Every community is blessed with residents that are exceptional by virtue of their commitment to giving back. With their dedication to make life better for others, they are the shining stars in the constellation that make up a community.
Since its incorporation as a city, Burbank has been fortunate to have many such shining stars, including a vibrant young woman named Lusine Simonyan.
Serving as a board member with the Zonta Club of Burbank and as an executive board member for Burbank for Armenia, Simonyan is the first person of Armenian heritage to be appointed by the Burbank City Council to serve on the city’s Cultural Arts Commission.
With a mission to enrich the lives of Burbank residents, promote the city as a vibrant and enticing regional arts center, and celebrate diversity in the arts and media community, the commission’s goals are perfectly in line with the ones that are personally and professionally embraced by Simonyan.
In 2019, Simonyan launched Burbank-based Miray Collections, an online shop that represents more than 40 Armenian artists, fashion designers and jewelry makers from around the world. The Miray Collection’s catalogue also represents Simonyan’s own vision for empowering artists and bringing their high-quality, one-of-a-kind creations that are crafted from natural and sustainable materials to a far greater market.
“Whenever I would return from Armenia with new jewelry or other unique accessories I had purchased, people would always ask me where I got them,” said Simonyan. “After having this happen many times, I decided to work with a few Armenian artisans to import their creations to the American market, and since then it has grown to representing 45 artists.”
Simonyan, who grew up in Armenia, graduated from French University in Armenia, having earned a master’s degree in accounting and finance. In 2010 at the age of 22, she immigrated to the United States where she established a career in accounting. But she also strives to make an impact on her communities — both in her native nation and in her current country of residence — and said the creation of Miray (which means “to glow like the moon”) has given her a sense of personal fulfillment.
“That comes from maintaining a connection to the Armenian tradition of hand-crafted artisanal goods and sharing the talents of these designers with a global audience,” she said. “It’s about preserving the Armenian culture and making various products and unique jewelry pieces available that otherwise cannot be purchased unless you travel to Armenia.”
Beyond a retail endeavor that engages consumers with Armenian goods, Simonyan views her company as an opportunity for Armenian creatives — especially women — to discover their own potential and opportunities for growth as both artists and entrepreneurs.
Because of Simonyan’s contributions to empowering female entrepreneurs, Miray Collections has been selected to be part of the Female Founder Collective, an elite network of female-owned and -led businesses. Founded by fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, the Female Founder Collective recognizes female entrepreneurs that create opportunities for women in ways that impact social and economic growth, a value system that aligns with Simonyan’s vision to empower and amplify the voices of the Armenian designers she represents.
Among the numerous hand-crafted items and products that Miray offers are those created by a family of archeologists and architects who incorporate the meaning of symbols and cryptography of Armenian heritage into their creations. Many of the creations in the collection have been inspired by the elements of decorative art found in the Armenian Highlands from the Middle Ages through present day. In addition to jewelry made of brass, bronze, silver, enamel, polished, painted and gold-foiled wood, the collection also includes silk scarves and embroidery, suede bags, leather goods, sculpture, paintings and other fashion-related items.
Along with the financial opportunity Simonyan has provided for Armenian artists, she also donates proceeds to numerous nonprofit organizations.
“I became a member of the Zonta Club of Burbank through former City Councilman Tim Murphy’s wife Gloria Salas, who invited me to get involved,” Simonyan explained. “I have embraced my work with Zonta and I’m proud that Miray Collections is a sponsor of this year’s Lunafest, which is an annual festival of short films by, for, and about women. The proceeds from that festival will go to support women filmmakers and Zonta Club of Burbank service projects.”
Miray Collections has also donated proceeds to help displaced women and children in war-torn Artsakh, a breakaway state in the South Caucasus supported by Armenia through the Armenia Fund, the largest humanitarian organization serving the needs of the Republic of Armenia and the Artsakh Republic.
For her continued support through her company to the mission of promoting social justice and empowering women, Simonyan has recently been nominated as a “Thriver” by the Armenian International Women’s Association, a global nonprofit organization dedicated to the social, economic and personal advancement of Armenian women, and the promotion of gender equity and Armenian cultural heritage.
Her company may offer items that glow like the moon, but as for Simonyan herself, she shines like a true community star.
Along with their online offerings and having a presence at many local events, items from Miray Collections are also available at Modici, a retail clothing store located at 6618 San Fernando Road in Glendale. To peruse the collection and learn of upcoming events, visit miraycollections.com.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (818) 563-1007.