Five minutes with Ella Drake

FASHION INSPIRATION: Ella Drake – face of Gucci to founder of high-end jewellery brand Monarc Concierge.

New Zealand designer and founder of Monarc Concierge, Ella Drake, is no stranger to the world of luxury and high fashion. Before launching her jewellery collection, Ella was the face of Gucci International and appeared in Vogue Gioiello (Vogue Italia’s jewellery edition). She later studied at the prestigious Florence campus of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). She speaks with Victoria Tait about the launch of Monarc Concierge into Australia and New Zealand.

What was it about jewellery that inspired you to pursue this as a career path?

It was the sentimentalism around jewellery that caught my attention from a young age, that romantic notion that jewellery is most often given as a token of the purest love. Later, it was through booking a shoot with Vogue Gioiello (Vogue Italia’s jewellery edition) that really cemented my passion for fine jewellery. I went on to study at the Florence campus of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). I am captivated by gemology and the creation of natural stones. For me jewellery design strikes the perfect balance between romance and science.

How has your experience as an international model influenced your designs?

Modelling enabled me to travel around the world and experience a multitude of various cultures, each place with its own aesthetic. I was contracted to Gucci for a period of time, watching from the inside the creative discipline and magic that is spun to actualise a runway collection. Observing behind-the-scenes action at various fashion houses across Europe has enabled me to clarify my taste, work ethic and approach to designing for Monarc Concierge.

Can you describe the style of your brand Monarc Concierge?

I am not one for fast fashion; I’m inspired by heritage and travel. A timeless aesthetic is at the core of the Monarc Concierge brand.

Do you have a favourite piece in the collection?

The Wing Me Ring. It’s such a fun cocktail piece combining delicate lines with a punchy chequerboard onyx stone. I also love The Puzzle Ring; it is reminiscent of interlocking friendship designs from the 17th century, but the old-world fuss has been taken out so it strikes a strong, modern look. The Signature Huggies are always on rotation in my ears; I switch between the black and white diamond versions.

What materials do you love to work with?

I really love working with 9ct yellow gold. Its golden hue has the slightest touch of cool, moss green that 18ct yellow gold doesn’t have. Gold has a higher density and is stronger than silver, so really delicate styles can be achieved well through the use of gold alloys. Alexandrite is a naturally occurring stone with a party trick second to none. Under natural light it appears bluish green and under incandescent light it swaps to appear red or violet.

Is there a current trend you are seeing?

One of the trends I’m seeing is the growing tradition that men want to design a ring for a proposal, but don’t want to design the actual engagement ring for this event. We design a lot of “stunt” rings to fit this situation so that the newly engaged couple can later decide on a bespoke ring together. A “save-the-finger ring” is a great idea for proposers who want some input (and credit) but know their other half would prefer some creative input on the final engagement ring. For this reason, “stunt” rings are often more playful in style choice and certainly don’t have to cost the world.

Your materials and gemstones are ethically sourced; do you think consumers are more aware of what they are buying?

Consumers have a plethora of choice through online shopping. The international jewellery market has become so much more accessible and it can be difficult to wade through so much information. Many consumers remain driven by price and opt to take the path of fashion jewellery, but Monarc Concierge provides something a little different as an independent company. To design and produce using materials mined from terrible circumstances would feel incredibly misaligned with the purpose of the jewellery we create. Engagement rings and bespoke keepsakes represent huge emotional investment, I want to ensure Monarc Concierge doesn’t compromise social and environmental justices in order to create extraordinary jewellery.