Each week at the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Monica Vinader – creative director and founder of Monica Vinader jewellery – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about investment buys and how we can learn from the new generation of creatives.
Putting on jewellery is often the finishing touch to any outfit, no matter the occasion or season, and this is why investing in timeless jewellery that promises longevity is imperative. Monica Vinader created her own brand in 2002, focusing on effortless pieces that stand the test of time, while also being showstoppers in their own right. And it has since gained a loyal following of #MVInsiders who are proud to show off their forever jewels.
With a focus on sustainability, the ever-adapting brand switched to using only 100% recycled silver and 18ct gold vermeil last year. Now, the brand has held design competitions for new sustainable talent, collaborated with eco-conscious influencers and even offers a lifetime repair service to encourage recycling old pieces.
Here, the jewellery design, entrepreneur and founder of Monica Vinader shares stories with the Sustainable Shopper about the jacket she has loved for a lifetime, investment buys and how the younger generation of creatives are influencing us all.
What is your earliest memory of sustainability?
Monica: My parents owned and ran an antiques business, so I very much grew up in an environment that demonstrated the long life a well crafted piece can have. It also promoted shopping pre-loved, restored and reclaimed items.
Growing up in Spain, there was a huge focus on quality fashion, bespoke tailoring and repairing and adjusting clothes to fit properly. My mother used to fit many of my clothes with a seamstress, and the focus was on buying quality materials, on durability and longevity. I remember debating once whether to invest in a jacket that was expensive but beautifully made and she convinced me to purchase telling me I would get “so many wears out of it that it was worth the investment”. I still have that jacket, and that concept of fewer and better never left me.
I have since always prioritised buying things I love, and getting as many “wears as possible”. That really involves looking after your clothes, repairing them, and making them last.
Is there such a thing as truly sustainable fashion?
I think it’s important to understand that by definition the creation of something new is not sustainable – no fashion item can be produced without any kind of footprint. That said, there are many brands doing the hard work to become more eco-friendly, use innovative materials, production practices and educate consumers on how to shop more responsibly.
In 2020, Monica Vinader made a significant change by switching all collections over to 100% recycled sterling silver and 100% recycled 18ct gold vermeil. As a leader in the demi-fine jewellery category, we wanted to set an example in order to drive a shift in industry practices so things like using recycled silver become a standard instead of a novelty.
For us, it’s also essential that we never get complacent or feel that we’re “done” improving our sustainability efforts. We have just achieved carbon neutrality across the business, and now we’re immediately turning our attention towards becoming carbon negative. It’s not an overstatement to say sustainability is truly a journey – as new information becomes available, it’s crucial that we adapt and evolve practices along with it.
Investment pieces vs fast fashion: how do you get customers to care?
I think the key to investment pieces is quality and good design – this combined can take you through for years meaning they’re the more sustainable option.
It’s also important to communicate the value proposition as I think a lot of consumers are quick to equate conscious creation with higher prices. This is why we promote a “buy less, wear more” mantra. We offer a five year warranty and lifetime repair service, a recycling service that encourages responsible recycling of any jewellery you no longer want (MV or otherwise), in exchange for a voucher, and promote modular jewellery styling to demonstrate how a few pieces can provide many different looks.
We try and share our values with our community in a way that is inspirational. We created an Instagram story series called ‘Did you Know?’ which focuses on providing quick information on different areas of our larger sustainability initiatives; from the use of 100% recycled sterling silver and 18ct gold vermeil, to carbon offsetting the whole business. We understand it can be overwhelming for some if they feel like they’re reading an entire report (which we also offer on our website for those who are so inclined).
Who is your favourite sustainability influencer? And why?
It won’t come as a surprise to hear that Doina Coibanu is one of my favourite sustainable influencers, which is one of the many reasons why we collaborated with her to design our MVxDoina collection in early 2020, our first made of recycled materials. This heralded in our changeover to using only recycled materials in our products.
A few other sustainable influencers that I love include Charlotte Williams, who is a co-host of an amazing, fun and informative podcast called Sustainably Influenced and Arizona Muse: I love her “Sustainable Sundays”.
What changes would you like to see happen in the fashion industry?
I would like to see more brands invest in, and listen to, young design talent as this new generation of creatives tend to be innately more focused on conscious creation. We recently hosted a ‘New from Old’ design competition for emerging jewellery designers that challenged applicants to create a collection using only recycled materials in an effort to shine a light on sustainable design and spark conversation around responsible sourcing. The submissions were incredibly inspiring.
On the flip side, I would like consumers to keep holding brands responsible while also understanding these changes – especially for larger companies – don’t happen overnight. Celebrate the small changes a brand is making without immediately labelling a brand as green washing – that quick judgement can ultimately backfire on us all by scaring off other brands from making similar moves.
Three sustainable shopping hacks
1. Shop pre-loved pieces or look for pieces made out of upcycled materials
2. Don’t just take a brand’s word and do your own research. Pay closer attention to the phrasing and you’ll realise brands are usually telling you the truth but may be dressing it up – for example ‘made of partly recycled materials’ is not the same as ‘made of 100% recycled materials.’
3. Shop your closet. I think so many of us have items in our wardrobes we barely wear or have forgotten about. Fashion trends are circular and investment pieces you’ve already purchased are worth keeping – I can guarantee you it will stand the test of time. I often get more compliments when I’m styling pieces I’ve had in my closet for ages (like that jacket I bought in Spain) than I do on anything new.
Sustainable Shopper edit by Monica:
Monica Vinader Marie necklace
One of the original designs when we launched thirteen years ago, this pendant is still one of my favourite and most-worn items. It goes with absolutely everything, any time of the year.
Monica Vinader Alta necklace
I wear this necklace constantly because it’s endlessly versatile. It has multiple clasping links and can be worn as a regular chain, a lariat, a choker or shortened down to a bracelet. It can also be styled to look different with any of our pendants.
Monica Vinader Diona bracelet
I love the style of this bracelet and how comfortable it it. The design is so fluid and lightweight that it almost feels like nothing is on.
Monica Vinader Deia hoops
I like to play around with organic shapes in my designs and I love hoops, so this is my perfect pair.
Pour Les Femme jumpsuit
Who doesn’t love a good jumpsuit? I can wear this comfortably lounging at-home but it would also look great outside of the house, too.
Mother of Pearl sweatshirt
I’m a big fan of Mother of Pearl and think this sweatshirt is the perfect mix of style and comfort as we transition out of lockdown. I also have my eye on their white denim jacket.
I have been using Aveda hair care for years and appreciate the brand’s dedication to earth and community care.
Images: courtesy of Monica Vinader