Links to Community: Lauren Miltner
by Sophie McNeil Wolf
When Lo Lady Fashion first came into being, Lauren Miltner created jewelry because it was time she could spend with her mom as a creative outlet.
“I got into (the jewelry business) with my mother (Patti Betts), taking vintage artwork and upcycling it. We would Photoshop photos and rework them into pendant necklaces,” she said.
But what she found was that jewelry was a unique way of expression and a way to forge connections. “The more involved in jewelry I got, the more I found that I actually cared about it,” she said with a laugh. “It was something I was doing on a whim with my mom. Really, my line was created because I wanted a certain style and I couldn’t find it in a retail store. I thought, ‘Okay, I’ll just make this on my own.’”
Her pieces are decidedly vintage-inspired, but with a sophisticated, yet minimalistic twist. Miltner describes it as “vintage paired with something new, along with the dynamic of stones. It was this trifecta of my favorites – vintage, modern and gems and minerals.”
Because each piece involves such intricate and unique details, no two items look alike. “You can’t replicate it,” she said. “I really like clean lines – simple, mid-century modern – but then I also love aspects of vintage, like the 1920’s with art deco.”
Current retailers include Swell-o-Phonic in Fondren, Libby Story in Ridgeland and Starkville, Sugar Magnolia in Madison, Irie Boutique in Hattiesburg, Tulip Floral at Livingston in Madison County, and several retailers in New Orleans.
While she loves curating pieces for each individual retailer’s style, Miltner’s custom work is also close to her heart.
“I love doing custom pieces. People will bring me their grandmother’s broach and want me to make it into earrings or something else repurposed. I had a bride come to me with antique clip-on earrings for her bridesmaid and she said, ‘Make these look like her.’ I really enjoy seeing that.”
For Miltner, being present in Fondren has also made a huge difference in her business.
“The amount of connections that have formed from sitting on the patio at Sneaky Beans,” she says with a smile. “Literally, I’m sitting on the porch and Mike Peters walks by. I asked him if he randomly had a studio available in Fondren Corner. I had been toying with the idea of a studio space to hold all of my jewelry so it didn’t have to be in my house. Now I have a space on the second floor.”
That sense of camaraderie and community is what makes Fondren a natural haven for creative people, she says.
“What I love about Fondren is that people support one another. It’s a completely creative environment. That’s very important to me. In some places it is very competitive, but here it is very collaborative. I can ask LVO (Land Versus Ocean) to bring in musicians who happen to work at Sneaky Beans. There are so many creative hats that people wear around here.”
Miltner laughs at the idea that anyone thinks she has it all together. “There’s not a single person that thinks that,” she says shaking her head.
When asked what advice she would give to other blossoming entrepreneurs, she pauses for a few seconds. “Collaborate with the right people. Really, everything I’ve learned in my endeavors has been because of the relationships I’ve formed. I think that is something very special about Fondren. Be willing to serve people. I worked and learned from people much further along than me. Start small and work in those areas that aren’t so glamorous. I learned that the hard way.”
Though a child of the north in Michigan, Miltner takes her role as a Jacksonian seriously, saying she’s dedicated to making the city a better place, even if it is through a smile with a new piece of jewelry.
“I’m learning now at 32 to plant roots in this season of my life. Build relationships around you now, invest in your community, love people, focus on how you can cause positive change. That’s my choice. I’m here for the long haul.”