5 Mins With Monarc Designer Ella Drake

Tuesday 26 December 2017

From modelling for Gucci in the Italian fashion capital, to learning the jewellery craft in Florence, we caught up with the London-based girl boss to discover how she came to launch Monarc Jewellery.

When did you start Monarc Jewellery and what is the ethos behind the brand? I started Monarc Jewellery & Concierge in 2016 as a brand that would follow my own aesthetic and morals. Monarc Jewellery was born out of the desire to present intelligent design at reasonable and honest prices to the retail jewellery market. Its objective is to create modern, classic jewellery to be worn now and passed on to future generations.  Monarc Jewellery is the ready-to-wear side of my business, the ‘concierge’ element of the brand offers a bespoke service that caters to those looking for something unique, more elaborate and sentimental premium engagement rings and future heirlooms, in other words.


What inspired you to make the move to London from New Zealand? I left New Zealand as a 20-year-old. After 5 years between Sydney and Milan, it was a job opportunity that inspired me to pack up and move to London. I managed the European brand portfolios for an international jewellery and production company for 4 years prior to starting Monarc Jewellery.


Do you think working as a model in the fashion industry has helped you with your journey to launching Monarc Jewellery? My love for design was cemented through watching how top fashion houses go about their creative process, to see them spin magic and actualise a new collection each season left me in wonderment. I was contracted to Gucci (Italy) for a few years and being a part of this behind-the-scenes action has helped me to clarify my taste, work ethic, and approach to designing for my own brand.


How would you describe your own personal style? My partner and I joke about a saying, “if you choose comfort over style then you should have neither.” I try to be practical with my personal style, I hate feeling too done-up, it’s just not me. Clean hair, a fresh face and a great jacket is my fail-safe formula. A tailored boiler suit is my favourite go-to piece, and I definitely opt for a darker palette for my city wardrobe.

I like to buy quality clothing and accessories – I’m all for quality over quantity. I select clothes from brands that are well-thought-out and consider the environment, sustainability, and ethics. I apply these principals to Monarc Jewellery and expect the same from clothing brands!


What were the key fashion trends you saw on the streets during your European summer? Great bias cut slip dresses, so fluid and elegant. Slips were a massive trend, and for good reason. Feminine midi-length wrap dresses. Shades of lilac – my fave was a muted grey lilac. Full swimsuits – yay!


Your favourite memory of the year? A weekend in Amsterdam across the European summer – my sister and her fiancé came to visit from NZ. We cycled around sampling Amsterdam’s city beaches and picnicked in Holland Park. The weekend poured out sunshine for us to play in.


What does an average day look like for you? My cat begins to scream for his breakfast around 6:30 am … he runs like clockwork and is a perfect morning alarm system. I normally jump straight onto email (with a coffee or tea in hand) to prioritise what needs to be carried out most urgently across the morning. Managing orders and stock is a daily task, and I update the back end of a few online retail accounts. I split my time between being in the studio and meeting clients around the city. Design always features in my day, whether it’s designing for a bespoke commission or developing a new season collection. Jewellery doesn’t need to follow the traditional seasons of A/W and S/S that fashion does, I prefer to release collections throughout the year and issue collaborative series to keep things interesting for our customers.

Lunchtime is always brief! I am not the type to take a leisurely hour-long lunch, I’m a bit impatient at times and would rather keep charging through my day.

I prefer to be home by 7 pm to see my boyfriend and share dinner together. I live in a big lofty warehouse in Hackney, London, that’s perfect for hosting dinner parties, we often have friends over midweek for an after work drink or a casual dinner.

I try to clear my inbox before heading to bed and then aim for 7 hours sleep.


What is your favourite thing about a NZ Summer? The beach. I’m so lucky to call Mount Maunganui my hometown! I can’t wait to visit in February 2018.


What is one piece of jewellery styling advice that you can share with our readers? Wear jewellery that feels like it is a part of you and your lifestyle. If jewellery feels odd to wear, then it probably looks a bit out of place.


What was the biggest challenge you faced when launching Monarc jewellery and how did you overcome it? I’ve gone against my gut instinct two times in business, and both times ended in a less than desirable outcome. If an idea doesn’t bode well from the beginning, then I think you need to write it off and not force something to happen.

Financial forecasting is my greatest challenge. Trying to establish a business budget can be really painful, especially when you’re trying to look 12-24 months into the future for a growing brand. Working with precious metals (platinum, gold, and silver) and natural stones or diamonds can be tricky to manage financially, monthly cash flow is essential to making it all run smoothly. I spread-sheet a lot and employ accounting tools to make sure nothing goes awry.


The best piece of advice you have received from your parents is: “Look at it as character building.” This isn’t necessarily advice on how to tackle something, rather a way to view a difficult or daunting situation.


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