Milly & Earl is one of the most vibrant stores on its block—mainly because when you walk through the door, you’re likely to be greeted by owner Bernadette Libonate’s vivacious and welcoming presence and smile. Whether picking the perfect gift that oozes of sentiment or talking about relationship woes while hanging out at the counter, Bernadette and her store offers that community feel which seems to be getting lost more often these days in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. One block from the Graham Avenue L train, Milly & Earl offers a range of t-shirts and apparel, cool greeting cards, glass flasks, scented candles and jewelry by local artisans like Nettie Kent, Marisa Haskell, VERAMEAT, and Cook & Gates. It’s a shop that you’ll find yourself getting lost in while taking in the little details; the kind of place where happy regulars come to hang and new comers feel enamored. I struggle putting my experience into words how special of a person Bernadette Libonate is, her character easily translates into Milly and Earl (Which is half named after her loyal BFF of a dog Millie, who can be seen chilling behind the counter of the store on days).

Libonate was kind enough to hang with us at Beautiful Savage Magazine and talk about how she started and what life is like at her shop in Brooklyn. To have a look at some of her latest designs, head over to her online shop.

Images courtesey of Dana Decoursey.

Bernadette Libonate of Milly&Earl

Bernadette Libonate of Milly&Earl

What made you decide to open Milly & Earl?

I didn’t want to work for anyone else who I didn’t think could do the job as well as I could do it. I thought I could do it better—That’s terrible to say [laughs]—so ego.

Where did you work before Milly and Earl?
I was the director of merchandising for Playboy Enterprises, Global Licensing.


How did that make you feel?

Like a super star [Laughs]. No, but I really loved it. Best job I ever had and I learned more than I ever thought I would learn, which was really a surprise. I remember I rolled into the offices wondering what they wanted a merchandiser or a buyer for—and I met the most amazing people! There were so many beautiful, empowered, quick-with-the-whip women, and I thought, “Oh my God, the entire department is basically run by women, and women that I can learn from!” From that point I knew I wanted the job—I furiously wanted the job. It also involved a ton of traveling; it really was an amazing job! I didn’t know how much I wanted it, until I walked in the door that day and then I wanted nothing else.

Beard Oil for the modern man

Beard Oil for the modern man


Antlers and Bracelets, a perfect Williamsburg Combination

Antlers and Bracelets, a perfect Williamsburg Combination

I like to call those moments “left turns.” What made you decide to take that left turn in your life?
Gut. Everything in my life is based off of following my gut. Everything. It was a feeling that I hadn’t had yet, which was full on creative dynamic environment that I hadn’t experienced yet, everything else I had kind of already done before.

Okay taking a complete left turn myself. Tell me something randomly hilarious about yourself?
I like saying really inappropriate things at really inappropriate times and not for the shock-value of it, but because I literally have these things going through my head and I have no way to stop it. I’ve never been good at stopping the censor between my brain and my mouth. I have no linear thought process. I love the moment where you say something totally inappropriate, then someone across the room hears it, they look at you in recognition because they like it, and I think to myself, me and that person are going to be friends.

Necklaces on sale at Milly & Earl

Necklaces on sale at Milly & Earl

Well when I got this interview, Chad, my editor told me “Bernadette’s someone you want to know.” Why do you think people are drawn to your addictive personality?
Well, I’m not one to take compliments really well, and that to me is a huge compliment. I think it goes back to the idea that I-don’t-want-to-be-a-member-of-a-club kind of thing. In my head I think you’re all wrong about me–I’m fucking fooling all of you, and I’m waiting for you all to realize. I guess I got lucky. I’m constantly thinking the other shoe is about to drop and everything I’ve done is terrible. I honestly think this way; but the common thread is that I base my life on honesty and being current. Everything from the product lines I carry, people I talk to, designers I shop, the music that I listen to, it’s all based off of honesty and whether or not I feel I can stand by it and enjoy it currently.

Libonate at Work

Libonate at Work

Tie clips at Milly & Earl

Tie clips at Milly & Earl

So let’s get into that, how do you choose the products you sell in Milly and Earl because they exude a sense of wonder?

I came from a job where I had to know about everything that sells and appeals to a broad demographic. At the end of the day, classic thinks inspire me. I like things that have been around for a while—not just a flash in the pan. I grew up on the beach so I’m really drawn to woods and brass and knots; anything that feels romantic. I try to monetize that and turn it into something that can keep me afloat. That’s the whole idea behind Milly & Earl. I love the idea of the “little guy” instead of bigger brand names, so I try work as much as I can with underdogs. It’s really important to me that their products are actually being bought, as well as making sure my store is making ends meet at the same time. I also want to make sure that products stories are being told, just as much as my story. It’s not a local thing it’s more of the idea that together we’re trying to create something out of nothing. I never thought of myself as someone with her finger on the pulse. In my mind like I said earlier, I’m the girl who got really lucky and still don’t know why. It makes me wildly uncomfortable thinking about it.

Libonatte arranging her collection of accessories

Libonatte arranging her collection of accessories

Necklaces at Milly&Earl

Necklaces at Milly&Earl

You say that you want to showcase the story of the products you carry, and I think Milly and Earl does that really well, but what would you like to say about you’re personal story in conclusion?

I’ll tell you where I came from; I came from a family of four and I’m the youngest, I grew up in Jersey Shore and Connecticut, I had a really bounded life in the way I was told what to do and what not to do. I didn’t want any of it so I decided to do my own thing. I went against the grain and figured it out.

Milly&Earl, Brooklyn

Milly&Earl, Brooklyn

Bernadette Libonatte at Home

Bernadette Libonatte at Home

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