Designers / Industry

How I Got Here: Maya Brenner on Setting Style Trends and Boundaries


You may have heard a lot in recent months about the Y2K trend, a looking back at the years around the late 1990s and early 2000s for style inspiration. Those are the years Maya Brenner started making jewelry, and her confidence in not only herself but also her business has grown just as much as her popular brand has.

Brenner started making wire-wrapped jewelry in 1998 as a hobby; it was a way to relieve the stress of her social work job in New York. The look got attention, so she launched Maya Brenner Designs to see what the market thought of her ideas.

The market responded—and how. Brenner moved to California in 2001, launched her iconic state-shape and asymmetrical initial necklaces, and began collaborating with companies including Stella & Dot. In the past two decades, Brenner has been working, raising a family, and building the kind of team she dreamed about from the start.

Maya Brenner Color for Summer collection
California-based Maya Brenner Designs recently launched its new Bouquet collection, which features colorful wire-wrapped beaded necklaces and bracelets. Starting at $135 for a 5-inch bracelet, each piece is handmade with semi-precious faceted stones.

Today, Maya Brenner Designs is a reflection of its creator. Smart designs, powerful statements, and confident decisions are what Brenner says she now brings to her jewelry work and her personal life, and it is right where she wants to be both within the industry and as a woman.

For example, Brenner and Becket + Quill cofounder Alli Webb recently launched their Enough necklace, which is donating 100% of its profits to Everytown and Brady, two organizations that are working to end gun violence. Brenner is putting her name and reputation in front of this social issue, supporting the mission of gun safety.

Maya Brenner Designs also debuted its new Bouquet collection, a throwback to her earliest jewelry days. The collection features colorful wire-wrapped beaded necklaces and bracelets, which Brenner recommends for layering and adding some flair to the dog days of summer.

Maya Brenner Bouquet necklace
A throwback to Maya Brenner’s first jewelry pieces, the Clover Bouquet necklace features 3 mm natural faceted aventurine beads hand-wrapped with 10k yellow gold wire ($315). 

“I’m going back to my roots with our brand-new Bouquet collection based on one of my very first designs,” Brenner says.

Brenner says her design aesthetic is “delicate but makes a statement,” and she’s definitely doing that across her brand.

“I’ve never been one for straightforward designs, which is how I got to the Asymmetrical Letter necklace,” Brenner says. “It hadn’t really been done before, and people kept asking if I could move the letter to the center, so it took some time for customers to get what I was going for. And, now, well…you see what everyone is doing.”

The earliest inspirations for her work came from her admiration for women of all ages, places, and lifestyles, whether it is the chic style of French women, including designer Isabel Marant, as well as the edgy yet feminine looks of supermodel Kate Moss.

Maya Brenner enough necklace
Maya Brenner x Becket + Quill designed this Enough necklace together in support of the mission of gun safety and will be donating 100% of all profits to a variety of gun violence– prevention organizations ($98). 

“When I first started making jewelry in the ’90s the internet wasn’t as vast and wide as it is now, so I would wait anxiously for the Sundance catalog to arrive and admire all the artists and designer jewelry in it,” Brenner says. “Most of my jewelry is very delicate and feminine, and I love mixing it up with our shark tooth necklace, a vintage locket, or a thicker layering chain. Makes me feel very put together even when I’m in sweatpants.”

Her business reflects that smart and confident poise she has and admires. Partly, that comes from experience. And, partly, it comes from being a mom to three kids whose ages range from 4 to 18.

“I’m at a point now where I don’t need to physically be in-office every single day. I have flexible hours, and those hours depend on what works for me and my family,” Brenner says. “When I’m at the office, I try to focus and get a lot done. I think I’m a pretty good boss, and I surround myself with very good people. I’ve been doing this too long to work with mean people, so we just don’t.

“I’ve also been known to ‘break up’ with store owners or customers who are difficult or disrespectful to my staff. It’s just not worth it to me,” Brenner says.

Top: Maya Brenner is enjoying her business and the success it has brought, especially during this Y2K trend toward the kind of jewelry the designer has been making since she got started in the industry in 1998 (photos courtesy of Maya Brenner Designs). 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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