The fashion industry has a long-running problem in melding eco-friendly practices with luxury items that the "right" people actually care about. But one designer who has been able to successfully combine a covetable aesthetic and refined marketing with earth-friendly manufacturing is jewelry maker Monique Pean, whose travel-inspired, antique, conflict-free diamond rings, ancient wooly mammoth fossil bangles and recycled gold and jet necklaces have made her a fashion editor favorite worn by the likes of Michelle Obama and model Elettra Wiedermann.
Though her look is more subtle than your average over-the-top red carpet bling, it's very much part of jewelry's modern direction — think raw-cut engagement rings, Guatemalan jade statement necklaces and rutilated quartz earrings with edge that still manage to be high-impact sans hokey flash.
We caught up with the 32-year-old CFDA honoree during her spring 2014 presentation at Manhattan's Four Seasons restaurant on Wednesday to find out about her latest globally inspired collection, what cool earthen materials she's using these days and, of course, who she's jonesing to ice out on the Emmys red carpet.
The Hollywood Reporter: Your passport makes us jealous — with Peru, French Polynesia and Guatemala just a few of the places you've checked out to get inspiration for your designs. Which locale is behind your next set of goods?
Monique Pean: I went to Norway for 10 days and was really inspired by the juxtaposition of the natural landscape and the arctic circle, but also the modern architecture at Oslo. It's incredible! Just the art scene. … Going to The Standard Oslo and seeing the Norwegian artists, and then going up to the Arctic Circle and seeing polar bears, it was awe-inspiring and breathtaking.
THR: That sounds unreal.
MP: It was an incredible trip. While I was there I was able to discover Spectrolite, which is an incredible material that has full labradoresence and luminescence. The color and the iridescence is just so spectacular in the stone. Additionally the collection features meteorites that are millions of years old. This is my first time using them.
ROCK ON: Jewelry designer Monique Pean previewed her collection of fossils, recycled diamonds and other killer pieces at her New York Fashion Week spring '14 presentation in New York on Wednesday.
THR: Wow, that's a pretty insane material. How do you make something like a space rock — and some of the other raw, earthy materials you use — translate to the red carpet and formal events?
MP: By incorporating antique diamonds with fossils. I'm also focused on my Atelier collection (ed note: her highest-end, nuptial-appropriate offerings, with one rose-cut, conflict-free diamond bracelet running a cool $206,000).
THR: Your bridal stuff is so understatedly modern. Are you finding that brides-to-be are receptive of the new direction in less flashy finger candy?
MP: Well we've been working on a lot of bespoke custom engagement rings and finding antique diamonds that we can repurpose.
THR: That's great. Love that engagement rings are getting less intense — unlike Fashion Week.
MP: It's been crazy!
THR: How do you survive the madness?
MP: Lots of protein and Juice Press juices. I recommend the Fountain of Youth, with the hemp.
THR: Things are starting to wind down a bit. But anything fun planned for the tail end?
MP: I don't know if I'm gonna make it out tonight. I might just crash.
THR: Before you do, tell us who you're dying to see your pieces on this awards season.
MP: I have my fingers crossed for Kerry Washington. She's so amazing.