Savoir Flair met celebrated jewelry designer Monica Vinader on the occasion of her visit to Dubai for the opening of her first stand-alone boutique in the Middle East. Read on to find out more about Monica’s views on design, the brand’s future plans, and everything in between.
Are you enjoying your time in Dubai?
Oh, I am having such a great time. Every time I come to Dubai, it’s like a new eye-opening. It’s an amazing place. It feels like anything can happen here, which makes you realize that actually you can do anything you want… and I find that so inspiring.
Do you feel that the Middle East has inspired any of your designs?
I think it’s more about the women themselves, how they wear the jewelry and how stylish they are — the way they layer things is very much my philosophy. Middle Eastern women wear jewelry every day; they wear their diamonds out, which is inspiring and how I visualize my jewelry to be worn all the time. I don’t believe in putting it all in the safe. I think what’s most incredible about these women is that as well as being very stylish, they do know their product. They know luxury and quality. They have an intrinsic feel for it and really know what they’re talking about.
Your parents’ antiques business was a strong influence on you to start your own business. Do you remember any specific objects or pieces that strongly influenced your eye or signature designs?
Sure! I grew up surrounded by incredible paintings, antiques, and objects. I think it builds your eye, your aesthetic, and an intrinsic understanding for certain things like quality. Growing up, I was hearing a lot about quality, design, provenance, and the integrity of certain things. When I set up my business, I had inspiration from my parents of how you can set up your own business. On the other hand, I had this incredible upbringing in which I was surrounded by incredible, beautiful objects all my life, so I learned things by osmosis.
I can tell a 17th century English bureau from a 1950s or 1920s French table. My mother had a beautiful collection of jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels, and a lot of it was from 1920 to the 1940s. She allowed me to play with it and wear it. I used to go out to these teenage parties wearing Van Cleef! It was crazy, but instilled in me this real appreciation and passion for quality and good design.
What would you say is the essence of the Monica Vinader brand?
I think the essence of my brand is joy – the joy of how easy it is to wear, what it gives you every day when you are wearing it. The fact that you can stack it, layer it, make it your own, engrave it, and be involved. It is a no-brainer purchase, so I think that the positivity really is the core of what we do.
What I love about the brand is how you can personalize it in such an effortless and subtle way. Do you feel personalization is more important than seasonal trends to you ?
One hundred percent. I don’t follow trends. I think our collection is much more timeless than that. It’s definitely on-trend because we are a team of relevant, contemporary women designing for ourselves and for our peers. Personalization is everything that we do at Monica Vinader. The idea that the customer is involved is super important because the customer is the core of everything we do.
We really are all about the customer; that’s why our engraving is a same-day service and we don’t charge for it. We have an area where people can sit and have a coffee. Our stores are inviting. We want them to be embraced into our brand, and feel really comfortable and have access to the brand.
What would a day in the life of Monica Vinader be like?
My days are very different, depending on where I am. I have two offices: one in London where my marketing, finance, e-commerce, merchandising, and retail teams are based. Then I have an office in Norfolk in the countryside, where I live, and that’s where the studio with the design team, quality control, customer care, and all the dispatch of web business is – all of the shipment from all over the world happens from there. I spend three days a week in Norfolk, and two days in London.
On a Norfolk day, I get up pretty early to drop my daughter to the school bus at 7 a.m. and then go straight to the office. My days are completely blocked with back-to-back meetings. In Norfolk, we have a beautiful café and someone who cooks what I think is really lovely, healthy food and we all eat in this café together. My day normally finishes between 5 or 6 p.m., depending on what time my daughter comes out of school. I will go pick her up, and then have supper with her and my husband.
On Thursdays, I get up very early and go to London to spend two days there. I generally have external meetings with, for example, the architects or my London team. I try and have a non-business dinner on Thursday night to see a friend, and I go see my trainer on Friday morning. I go for an early class and, after the training, I usually have a breakfast meeting at 8 a.m. I also travel quiet a lot, so I have already been here in Dubai and India this year. I’m on a plane a lot.
What would you say is your personal approach to wearing jewelry?
I just wear what I love to wear. I am quite instinctive. I don’t think about mixing and matching, and I style pieces quite liberally. Sometimes I wear one piece, and sometimes I wear tons, depending on my mood. I don’t follow any rules, and I don’t think anybody should.
You work with some amazing stones and gorgeous hues. Do you have a favorite stone?
I don’t have a favorite stone. How I started designing jewelry and working with stones was partly due to my relationship with stones, which I love. Once I started cutting my own stones, I just went crazy and have always had a lot of colors because I really cannot pick a favorite. Right now, I completely love the blue-lace agate, which is the pale-blue color… but I really love them all, wear them all, and mix them all. That’s why I also do so many stacking rings. I love color, and colored stones are definitely a real joy.
One of our values is caring, so we really take that very seriously. It’s caring about our customers, about our employees, our team – that extends to everything we do.
In terms of gold, would you say you like white, rose, or yellow gold the most? How do you feel about mixing metallics?
I mix them quite a lot! I love them all – rose is probably slightly top of my list right now, but we’re working on an amazing collection of silver and turquoise for 2017, so I have a feeling I might have a bit of a turquoise and silver phase next year. But I will always mix it and layer it all. I just don’t feel restricted because I look at my jewelry box and pick up pieces that I love.
In the past, you have worked a lot with influencers and bloggers. Is this something that’s part of your strategy and what is your approach to working with them going forward?
I think bloggers are really important, just as journalists and customers are. I love how bloggers show their personality; I like that uniqueness in each one of them. There is a lot of inspiration out there, and it makes a lot of people realize, “If they can do it, I can do it too.” I think in a way it’s quite empowering. I like the empowering aspect that bloggers have brought.
Your brand has a strong focus on ethical business on the mining side, the labor force, everything. Is this a matter close to your heart?
Definitely. As we’ve grown the company, I am spending a lot more time on that myself, and I think it starts with our company culture. One of our values is caring, so we really take that very seriously. It’s caring about our customers, about our employees, our team – that extends to everything we do. We care for our manufacturers and partners, our workmen, how the pieces are made, how things are sourced, how the labor force is managed, and where things come from.
It’s all part of the same thing: how we conduct ourselves on charitable work, how we contribute to our community, being aware, and not turning a blind eye – then encompassing all of those thoughts into a policy that we can roll out to our team, to our suppliers. That has been a really big drive for us in the last year, so it’s something we take super seriously. I visit all the workshops and factories myself, literally every single one of them.
That’s so admirable. What’s next for your brand then?
This is our first stand-alone boutique in the Middle East, and we would really like to open more. We have a lot of very loyal customers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait, so we need to deliver more stores here and make sure we look after these customers. They are engaging with us all the time. I’m also doing a lot more work in the US at the moment, which is important for us, and we’re opening quite a lot of stores in Asia as well: Singapore, Korea, and Hong Kong. So really, making sure that I look after those customers and really support those markets where we’ve opened. It’s an exciting time, a really exciting time.
The first stand-alone Monica Vinader store in the Middle East is located in the Fashion Dome at Mall of the Emirates.