The eponymously named jewellery brand, Alex Monroe has been 30 years in the making and how it’s now an icon of Floral Street in Covent Garden. We speak to founder Alex, about creativity, jewellery and London life.
What inspired you to start a jewellery brand?
When I was at school, I was more into music, fashion and art than sports. I grew up wanting to make things, and I was good at it too. I loved making my own clothes and pressing flowers. I got into Sir John Cass to do jewellery at 17, and the course was mainly silversmithing. At this point I wasn’t planning to start a jewellery brand, it was a vessel into the creative world. Initially, just to make some money, I created some bold, intricate earrings and sold them to fashion shops in Hampstead and the King's Road. Shortly after, I was awarded the chance to show at the London Designer Collections. It was from there my jewellery caught the attention from buyers all over the world and it has continued to grow since.
Where did your creativity stem from?
I grew up in Suffolk, surrounded by nature. I was actually unwell a lot as a child, so my inspirations came from what was close to home. I loved to draw, create and craft based on my surroundings. Then as I grew older, my creativity gained momentum and I began understanding fashion, how people express themselves through it, and how personal it was to them. It kick-started my beliefs about how important it is to make things that real people would wear.
What are your creative influences now?
My influences now are largely similar to what they always have been; observing what’s happening around me and creatively translating it. I’m constantly taking in information and ideas about the natural world, and I combine that with the vibe of the times, and what cool, creative people are doing. Right now, I’m following Sunday Times Style columnist and social media icon Raven Smith, and I really enjoyed going to see Little Women at the cinema, so my influences really vary.
Tell us about your Floral Street boutique.
Covent Garden is one of the most prime locations in the UK, so to have opened a boutique in the heart of this area in in summer 2019 was a dream come true. Everything you see in the boutique was either custom-designed and crafted in the UK, or alternatively reclaimed or recycled. On the walls you’ll find some of my framed flower presses, the sofa fabric chosen for it’s likeness to a print I created for Liberty, the drawer handles are designed to mimic our most classic pieces – everything has a story behind it! As our Flagship, the boutique receives our entire collection as well as some exclusive one-of-a-kind pieces, and so there’s always something new to discover.
What’s Covent Garden’s hidden gem?
The Royal Opera House has a lovely rooftop space with an idyllic view of piazza in the warmer months. And when I’m by myself you’ll find me hunting for my next travel guide in Stanfords bookshop.
What are your favourite food and drink spots in Covent Garden?
I’m mostly in Covent Garden to meet people, so somewhere quiet to hunker down and have a good chat. Petersham Nurseries is a lovely space, and minutes away from the boutique. Or, I’ll go up the road to Monmouth Street for a coffee and visit French restaurant Mon Plaisir for something to eat.
Was there a reason you were drawn to this part of London in particular for your next boutique?
Floral Street feels off the beaten track and a place to be discovered, whilst maintaining a prestigious presence with brands like Paul Smith. It has become one of the most exciting areas for trendy brands like A.P.C too, so a really desirable destination for visitors. It was important for us to have a location that was subtle, independent and intimate, and Floral Street feels exactly that.
Tell us about your jewellery workshops.
I love the process of making jewellery. I love the tools, the workshop, the highs and lows. It’s such a pleasure to share it with others. Our Jewellery Schools are really just a way to share the fun! It’s a chance to meet and welcome people from all over the world, and introduce them to jewellery making. It is such a privilege. Located in our award-winning Bermondsey workshop, the day is super hands on, starting with learning the traditional jewellers skills and finishing with one or sometimes two Alex Monroe treasures to take home. There is also some delicious food and refreshments throughout the day, of course.
What’s your next big passion project?
I’m a big fan of podcasts, and recently was lucky enough to be invited onto Holly Tucker’s ‘Conversations of Inspiration’. I thought to myself; I’ve always known that people have a very special and intimate connection to their jewellery, and even more so I love finding out the reasons why. You wear it next to your skin and it accompanies you through life. It can finish off a look and express how you feel – it’s empowering. So you might find me behind a microphone in the next few months, watch this space...
Who would be your dream person to design a piece of jewellery for?
I’m very fortunate enough to say I’ve already designed pieces for some incredible people; Sir David Attenborough, JK Rowling, Phoebe Waller-Bridge to name a few. At the moment, I would love to design for Lizzo, I think she’s brilliant.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The truth is, there isn’t really one! Each day brings something new. Amongst the meetings and decisions, I always try to be in the workshop as much as I can, I simply can’t go for too long without making something.
What’s next for the world of jewellery making?
Handcrafting something beautiful, sustainable and ethical for people to wear over generations is what I’ve always believed in. These are important values for our customers, staff, stockists and community, so keeping that up is definitely what we’ll continue to do.