"Vast spaces and big skies really inspire me" – Monica Vinader
Buro 24/7 Middle East sits down with the Spanish jewellery designer
Hailing from San Sebastian, Spain, Vinader and her sister, Gabriella, had a vision, and together they bridged the gap between fine and costume jewellery, creating luxury pieces for everyday wear.
With a strong focus on the beautiful structure and semi-precious materials they use, Monica Vinader has become one of the biggest names in jewellery. Since launching their brainchild in 2007, the brand has reached celebrity status, with the Duchess of Cambridge and Olivia Palermo as loyal customers amongst others.
Buro 24/7 Middle East spoke to one half of the creative duo, Monica, on her favourite piece and what she thinks of Dubai...
As it's your second time in Dubai, has it changed much since the last time you were here?
Funnily enough, I was only here a year ago and it has changed rather a lot, I feel like it is all happening in front of my eyes and that was one of the things that amazed me last time. It just felt like it was still really growing and it has definitely done even more so now. Last time I stayed in Downtown Dubai and this time I am staying in the Marina, so I have got to see a whole other side of the city, I mean it is just amazing. Dubai is super dynamic and I have a superb room over-looking the beach, I'm on the 28th floor so you can see The Palm and it's very impressive.
Speaking of the Middle East, your Fiji bracelet was huge success in this region. Do you feel like women here have a different eye to jewellery and look for certain things?
We have definitely done very well with the Friendship collection here, but all of our bracelet ranges have done very well with all of our customers from the Middle East. We launched the collection in 2009 and then we launched the Fiji and followed it with a bunch of other friendship bracelets – we have the Baja, as well as the Havana, which has just launched and is also doing really well.
I think that the bracelet category appeals to everyone from the region, and people also buy them in Harrods and Selfridges and I think we've really grown a very loyal customer base. A few years ago we launched the engraving service which enhanced the fact that you can personalise the bracelet which is perfect for gifts. I think that people here are gifting them a lot, which helped it grow a lot faster.
Some of my pieces are organic and some are very linear and architectural. I think overall my philosophy is that everything has to be very wearable and simple.
Your designs have really organic shapes and they are beautifully peppered with diamonds and different stones. Do you think that your cultured background and where you were brought up influenced your designs?
Well I lived in Spain for a couple of years with my husband and then we moved to England a couple of years ago – to the countryside – and I have lived and worked in the countryside for about 15 years, but I suppose my inspiration has come from my background and my education is art and architecture. I studied in Florence and then did four years at art school in London and my references tend to come from vintage jewellery, museums, archeological finds, architectural buildings, contemporary architecture, which I love.
There are architects in my family – and in my husband's actually – so there is a lot of influence from modern art, I go to galleries a lot too. My husband's family had one of the most important modern British art collections which I was lucky enough to grew up with, so there is a lot of inspiration. Some of my pieces are organic and some are very linear. I think overall my philosophy is that everything has to be very wearable and simple. I like simple designs and things that aren't not over the top. You know when I design, I think of myself, so if I don't love it or if I wouldn't wear it then it doesn't happen really.
When you lived in New Mexico and in England could you see a difference in the way you were designing or were you just taking inspirations from the artists and architecture like you said before?
So I did a 3 month internship in New Mexico and went to art school in London. I did a 3 month internship in Sante Fe and then when I lived in Mexico with my husband, for me it was always about what you see and how you grow and how that inspiration grows with you. When I did a worked for an artist in New Mexico I learnt a lot about the process' and the creativity, also living in such an artistic environment was amazing for my inspiration and creativity.
In New Mexico I found constant inspiration in my surroundings, from buildings that are painted pink to the amazing craft of the textiles, so I just think you draw inspirations from everywhere you go and you take from what you see and it builds a library of mental references in your head.
What is your favourite piece?
People have asked me that a lot, and it is really hard but I don't really have a favourite piece because as you can see I can't choose. I am wearing them all, that is why I designed them, but if I would have to pick one piece I would choose the Fiji. They are beautiful and simple, but still have sparkle thanks to the diamond toggle, and you can engrave them. The Fiji chain is also very tactile so you can play with it.
Actually wait, my favourite is the piece I am going to unveil next, there are about 400 pieces launching this year so I am really excited about seeing them come through and all be displayed and worn, and see what people think of them. A lot of the excitement is making them but really the thrill is when people wear them and when you see their response to it.
If there was anyone that you could collaborate with whether it is an artist or fashion designer, who would it be?
I haven't really thought about that to be honest, there is a lot of people I admire in terms of designers so it would be amazing to do something for a designer like Alia or Victoria Beckham – who I think is doing amazing things. It would be so interesting to see what their proccess' are like compared to mine and someone like Victoria would be so interesting – mostly because I admire them as people and designers and it would be fascinating to see what it is like to do something with them. I have never really thought about it though, so that is being added to my bucket list.
Where would you like to see yourself and the business in five years time?
Well I would definitely like to have more stores in Asia and more stores in the Middle East. I'd like to have a stand-alone store in Dubai, maybe something in Riyadh I would also like to do something in Kuwait and something in the U.S. I think the States is something we haven't even began to think about yet, but we've started getting a lot of American customers online that are buying pieces. Hopefully Dubai will come first though, the shopping scene here is amazing, if you love shopping then this is definitely the place to be.
I lived in Patagonia which had a landscape similar to the moon which I really loved, vast spaces and big skies really inspire me.
What was living in New Mexico like?
New Mexico is amazing, I worked for a fantastic sculpture who is very well known and he worked in huge metal structures and I had always worked in smaller pieces because I was in art school so I definitely wasn't making colossal pieces like him, but I learnt to work with metal with him which really was a learning experience. The studio was also in the middle of the New Mexico desert, with the most amazing light and the mountains, it was so inspirational, the South West is so inspiring. I lived in Patagonia which had a landscape similar to the moon which I really loved – vast spaces and big skies really inspire me.
Throughout art school did you ever think about getting into jewellery or did it just happen over night?
No, not at all, I really thought I was going to be in the art business. I thought that I was going to go to art school get it out of my system, then go into the art industry. My parents had an antique store and an auction house and I really thought I would become an art gallery curator I really wanted to do that, and that was my ambition at the time. So I went to work at an art gallery in Mayfair and then I got a job with a jeweller and it was completely accidental. The job came about and I was 23 so I just took it.
Can you take us through the process of making the pieces, do the materials come first and then the design or do you design first and then choose the stones?
It varies, sometimes it starts with a sketch, when I'm travelling I sketch a lot from all the inspiration and then we put together a set of drawings and mood boards so often the stones are cut really to fit in with the designs. We draw the shapes of the stones and then cut them as we want them. So it does generally start with a sketch and then we develop it in different directions.
Monica Vinader can be found exclusively at Boutique 1 in Dubai