Our Monday Muses have ranged from women of great celebrity to personal inspirations of mine. It has been some time since we last celebrated a Monday Muse and it’s with pleasure that this week I find myself looking very much ‘close to home’.
It’s hard to know where to begin in describing the woman Monique is, and what she and her brand are all about. MONIQUE PÉAN is a New York based fine jewelry brand that features beautiful, innovative and unique designs. Monique speaks of the importance of being able to ‘stand behind’ ones product and ultimately MONIQUE PÉAN is an entirely socially responsible and environmentally friendly business.
All luxury brands fall prey to criticisms of extravagance, materialism and moral irrelevance. I personally have always believed that there has to be a substantial soul and persona behind luxury, that it has to relate back to the real world and be able to speak not only to the lavish and indulgent, but on some level to everyone. People should be encouraged to appreciate quality and beauty without feeling guilty, and this is exactly what Monique fights for, and achieves.
All materials used in the MONIQUE PÉAN collections are sustainable, sourced globally through partnerships with local communities and artisans. Monique produces two signature collections a year with each collection beginning with a total immersion in new local culture around the world. She picks up local techniques, for example hand carved scrimshaw – unique designs are hand etched into materials with vegetable dye -and now works with scrimshaw artists throughout the Unites States, promoting and supporting artisanal trade. Materials she uses include fossilized walrus tusk, fossilized dinosaur bone (150 million years old), fossilized jet and meteorites among others. Monique travels constantly, always looking for new naturally sourced materials. She told me once about jade she found in Guatemala, that rose naturally to the surface, prompted by the motion of plate tectonics that occur in the region. She will only use recycled gold – gold mines are commonly linked to poor working conditions and gold mining is an environmentally harmful process, depositing cyanide, lead and mercury into local water sources. She told me last week that the production of one gold wedding band can produce 20 tons of waste.
Diamonds found in MONIQUE PÉAN collections are exclusively conflict and devastation free, and often repurposed (existing stones found in antique jewelry). Interestingly – she tells me that diamonds now cut with lasers, are so symmetrical and perfect that the light is unable to bounce off in the same way it does with antique diamonds.
The full circle of social responsibility culminates with the provision of clean water and sanitation in disadvantaged communities supported by MONIQUE PÉAN sales. Monique has built clean water wells in Malawi, Mozambique and Haiti and is currently building wells in Ethiopia and Nepal.
If you ask Monique what prompted her to start a fine jewelry line (having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Philosophy, Political Science and Economics – and as a graduate working as an analyst at Goldman Sachs) she’ll tell you that immersing herself in creativity, and working with her hands, was how she coped with a personal tragedy. Her younger sister Vanessa Péan died in a car accident at the age of 16, when Monique was 25 years old. Vanessa had become interested and involved in charity work in Haiti, where their father is from – she was working to set up a scholarship fund and was focused on providing education to underprivileged Haitian children. After Vanessa’s death, the Péan family endeavored to continue her work and set up the Vanessa Péan Foundation. In the face of such personal devastation, Monique was compelled not only to make the most of the time she had, but also to give back. It was a year later, in 2006 that she launched MONIQUE PÉAN.
Monique’s fascination with travel and culture never ceases to inspire me. PRABAL GURUNG is also a brand that speaks to the global, travelled and cultured woman, the woman that looks out at the world around her and engages with a number of meaningful occupations and interests. In this way I couldn’t identify with Monique more, or appreciate the ways in which our brands speak to each other. Buying a piece of Monique’s jewelry is not just a statement of social awareness, you are buying into an exquisite reflection of the world we live in, the history of the world we live in, and helping to perpetuate a principled and honorable luxury. The women that inspire me are women of substance and integrity, intelligent and curious women of inordinate inner strength. I can’t think of someone these words apply to more than they do Monique. I am always in awe of those who are willing to devote time and hard work to follow through with their vision. And so Monique, besides being a dear friend of mine, is also an inspiration and this Monday’s Muse.