Anthony Behar/Sipa USA Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
The Duchess of Sussex, 40, arrived at the event in a sleek black dress elegantly paired with two diamond rings — meaningful pieces of jewelry that she started wearing in April. The diamond-studded spiraled pinky rings are from Shiffon Co., a female-founded jewelry company that Meghan has been supporting since last year.
The new 1972 Tennis Pinky Ring is part of the company's new tennis collection, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX, legislation that gave women the right to play sports in schools and colleges.
The significance of tennis extends even further as "tennis was one of the first sports to have equal pay and have equal pay for all of the grand slams," founder Shilpa Yarlagadda told PEOPLE at Shiffon's event with Break the Love, a "tech company democratizing sports," on Monday.
KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Meghan Markle
The origin of the unique pinky ring's spiral design comes from when jewelry-loving Yarlagadda was looking for a ring but didn't know her size. She also knew from the very beginning that she wanted her jewelry to have a deeper meaning.
"The first thing we created was this adjustable pinky ring that represented this pinky promise to pay it forward and support women," she said.
New York City-based Yarlagadda started the fine jewelry company in 2017 in her Harvard dorm room with the mission to close the gender gap, particularly in entrepreneurship. The company's name is a spin on chiffon fabric, which is dear to Yarlagadda and her mother, as well as a play on the words "shift is on," referring to the company's mission to "create the shift for women's equality," Yarlagadda told PEOPLE.
She has repeatedly noted the importance of female mentorship in her life and in Shiffon's growth, so much so that she sought to incorporate it into her rings. "We really instilled [mentorship] in the ring because 50% of profits are funding seed grants for female founders for companies that empower women," says Yarlagadda.
Shiffon Co. 1972 Tennis Pinky Ring
Fifty percent of the proceeds from the company's first ring — the Duet Pinky Ring — are donated to support female entrepreneurs, and Shiffon's newest ring will see 19.72% of the proceeds donated to their new Women in Sports Investment fund in honor of the legislation's 50th anniversary. Through Shiffon's non-profit venture capitalist arm, Startup Girl Foundation, Shiffon's sales "fund more companies" and ensure that "one woman's success leads to another success" Yarlagadda told PEOPLE.
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The company has numerous influential women mentors and supporters, including the Duchess of Sussex, Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Hailey Bieber, Serena Williams, and Amanda Gorman, among others. Monday's event was attended by several female entrepreneurs, including Kris Strouthopoulous, who started the intimates brand Giapenta.
At Monday's event, The Summer I Turned Pretty star Minnie Mills, who just received her first pinky ring, told PEOPLE: "I love supporting other Asian-owned brands, especially Asian female-owned."
Mills added that "there is so much performative activism these days," but Shiffon "is very intentional with their message and process."
Shoji Van Kuzumi Minnie Mills and Shilpa Yarlagadda attend the Shiffon event held at Centrale NYC on July 18, 2022
Yarlagadda also announced at the event that the fundraising arm of her company has is now funding 12 female-founded companies from proceeds from the original Duet Pinky Ring. The newest company — One/Of — is a made-to-order women's sustainable fashion brand founded by New York designer Patricia Voto.
Shoji Van Kuzumi Attendees at the Shiffon event held at Centrale NYC on July 18, 2022
Several women at the event were dressed in hand-tailored, one-of-a-kind Voto designs. Many of the women also sported hand fans in matching fabric to their dresses amid the heat.
In addition to styling Yarlaggada and some of her mentors, Voto says she will be fitting vintage boxes with recycled fabrics that "are already out in the world" for Shiffon's pinky rings.
Yarlaggada told PEOPLE, "Every individual package people receive will be unique —because expressing individuality is so important, and our individuality is still being expressed for our products because every woman is doing something inspiring."