In Conversation with Monica Vinader, the Multifaceted Jewellery Designer

In Conversation with Monica Vinader, the Multifaceted Jewellery Designer

Demi-fine jewellery designer Monica Vinader talks travel-inspired trinkets and everyday armour.

from San Sebastián, jewellery designer Monica Vinader
grew up between Madrid
and London
– though it’s coastal charmer Norfolk that she now calls home (and
HQ). A neat 10-minute commute transports her from hall door to
office hub – a glittered haven in the middle of the countryside
where drafting and designing her customisable, contemporary pieces
occurs on the daily.

Considering her creations are designed to be styled, stacked and
accrued over time, it is perhaps unsurprising that Vinader is
“totally pro souvenirs”. “Whether collecting wooden spoons from
Saint-Yves or shells from Brancaster Beach in Norfolk,
I often pack a fold-out duffel in my suitcase to carry them

With travel – and therefore souvenir shopping – temporarily out
of play, we’ve turned to e-comm to pursue a pirate’s chest worth of
coveted gems and chains jangling with jade stones from our would-be
travels. A friendship bracelet with the moniker “Fiji” seems a
suitably far-flung starting point. *Adds to cart (and wrist).

Well-dressed carpus dealt with, our conversation with Monica
steers towards setting up shop in the midst of the 2008 financial
crisis, dream escapes and the trip to Patagonia
that catalysed the incorporation of Monica Vinader…

Where are you from and how has your background shaped you?

I am from
San Sebastián
, in Spain, and grew up in Madrid
. I am definitely shaped by the northern Spanish

What is your first jewellery-related memory?

My mother’s jewellery; she has a beautiful collection of 30s and
40s pieces, and let me wear them at an early age. I learned about
design and function from her; she raved about Italian craftsmanship
and the quality of the chunky chain bracelets she wore.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I think fairly simple, not too fussy, and quite eclectic.

Where is your studio and what does it look like?

My studio is in Norfolk, in a beautiful building inside the park
of the Holkham Estate. It’s 10 minutes from where I live, and we
are so lucky to have an amazing light-filled space which supports

Talk us through the inspiration for three of your favourite

Alta: This is our bespoke chain-link
collection. We launched it three years ago and have been adding to
it since. It started with my obsession with industrial chunky chain
links, like the ones you might see in a harbour.

Siren: This collection was inspired by
the ease of Mediterranean style, with a nod to treasures from the
sea and irregular shapes that feel worn but contemporary.

Marie: Our beautiful pendant is
inspired by an antique gold talisman my friend Marie gave me when
my daughter was born. It has become my lucky and protective

Where does your inspiration come from?

Museums, ancient objects, archaeology, architecture and modern
sculpture – these are the things I focus on, from the simplicity of
Brâncuși sculptures to a tactile Cretan figurine. Seeing creativity
inspires me on my journey.

After university you moved to Patagonia and then Mexico with
your husband Nick. That was quite a formative experience in terms
of your experimentation with jewellery, correct?

Yes, I left my job with a jewellery brand to go and work in the
travel industry for more than 12 years. I continued to work on my
jewellery in my spare time, and over the years found endless
inspiration, but also built an aesthetic, as well as knowledge and
a network of artisans with whom I started cutting my own stones and
making collections.

You launched your brand in 2008. How was it, starting out in
the middle of the financial crisis?

Tough. We did not find any backers, so we re-mortgaged our
family house to secure a small loan from the bank. Nevertheless, we
really believed we had a sound plan and a good product, and we
worked really hard. There are certainly some parallels between then
and the current COVID-19 crisis we are going through.

How do you find working with your sister, and the brand’s
co-founder, Gabriela?

It has always been a really good relationship, even closer since
we started working together. I trust her implicitly; we are a very
strong team. We have a very similar work ethic, speed, pragmatism
and aligned values.

How do your designs reflect your worldview?

I think my designs are beautiful and well made, designed for
everyday wear, but also to be durable. I believe in investing in
what you love and believe in; quality that I can afford is
important, but that has meaning, because I know where and how it
was made. For me, every day is special, so I don’t like saving
things for best. I like to get as many wears as possible of my
favourite shirt or my favourite necklace.

Your designs are made in India. Whereabouts and how often do
you visit?

Some of them are made in Jaipur,
where I have been cutting our stones for more than 12 years. I’ve
been lucky to travel there often and got to know the city and the
people. India is fascinating and so visually exciting; I go there
as often as possible. I’m also involved with a charity that runs
schools in the Jaipur slums, so as soon as I can travel, I want to
go back to see how they’re doing.

Does travel influence your work? With product names like “Fiji”
and “Havana”, we’re willing to bet it does…

Yes, for sure. Our friendship bracelets were all named after
travel places. When I was designing Fiji, we wanted to blend in the
colour cord look of summer-market finds with an elevated, crafted
silver element – so you could bring that summer look back to the
office. Everyday casual, but chic.

Tips on storing jewellery when we travel…

Our trinket boxes! They’re the perfect size to carry a week’s
worth of jewellery. I layer our pouches with each piece to keep it
tidy and I use a different colour trinket box to carry earplugs,
adaptors, etc. when I travel too.

The best cities in the world to go jewellery shopping…

‘s jewellery shops are fantastic.

If there was one destination you could go back to immediately
it would be…

Mexico. I’ve been going there since I was 18. I want to go back
to the Mayan ruins of Palenque, back to the archaeological museum
in Mexico
and to my favourite resort, Esencia, on the Yucatan

What do you think makes a good hotel?

The people and the service – and good beds!

Your favourite weekend escapes include…

Staying with friends and a long weekend in Marrakech.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just started The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de
Waal, and my mother-in-law recently gave me The Return by Victoria
Hislop – so that’s next on my list.

Podcasts to download now…

How to Fail With Elizabeth Day and The Goop Podcast.

Where’s your next adventure?

The beach in Norfolk, until we can all travel again. I’m still
hoping to make it to Greece to the divine Mèlisses

What’s your take on souvenirs?

I am totally pro souvenirs, but not of the touristy kind. I love
shopping when I travel. In museum shops, for books, local crafts…
and my house is filled with little trinkets found during my
travels. Recycled glasses from
(and even the odd carpet), wooden spoons from
Saint-Yves, books from Paris,
shells and pebbles from the beach. I often take a fold-out duffel
in my suitcase to carry them back.

One piece of travel advice…

Do some research before the trip, so you make the most of the
destination, but leave some things to chance, so you don’t lose the
sense of wonder and discovery.

Monica Vinader’s Pocket Guide to Norfolk

EAT: The Gunton Arms. Plus, it has very pretty rooms
and a great art collection.

DRINK + DANCE: My home. I like a party.

SHOP: Gurneys Fish Shop in Burnham Market. It
has great homemade fish paté (perfect for picnics) and fresh catch
of the day.

DO: Go to the beach, there are so many amazing
ones: Brancaster, Holkham… and sail from Burnham Overy Staithe to
Scolt Head. It will renew you.

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