I am often asked about the name I chose for my millinery business: Milli Starr. Obviously, a name is central to the branding and overall image of your business and is one of the most important decisions you'll make in the early stages.
While many designers in the fashion industry opt to use their own names, I did not for several reasons. I was never very fond of my maiden name but more importantly, when I was a student in the millinery program at FIT, instructor Janet Linville cautioned us against using our own names. If the business failed, those failures could be forever linked to you personally, or if the business succeeded and was sold, another company could own all associated intellectual property rights including your name.
This happens fairly often in the fashion world. Shoe designers, Kari Sigerson and Miranda Morrison, who founded Sigerson Morrison, lost the rights to design under their names after a contentious split with Marc Fisher, who purchased the label in 2006. Similarly, menswear designer Joseph Abboud sold his business and agreed to a non-compete clause. When he launched a new line under his own name, he was sued for infringement. Abboud may only use his name in promotional materials, accompanied by a disclaimer. That's definitely awkward.
A name is linked to the reputation and identity of the business. When a buyer is purchasing a company, it is buying both physical and intellectual assets.
If as a designer, you opt to use your own name, FashionLaw.com suggests registering it as a trade mark with ownership assigned to the individual NOT the company.
When I registered my first DBA in 2004, it was as Milli Hats & Headware. Milli is derived from Millinery.
Two years later, I shortened the name and rebranded to Milli Starr. I always liked that Milli could just as easily be a woman's nickname (short for Millicent) and paired it with Starr, because it made a great alias. 😄
My photographer Peter Tung had some fun digitally altering
this black velvet halo brim
I thought "Milli Starr" had an auspicious ring and it also reflected another personal interest of mine: astronomy. I actually took several astronomy courses in college and really loved it. Might have been a career choice, had I not pursued my love of fashion history.
Original logo 2006 - 2012
My first logo used a block font with an 8-pointed star.
The tagline was "creating custom millinery: bridal: fashion"
An octagram as a symbol has many cultural meanings. The two that resonated most with me were the Judeo-Christian: beginnings, resurrection, salvation and super-abundance and the Hindu association with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth: monetary, ability to transport, endless prosperity, victory, patience, health and nourishment, knowledge, and family. Lots of positivity here!
Logo 2012 - present
In 2012, I did a major re-branding with new font and logo. I added a curled quill to the 8-pointed star and wrote a new tagline: "bespoken & beloved millinery" that I adore. It reflects the custom process and the love that goes into it, plus the hope that my hats will be cherished by their owners.
The re-branding was the result of months of sketching and brain-storming. Six years on, I am still really happy with my choices. I might update the look again at some point, but there will always be continuity in the name. Milli Starr has become my alter-ego after all.
Another photoshopped image by Peter Tung
"Madeleine" hat in ivory and orchid pink sinamay