British jewellery designer Monica Vinader started her namesake brand from her home in rural England ten years ago.
After graduating from art school Monica ‘accidentally’ found herself working as a jeweller and started to get inspiration from around her for her own collection. A decade later and you’ll find her stores all around the world and she has just opened her flagship store (the third in Dubai) in Dubai Mall’s Fashion Avenue extension.
Monica’s jewellery is elegant and understated, it’s unique quality comes from its individuality and the ability to stack and layer various pieces to create your own personal style, as well as being able to engrave all of your jewellery in store as you wait. Ranging from friendship bracelets and rings to luxurious diamond encrusted show pieces the brand is accessible to everyone yet still feels exclusive and unique.
Who is the Monica Vinader woman you have in mind when creating your designs?
It’s difficult to define her as one specific woman as our customer and demographic is quite diverse. So we don’t really design for one specific demographic, although I think our strongest is 35-45 year olds. But I guess originally when I first started designing jewellery I designed things that I wanted. That has evolved because there are so many pieces now, but there is still an element that myself and the team absolutely have to love and want everything that’s in the collection.
How would you define the signature style of your brand?
I think that there are a few key pillars in our collections that define our style. Our everyday diamonds have really become synonymous with the brand, while our gemstones are defining to use – the pop of colour the stackibility of our rings – that has become really popular. The personalisation is also a big thing for us, both in terms of the way you can stack and style the jewellery and also with being able to personalise your pieces. I think in this region the bracelets are really successful so if I had to pick a bracelet that defines the brand it would be the Fiji chain bracelet.
Your jewellery is very personal and individual, do you think this sets you apart from others?
I think a lot more brands do personalisation now, but we were one of the first that did it. Our engraving is available in the store, it’s complimentary and it can be done right away, which is something I don’t think many brands do. I think it’s a really important part of our customer service offering and I think we do it better than most. It is a huge part of our DNA and I think this is why a lot of customers come to us. The way you can layer our jewellery I do think is unique to us and it is what makes us the brand we are and why customers continue to come back to us.
Your brand seems to have grown very quickly, how did it begin?
I think at the beginning I really focused on selling to my home market. I really wanted to perfect that. As the team was growing we felt it was a good place to start opening our international stores. We now have stores in Asia, the Middle East and the United States so we are really growing a presence worldwide. I think the next part of the journey is to focus on how we can do things better in those countries.
Can you explain the sourcing and production process of your jewellery?
For me the key and the most important part of our DNA is our stones. I have set up a workshop in Jaipur that cuts the stones to our bespoke design. The journey from the rough stone to the cut stone, to the sample, to the final pieces is quite an interesting and emotional journey. The stones are touched by so many people and I think it’s really important to think about the journey that piece of jewellery has gone through. We consolidate all of our cutting in India, the design happens in the UK and the manufacturing happens in Thailand and in India. We have some amazing craftsman that have been working with us for a very long time. In the UK we also now do a lot of 3D printing which has really streamlined the process.
And can you tell us how all your stones are sourced ethically?
The key with the ethical stone sourcing for us, and particularly the diamonds, is to work with reputable companies. We are part of the Responsible Jewellery Council who have really helped us become better. When we first joined we had to go through quite a gruelling audit, which really taught us about what we needed to do to be better and what we needed to look for and ask from our partners. From then on we have really made sure all of our partners and workshops are living up to these expectations. It’s particularly important with our diamonds. We are constantly auditing our partner companies.
Does this ever throw up any challenges with getting the finished product you want?
There are limitations. There are things that I wouldn’t do and wouldn’t touch because I know it isn’t ethical. But there’s still a lot I can do aside from that. It’s not just about the stones it’s also about what you do with it and how you cut it and we do that very well.
Can you tell us about your new collections?
We have quite a few new collections. We launch units every six weeks to keep the newness coming and keep the customer excited.
This year we have the new Fiji collection. This is an extension of our Fiji bracelet which has been in previous collections. We’ve taken the key elements of that and we’ve used them in different ways to create this range. It’s really beautiful and strong and it builds on a classic silhouette.
We’ve also just launched the new siren collection. This is our hero gemstone collection. This time we have gone really small with the stones, repeating small stones but still keeping lots of colour.
We also have the Riva collection. This is our diamonds collection. The waterfall earrings and necklace are really beautiful, they really give the impression of diamonds dripping down.
We also have a large bracelet launching to celebrate our ten-year anniversary which happens in June. You can even engrave the whole bracelet. All of the proceeds of this bracelet until December 2018 are going to a charity that is very dear to me, Women for Women International. I’ve just been named as one of their ambassadors and we aim to build five schools for women with the proceeds of the bracelet.
What about men, would you consider doing anything for them?
We do actually have a small collection for men and actually we are getting more and more male customers. As we are growing and getting more of a presence more men are shopping for women and shopping for themselves too.
The price points of your pieces are quite varied, how do you manage having such a wide range of customers?
The price points actually work across everything. So we have entry price diamonds and luxury diamonds, and then we have entry price gemstones and luxury gemstones, so each collection covers all price points. The original idea is that you can have affordable and luxury elements for everything. We have been getting a much bigger demand for more special pieces which is what we have been addressing. Each range will have one hero piece that is a real luxury.
What makes the perfect bridal jewellery?
I think rose gold is really fantastic for brides because it’s flattering and it goes really well with white. I would choose rose gold combined with our riva diamonds and some rose quartz stones. The combination of the pale blush with the diamonds is divine. As a bride you don’t want the jewellery to overtake you so you want something that is quite subtle. That pale pink colour is really flattering and diamonds with rose gold jewellery and a white dress looks incredible.
You have just opened your third store in the UAE, do you have plans to expand further in the region?
This is a really important region for us. Dubai is very international, so we are reaching local customers, international customers, and a lot of our customers from Saudi Arabia are shopping here. I don’t know what my next step is but I’m always looking for opportunities and I’m doing a tour tomorrow to see what’s around but there is quite a lot that we’re looking at doing.
As a business owner what’s the most rewarding part?
Being able to have an idea that you really believe in, pursuing it, and it going decently well. I think I’ve done that and it’s very rewarding. I’ve done lots of things in my life that I’ve not done so well, and I think that’s fine too, but when you have a really strong idea and you convince yourself of it and you can make it work, that’s kind of amazing.
And what would be your advice to aspiring female entrepreneurs?
My advice for an entrepreneur is generally around two things. The first is focus. If you have an idea as an entrepreneur (and generally entrepreneurs have lots of ideas), try and fix what it is that’s the best idea, and then once you’ve got that idea try and think what is the most narrow way you can do that idea so you don’t over reach, and then focus on that one thing and do it really well. I think focus is really underestimated. The second bit of advice which goes hand in hand is perseverance. So once you have your idea and your focusing; persevere. A lot of people give up quite quickly so you have to stick to your idea and keep your focus. This was your idea so don’t be scared by your own ambition. But remember it’s going to take some perseverance!
How are you expanding your business digitally, is it something you embrace?
Well we deliver to pretty much every country in the world and in the UAE we have same day delivery through Boutique 1. It is something we are always looking at and are improving our website and online presence as that is the way the world is going of course.
If you weren’t a jewellery designer what would you be?
Well before I accidentally got a job as a jeweler when I left art school I was already headed for the art world. My ambition at the time was to be an art curator or work in a museum so I think I would probably be doing that.
What’s the go-to jewellery that you wear every day?
There are some things that I always wear. I keep my earrings on all the time and I even sleep in them. I always wear rings and I always wear some sort of a bracelet. I have my standard necklaces that I wear and then I have statement pieces that I will layer on for occasions. I tend to wear jewellery all the time, to bed, on holiday, when I’m swimming. It allows me to test it out for the customer. Everyone in my team tests the jewellery actually as I think it’s really important to get feedback on how the products really work.
What do you love most about what you do?
Being able to work in the industry that I love. I think it is a rare privilege in life and that to me is still amazing. I’m also being challenged to grow and learn as the company grows and I love learning.
What is the future for Monica Vinader?
Well we celebrate ten years this summer and I think the next ten years is going to be focusing on doing what we do a little bit better. Improving our presence in the countries we are in. Trying to grow our website a little bit more because the digital world is so important. We will be opening more stores in all of our main regions and fine tuning the customer experience. From the design point of view, we have some really exciting things in the pipeline that are new and fresh but still very us. Ultimately we want to reach more customers with our beautiful things.