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Summer of Love  |  A Q&A with Alex

Missed our Live Instagram Q&A introducing the collection?
Here’s all you need to know from Alex about our new 2018 Collection 'Summer of Love’.

My Inspiration

For this collection, there were three significant things that happened. One was that I had just celebrated a 30th anniversary designing and making jewellery and I had designed a collection that was celebrating that thirty-year history (Four Seasons). This collection was very much based on our past and our heritage.  So, there were feathers, bees and woodland pieces... very traditional to us and instantly recognisable as Alex Monroe. Whilst I loved creating Four Seasons, once it was finished I felt a real need to have a bit of fun doing something different for SS18.

At the time, we were designing a capsule collection for the legendary shoe designer, Sophia Webster, for her show at London Fashion Week. She’s very kooky and highly creative, so together we did these brilliant, flamboyant and really fun statement pieces which we had never done before. It was so refreshing, just kicking out, having fun and being a bit crazy. This largely accounts for the style of the collection – a lot of the pieces are bigger and bolder than usual, though still very much my signature in it’s detailing.

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"Whilst I loved creating Four Seasons, once it was finished I felt a real need to have a bit of fun doing something different for SS18."

Current events and public feeling also played a big part. As 'Summer of Love’ was coming to life, Donald Trump got voted in and to me, it was like the world had gone a bit crazy. That prompted me to want to do a collection that was based on love and peace and the whole hippy era thing where people were freer, more open and less afraid.

Finally this whole collection was really  kick-started by a small clip on the radio about rockets people were experimenting with to send messages between the different islands of Scotland, called ‘Rocket post’. I was really touched and intrigued by the story so I looked further into it and was literally fuelled by the concept of using a technology that had been used destructively for war to join people together. It was the sentiment behind it that really inspired me. Ultimately it was this little snippet on the radio, that set me off on the path to ‘Summer of Love’.

My Design Process

The key thing for me is to always be true to my personality when I am designing a collection.  Without fail, I am always drawing from ‘out and about’…primarily nature, but also museums, galleries or anything that catches my eye. For 'Summer of Love’ the original 60’s summer of love, woodstock etc. was a huge reference point and there was a great exhibition on at the V&A at the time centred around 60’s visual culture that was hugely inspiring.

Drawing is really important to me and central to my process, though I’m often embarrassed by my sketch book because I’m not a great drawer. What a sketchbook is for me is where I store all my visual ideas, and my thoughts. Often a collection will start out quite different to where it ends up. Summer of Love began with exploring Russian and Chinese communist symbology because I was interested in the idea of ‘power to the people’. There were various things lighting me up so I just took sketches…and then gradually wove them together to try and work out how this collection might look and evolve.

I always do masses of drawings in my sketchbook and on paper until I reach the point where drawing alone is no longer enough for me to develop my ideas into jewellery. That is the point when I get on the workbench and am at my happiest and most creative. The workbench is where the true development of any Alex Monroe collection occurs. I’ll start cutting things out, bending things up and putting them together. Our ‘Hope and Love’ Earrings were the first pieces I worked on and that was from some existing flower components I stuck together on blue tack to form letters. It looked cool...and there I had my first piece in the collection. Designing is a constant evolution with collections as emerging as part of that process, not just as the end goal.

A Political collection... ?

It responds to what I see as a building climate of distrust and fear in the world. I’m really lucky to live in London, where my kids can attend a school that has this wonderful diversity with all different nationalities and abilities, and I see in my kids an openness to difference. So, when I hear someone like Donald Trump talking about building walls, closing things off and shutting things out, I have a real reaction to it. In that sense ‘Summer of Love’ is completely political because I am reacting against something I find a little disturbing.

I truly believe that when you meet people they are all feeling the same thing really. People want to get on, have a nice time and live with ease and this collection is my little contribution. I am not a protest songwriter, I am a jewellery maker and politics was not the reason for this collection. However I do think that perhaps this my tiny wearable protest celebrating openness and love against walls and wars.

Ultimately I’m a fashion jeweller. I make jewellery that people can look good In, feel great in and ultimately enjoy wearing. I do some teaching and I judge competitions and you come across jewellery pieces with these amazing stories behind them yet with a design that is so out there, it is completely un-wearable. The key thing for me to remember is that I make jewellery for people...something that other people can relate to and share in, so it’s a bit like a conversation. Jewellery is a great talking point and that’s a reason I love it.

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"What’s lovely is that I might have a story or a reason for making something, but often customers build their own story around our pieces."

Often a person’s favoured possession is a piece of jewellery and that speaks volumes. What’s lovely is that I might have a story or a reason for making something, but often customers build their own story around our pieces. I had made a dove necklace and we had this lovely story where someone watched Home Alone with their mum every Christmas wearing the necklace. It’s a different narrative to mine but it’s equally important and they said even if their house was burning down they would run in and grab that necklace.

A piece in focus | LOVE and HOPE Earrings

They are just so fun to wear. We are well known for quite discrete and pretty jewellery, and on the surface this is very different. However if you take a second look you will notice how the letters themselves are made up of tiny, handcrafted flowers and vines - very much our signature. These pieces really reflect the sentiment behind the collection - a freedom and openness, engaged with the public spirit of the moment. They are definitely one of the boldest pieces we have ever created.

The Earrings are asymmetric which makes them more fun and exciting to wear. When we did the collection with Sophia Webster we were highly experimental with Ear Cuffs and mismatching small and large earring styles as pairs - a less conventional attitude which I brought to Summer of Love. I am fascinated by how real people wear jewellery out in the street - that has always driven me as a designer.  What I really notice is how people layer up necklaces. I am really enjoying seeing people do loads more on their ear and just the way people put their jewellery together. It’s not just a mix and match earrings and necklace situation anymore…people are much more inventive and individualistic about their personal style and we are reflecting that in what we do!  Summer of Love is just the start!

 

Words from Alex Monroe

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