If you are not already obsessed with luxury vegan accessories brand Jill Milan, get ready to fall head over heels in love. Jill Milan was founded by Jill Fraser–an Oxford grad and a former horse show circuit rider, who had a highly successful career as a marketing executive for various companies before founding her own brand with partner Milan Lazich. Since then, Jill Milan bags have shown up on pages of major fashion magazines world over, and found fans in A-listers from Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence, Eva Longoria, Kerry Washington, and many more. I was so thrilled to interview Jill for Peaceful Dumpling. Find out what inspires her, how she stays fit, her personal style, and her #1 career advice for living your dreams.
PD: Co-founding and running your own luxury vegan accessories line sounds like a dream career path! How did you decide to start Jill Milan?
JF: I couldn’t find many luxury-quality handbags that were suitable for work. I am vegan and do not wear anything made of animal-derived materials, but most of the handbags I found were not very stylish.
PD: How would you describe the philosophy behind the brand, both aesthetically and ethically?
JF: We want to make the best quality handbag we can, which means we use designers who have worked for luxury brands, and top Italian manufacturers and fabrics. I visit every atelier we work with to ensure our bags and other accessories are made to our standards.
From an aesthetic point of view, our handbags are not fussy. Even our evening clutches are very clean and simple—no crystals or that sort of thing. Designing bags with vegan materials also has its own set of challenges so we’ve really learned how to work within those constraints.
PD: What would you say were the hardest things about growing your own successful company?
JF: Trying to balance the things that need to be done and trying to decide which activity needs to be prioritized.
PD: Jill Milan has been seen all over the red carpet and magazines, and carried by celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway, Carrie Underwood, Kerry Washington, and so many more. When was that moment when you felt like you’ve reached a tipping point? Any surreal, proud moment?
JF: We were very excited that Jill Milan appeared on the red carpet, carried by such high-profile and successful celebrities, so soon after the company launched. Nothing is easy, though, so we still keep running and working hard.
PD: What is your #1 career advice to our readers — especially, but not limited to, women who want to follow their passions?
JF: Never, ever burn bridges, and especially don’t make disparaging remarks about people on social media. It will always come back to haunt you. Other than that, I think it’s a good idea to work for someone else who has a company in your area of interest before starting your own company. Save a lot of cash before you start your company too. You will need it!
PD: How do you stay productive at your work? And what do you do to keep yourself healthy?
JF: I run every day. And, of course, I am vegan and try to use Dr. Barnard’s low fat recipes as much as I can. When I start eating vegan junk food, which I adore, I begin gaining weight.
PD: What inspires you or makes you excited to get up and going every morning?
JF: I love being able to help animals. We often partner with non-profits on various causes and that is very exciting.
PD: Let’s talk fashion! Which Jill Milan bag are you carrying these days?
JF: We all carry the Newbury Street portfolios around here. They were featured in The Zoe Report and easily hold an iPad so they’re very practical. Our customers also really love our bucket bags.
Jil Milan Newbury Street Portfolio, $400
Jil Milan Soma Punching Bag in Anthracite/gold, $500
PD: How would you describe your personal style?
JF: I wear pretty classic clothes—pencil skirts and blouses. My friend, Claire Farwell, has some nice vegan dresses for spring, which I am going to check out. She is a British designer who designs clothes that are appropriate for work or for evening.
PD: Besides bags, what are your signature accessories that you can’t live without?
JF: I love our new Jill Milan wallets. They are actually made from Italian fabric used in upholstery, so they are both beautiful and very durable. The Lucky Pendant is made in Italy and was designed by a renowned San Francisco jeweler. (Half of the proceeds from the sales of these pendants go to Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue, an organization that rescues horses at risk of going to slaughter.)
Lucky Sterling Pendant, $150
Jil Milan Continental Wallet in green, $250
Jill’s Essentials List
Must Have Vegan Beauty Product: There are so many good vegan options now. Physician’s Formula, Too Faced, wet n wild, Butter, and, of course, many of Lush’s products. We use Butter for all of our photo shoots.
Favorite City/Country to Visit: Probably Lake Como or Venice. I spend a lot of time in Lake Como and the architecture and the towns are amazingly beautiful.
Favorite Vegan Restaurant: I love Gracias Madre and Crossroads in L.A.
Your Mantra: Don’t be afraid to fail. And you won’t realize you know absolutely nothing until you get older.
Guilty Pleasure: I have an obsession with Smarties. It’s really embarrassing how many I eat.
In 5 Years, I’ll Be… Developing more new products. The materials are advancing so rapidly we will be able to do so much more with them.
When You Feel Most Beautiful: Um well, perhaps not post-Smartie attack.
I don’t know about you but I’m feeling so inspired by both the woman and the brand. And that bucket tote can just hop over into my wardrobe, please–thoughts?
More interviews: Raw Vegan Foodist Sarma Melngailis
Celebrity Trainer Ashley Borden
Photo: Moanalani Jeffrey Photography; Jill Milan