WENATCHEE — When an excited Bryony King talks about jewelry, her accent flutters from barely detectable to strong South African.
“My friends here in Wenatchee say I talk funny, like a Brit,” said Bryony, co-owner of the new U.S. distributing arm of Miglio Designer Jewelry, one of South Africa’s top brands of bling.
“But my friends in South Africa say I talk funny, too,” she laughed. “Like an American.”
Raised in Chelan but out-of-country for the past 15 years, Bryony, 38, is talking these days about the designer line of necklaces, bracelets, earrings and more created by one of South Africa’s top artists and hand-crafted by a Miglio workforce of resident black women.
Bryony and South African husband David King, 40, arrived here just two months ago and already have established a home-based Miglio showroom and their first connections in a sales web they hope will stretch nationwide with Wenatchee as headquarters.
“It’s a network marketing concept,” said David, a former accountant who’s now the behind-the-scenes business brains of Miglio in the U.S.“But it’s structured differently than Amway or Tupperware.”
Who: Owners Bryony and David King
What: The Wenatchee-based U.S. distributing arm of a direct sales jewelry company in South Africa
Info: Call 669-1106, email bryony.kingmiglio.com or visit miglio.com
Sellers can hold house parties or sell at larger trade shows or events, he said. “But many times, sales are more direct — person to person, face to face, friend to friend.”
Sellers join the sales force by purchasing starter packages that begin at $260 for a selection of necklaces, earrings, rings and other pieces. Typically, sales produce about a 30 percent profit, said David, “and that’s with very little overhead and lots of Miglio training and support.”
Established in 1981, Miglio is particularly successful in South Africa and Europe, where annual launch parties gain national attention, said the Kings. Designer and owner Jenny Miller, a 30-year veteran jewelry maker, travels extensively to find interesting raw materials — metals and gems — for each year’s new product line.
Versatility is a key element in many of the designs, said Bryony, who coordinates sales and will train Miglio’s new “independent style consultants” in the U.S. For instance, one silvery strand can be worn several ways — long necklaces doubled or tripled into shorter necklaces or bracelets — with clip-on charms, tassels or pendants.
“It’s designed to suit a woman’s moods and wardrobe,” she said. “Formal, playful, business-like, sexy. One piece worn several ways can save money and be fun to play with.”
Bryony said customers are encouraged to stop by the showroom to experiment with the jewelry. “Bring your dress, your heels and see what jewelry matches best,” she said. “Have some fun, have a bit of a giggle, don’t feel pressured, buy or don’t buy, see if we can help you.”
In Europe, said Bryony, women have discovered that Miglio’s designs allow them to create a more personal sense of style. “The (jewelry’s) versatility allows a woman to take an everyday outfit and turn it into something that stands out in a crowd.”
Necklaces of leather or white metal and silver range in cost from $20 to $300. Earrings run $15 to $175. Clip-on pendants — called “enhancers,” many with top-of-the-line Swarovski crystals — range from $10 to $150.
Three of Miglio’s necklaces are crafted by women working for The Homestead, a nonprofit that aims to better the lives of South African street children, teens and their mothers. Proceeds from sales benefit the group, which is endorsed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“Miglio definitely contributes towards helping minority women,” said David. “It establishes a sort of sisterhood — and not just among the makers, but the sellers, too. We’ve seen groups of ladies who sell Miglio become tight-knit social groups. It seems to be a great way to make friends.”
So why Wenatchee? “My family’s here,” said Bryony, “and it’s nice to be close to them after being gone so long.”
But in a recent push to expand globally, Miglio execs have also learned that technology provides the means to make any town a viable base for a nationwide businesses, said David. “Wenatchee has all the tools — airport, fast Internet, highway access — to make this work as our headquarters.”
Plus, said Bryony, Miglio’s versatility fits Wenatchee’s mostly casual, sometimes dressy lifestyle. “It’s a good place for us to try out these products,” she said. “We think women here — and around the U.S.— will find this to be the wardrobe accessory they’ve always wanted.”
Mike Irwin: 665-1179