, bags and leather goods in the Miansai factory in Miami. As the brand prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, we caught up with Saiger to find out more about his game-changing brand.
Why did you create Miansai?
When I was studying at the University of Miami there really wasn’t any men’s jewellery that was stylish, casual and masculine. I started making things out of found objects and rope, and my friends all caught on and asked me to make some pieces for them. From there I realized that this could really be something. If my close friends liked what I was doing so much, why not market to the rest of Miami? Over the next few months I would walk into my favourite stores and show them my jewellery. I got a really positive response and that’s how Miansai started 10 years ago.
What makes Miansai stand out from other jewellery labels?
We put a lot of energy into our craftsmanship and everything we produce is made to the highest quality. We wear-test everything ourselves and have our own factory in Miami. When you design and produce in-house you have the opportunity to oversee absolutely everything. If a sample comes out and it’s not just how I envisioned, I can sit down with one of our jewellers and metalsmiths and by the end of that same day they are able to perfect it. I love what I do, I don’t cut corners and I think people can see that from our product. This to me is what makes Miansai stand out.
Where do you find inspiration for your collections?
I get inspiration from travel and my surroundings. I travel pretty frequently and just in the past few months my wife Rachael and I have visited Japan, France, Spain, Italy and the UK. For the most part we travel for business and, no matter what the purpose of the trip is, I am fascinated by the world and exploring new surroundings. Travelling always has and always will be my main source of inspiration when it comes to designing. If you check out our Instagram you can see that a lot of our feed is based on what we like to call ‘inspired discoveries’; we are always evolving from inspiration around us.
Why is it so important that all Miansai jewellery is handmade in-house?
If I do something, I am going to do it right and today so many jewellery and accessory brands produce overpriced, throwaway pieces that are made from low-quality materials. At Miansai, our aesthetic is nautical, sleek and modern. Our designs highlight our craftsmanship especially with our more utilitarian pieces. I like to have control over the entire process from start to finish and you don’t really get that if you outsource.
Do you think there is one piece or collection which most represents your brand?
We’ve had a few really iconic pieces, some of which include our hooks and anchors, such as the Single Casing and the Screw Cuff. This idea of taking everyday hardware and making it into a wearable piece is something we always come back to. The Screw Cuff is one of our top sellers every season and we have a ton of variations in different metals and thicknesses. We even have one in our Fine Collection with a pavé bar that features 126 diamonds.
When did you launch your women’s collection and how does it relate to the men's?
We launched the women’s line almost five years ago. A lot of our core pieces are really gender neutral. Girls used to go into the men’s section at stockists, such as Barney’s, and buy men’s sizes in pieces. We realized that there was a huge opportunity to branch out and design a line of feminine pieces just for women. The original Miansai aesthetic still drives our inspiration when it comes to designing for women but the overall feel of our women’s line is much more delicate. We also have developed Fine and Semi-Precious collections just for women, with pavé and sapphire pieces.
What inspired you to launch your range of bags?
Our bags are inspired by travel and I focused on structured, utilitarian silhouettes in high-quality Italian leathers when designing them. A quality travel bag gets better with age so I choose leathers that age beautifully and I have personally wear-tested every piece. It’s so important for a bag to be well designed and thought out. I took a different approach to designing our bags than I do for jewellery. With bags I really honed in on functionality and structure. They feature Italian leathers, YKK zips and custom closures and buckles.
How would you describe Miansai’s customers?
The Miansai customer appreciates quality and craft. They are fashionable and practical, and have an eye for design.
Do you have a favourite piece from the current collections?
We recently developed this hollow wired flex technology that we’ve used to create some of our new classics, such as the Nyx, Neo and Cubist cuff for both men and women. I’m also really into the Triad cuff from our current collection – this piece is a major statement maker and has been doing really well for us. It’s easy for me to get into the habit of designing delicate, detailed pieces so it was refreshing to design a statement piece like the Triad.
What does the future hold for Miansai?
We are just getting ready to celebrate our 10-year anniversary, which is so exciting. I cannot believe how quickly the time went. We are currently sold in over 40 countries and have two flagship stores in New York City and Los Angeles. We plan to continue expanding our mobile retail fleet and currently have nine vehicles. This has been a massive success for us, allowing us to test out different markets and get a better understanding of where our presence needs to be stronger.