Finding a bridge between fine and costume jewellery was what drove Monica Vinader to create pieces that appealed to her classic sensibilities. What grew from that drive is a brand that found its way into the hearts and onto the hands of women all over the world. Sharon Carvalho talk to the dynamic woman
How did it all begin?
It was in 2007 when I started the brand with my sister, Gabriela. She has a strong financial background, having worked for Merrill Lynch, and I am more artistic and creative. I had worked with my husband for a while but I wanted to do something for myself so I convinced Gabriela to join me with creating a brand that was somewhere between fine and costume jewellery. I wanted the brand to be relevant, fun, on trend, elegant and accessible, something I felt was missing from the market. I wanted it to be a brand that a woman could purchase for herself, to put together and create a look, just as you do with your outfit. Quality was also very important, I wanted good quality stones but I didn’t want the price of gold, which is why we only work in silver. Since then, we’ve been working hard at developing and growing the brand.
I had never trained in jewellery design but when I left art school, I began working with a jeweller for about three years and learnt a lot on the job. So, I sort of fell into it by chance. I was always making bespoke pieces for family and friends and I decided to develop a brand with all the things I learnt and because of my own need to create pieces that I wanted to wear.
How would you describe the woman you design for?
I’m quite selfish that way as I design for myself. I’ve always designed for family and friends and the way I see it, my family is growing with getting to know all the women that buy my jewellery. But, no matter what, if I don’t love something, it doesn’t make the cut. I have to absolutely love the piece and want to wear it every single moment. That criterion will never change and I am quite ruthless about it.
Describe your design process?
The process is quite fluid because it depends on what we’re making but it always starts with doodles and sketches. Then, I sit down with the team, my initial thoughts and images for inspiration to build a mood board and we go away to develop sketches. We then get back together to rate the pieces that come out of it to range and perfect them. But it’s only once we start prototyping a piece from the collection and actually look at a physical representation that we can take a call on whether we love it or not. However, if we’re working with diamonds, we tend to use computer programmes to do the drawings. So, we either use no technology or lots of it. Feedback also works its way into the process. Sometimes we debate an issue for a really long time and then we hear from a customer who has an opinion on that matter and just like that, the debate is resolved.
How has your relationship with your sister changed over the years?
It’s just the two of us and we grew up in Spain where family is quite strong so as a unit, our parents and us two have a strong bond. And while we took separate career paths, we’ve always been close, the way sisters are. We’ve found that while we are poles apart, we dovetail in the middle with common ground found in our core values, which is what your family gives you. Through our relationship, our daughters have become close too and this has brought us even closer together. With working together, we have learnt to accept the differences rather than fight them especially because our personalities and abilities are quite complementary.
How would you describe the ME woman?
I think the Middle Eastern woman is quite similar to the Spanish woman. She is definitely more flamboyant than the British woman. The idea of an outside life is a lot like how it is in Spain with being out all the time, eating out, dressing up a lot and generally being more social and outdoor. I think the weather plays a huge part in this since Spain and all the Mediterranean countries have a number of core similarities to the Middle East region, in that matter.
When we opened in Harrods a few years ago and then in Selfridges, we started gaining a lot of customers and a very loyal customer base from the Middle East, mostly Saudi Arabia and UAE. We found that they come back every year and were very engaged with us. So, when we were exploring moving internationally, we had to look at Dubai. Also, the city is incredibly international with people from all over the world over here. And while it’s early days, the response has been amazing with the region out performing our forecasts, which is super encouraging.
What’s next for the brand?
We’re looking at opening more stores in the region. We just opened one in Hong Kong and are looking at Korea so there’s a lot of travelling between Asia and the Middle East. We’re looking at launching over 400 products this year, with more pieces around the engraved concept. A collection of men’s products is coming up too.
There’s a ruby that I managed to cut that is a part of my Precious Baha collection is quite special. And Aquamarine. Been waiting ages to work with this cloudy aqua.
Fashion pet peeve?
Don’t really have one. But while everyone is going on about the next new thing, I just stick to classic, clean lines. Beautifully made, well cut clothes.
Watching mini series on the iPad.
Reading right now?
Elizabeth’s Bedfellows by Anna Whitelock and The Tigress of Forli by Elizabeth Lev.
Favourite meaning behind a stone?
For me, stones are quite talismanic and the meanings behind them can be quite personal, so I don’t have a favourite, as such. But for many years I cut a stone called a Brannerite and I found it quite magical with its flashes of light. The Moonstone is another one like that. It feels like they radiate from the inside.