Originally published on White Noise

August 2018

Sat on a pair of bar stools in Huckletree West, Monika Kamycka is wearing a selection of dainty pieces, illuminated by the warm August sunshine. It’s the perfect way for East Acton-based jewellery maker to showcase her brand, Mona Pink.

The part-time ethical jeweller and part-time accountant began her journey in 2011. I’m impressed that Monika’s able to use both her head and her hands harmoniously. She agrees: “You work with your head and you work with your hands, and that keeps me balanced.” As logical as she may be, embarking on a new career wasn’t a calculated move. “It seems like everything in my life happens by accident,” she laughs. “I was given a voucher for my birthday from a friend to make my own silver ring,” she explains. “I just got hooked on the metal. You see how it reacts; when it heats up it comes alive and I just couldn’t get enough of that. I discovered a whole new world.”

Not only did Monika discover a new world, but an alter ego too, which you can see on the header of her website. “It’s Mona Pink. She’s not grown up. She can be an older woman, but not necessarily taking life seriously. She’s got that little bit of cheekiness.” Is Mona Pink to Monika what Sasha Fierce is to Beyoncé? “It’s a person outside of me. I always think, ‘Would she say that? Would she wear that?’”

Monika works exclusively with 100% recycled Argentium silver and enamel. She explains that Argentium has a different chemical composition from traditional sterling silver, and is entirely produced from recycled sources. It’s whiter than platinum, tarnish resistant, and hypoallergenic, meaning your skin won’t react to it. “I like how it behaves. I find the process of working with it rewarding, and I got addicted,” she says.

Despite the beautiful creations, Monika assures me that being a trained silversmith isn’t glamorous at all: “It’s a dirty job. I can’t grow my nails, but smashing and banging the metal is a good stress-reliever.” As a jeweller who makes all her own items by hand, being Fairtrade-registered is important to Monika. “I’m certain they’re not working with mercury with their bare hands, and I can sleep nicely at night.”

On the day we meet, she happens to be wearing her favourite piece. It’s the first ring she made, a brown circular gem set in silver. She twists the ring around her finger playfully as she talks. “It’s not perfect, but I wear it as a reminder of how I started.” The jeweller took a break from silversmithing as she struggled to balance her two occupations. “[The ring] really reminded me that I can actually still do this. I wouldn’t sell it.”

The inspiration behind her Luminous collection was architecture, which she feels lies within nature. “Nature has everything, all the shapes and lines you can think of. The feeling I was trying to evoke was calmness in understated jewellery. It’s simple, but it’s not. If somebody wants to see something simple, then they will. If they don’t, they won’t.”

Clients also have the option to design unique, one-off items with Monika, which can be challenging. “People know they’d like something, but it’s hard to get an exact idea of what they want because it’s in their heads, and I’m not there!” She laughs. Despite this, there is one particular client that she remembers fondly, a woman who wanted a non-traditional engagement ring. “They weren’t going to get married, but they wanted a symbol of their relationship,” Monika explains. “They had a story in their relationship about the film Nightmare Before Christmas, so the spiral in the movie had to be on the piece.” The jeweller was left with the creative freedom to work her magic. “She loved it. She was so happy. She sent me a picture of it on her hand and it was the best feeling ever. I was really happy to know that I’m a part of their happiness. Part of me is going to stay with them forever.”

Originally published on White Noise

May 2018

WEST LONDONERS? WE’RE A FASHIONABLE LOT. FROM THE CARNIVAL QUEENS AND IT GIRLS TO THE FLAPPERS AND PUNKS, WRITER JOHN-MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN WILL BE DELVING INTO W11’S FASHION HISTORY THIS THURSDAY AT SECOND HOME IN HOLLAND PARK. PLUS, THERE’S A SERIES OF PHOTOGRAPHS TO BRING IT ALL TO LIFE.

 We caught up with O’Sullivan to talk about all things stand-out, Vogue and of course, West London.

What have been the most stand-out moments in West London’s fashion history, and why?

There have been so many! But I do think that the story of how the Teddy Girls emerged. These young, working-class women rebelling against the prim-and-proper Fifties aesthetic, and inventing a style of their own, is fascinating. Likewise in the Sixties, when a generation of young artists and designers like David Hockney, Ossie Clark, Sandra Rhodes and Biba’s Barbara Hulanicki moved into the area, and formed this extraordinary bohemian hub. And for entirely different reasons, I’ll always have a soft spot for W11’s most famous (fictional) fashion residents, Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone!

What were the key components behind W11 being the centre for such a rich fashion history?

I think it’s the district’s incredible diversity. Within this single postcode, there have been so many influxes of cultures and subcultures over the decades, from flappers to Teddy Girls to punks. And then, the fact that it’s been home to one of the most famous second-hand markets in the world for decades has meant that W11’s history is constantly being rediscovered and reinvented — that’s something you can see everywhere from Ray Petri’s styling for The Face in the Eighties, right the way through to Molly Goddard’s spectacular vintage-inspired dresses (which just won her top prize at this year’s BFC/Vogue Fashion Fund).

What current trends in W11 can be traced back?

I think, rather than a specific trend, it’s that eclectic, anarchic spirit — that blending of all the eras and aesthetics that have shaped the district’s culture over the past century.

This talk is part of a crowdfunding campaign to help publish the story of top 1950’s fashion model Barbara Mullen, find out more here.

Wanna book your tickets or find out more? Click here. 

Originally published in The Early Hour Magazine

Handbag designer Jules Greaves founded her fashion label Susie in the Sky after her mother passed away – and named it after her. This morning, we talk motherhood, 5am starts and the challenges of running your own business…

March 2017

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Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

I caught up with my fellow Ghana girl fashion designer Jessica Baah to talk mornings with her four-year-old son Elijah, what it’s like to be a single mum, juggling a 9-5 job with running her own business and missing her family back home…

January 2017

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Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

Ashley started out working in fashion for Debenhams before quitting the office job to be a hands-on mum. She tells me about life as a fashion blogger – and why she began documenting her post-birth outfits on her blog A Mother’s Edit…

September 2016

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Ashley, 32, lives in Twickenham, south west London, with her husband and their daughter, Vivienne. She spent 11 years working in the fashion industry before quitting to be a mum and part time fashion blogger. She started documenting her outfits on A Mother’s Edit to encourage her to make more effort after giving birth to Vivienne… 

“After leaving University at Warwick, I joined a graduate program in Birmingham but I really missed home (London) so shortly after, headed back and started working for Debenhams in their head office. It was so much fun working for a big high street retailer and I learnt a lot.

It led to some amazing opportunities working with brands such as Tiffany, French Sole, Pringle of Scotland, Milly and M&S. These days I freelance which gives me the freedom I want to look after Vivienne and work.

“I FOUND AFTER A YEAR’S MATERNITY LEAVE AND NOT RETURNING TO MY OFFICE JOB – I HAD NO ONE TO MAKE AN EFFORT FOR ANYMORE.”

My go-to outfit, while pregnant, was always jeans – J brand were the best. For other pregnant mums, my advice would be: moisturise. Not just for benefits for your skin, but it helps you get to love all your curves. Nobody is perfect and those wobbly bits I have since Vivienne I have grown to love. It’s taken quite some time though.

I found after a year’s maternity leave and not returning to my office job – I had no one to make an effort for anymore. I didn’t realise the person I needed to make an effort for was actually me. It got me down, and when I forced myself to make an effort again by documenting my outfits, I felt good. I think it’s just about making time for yourself. Your new baby is, of course, the most precious thing to you but you’ve got to put your own gas mask on first. If you’re happy, your baby is happy.

My style has definitely changed since becoming a mum. Gone are the heels, in are the trainers. I spend a lot of time on the floor these days, playing, cleaning, and picking up toys, so my clothes have to be comfortable. But I still want to look good. So well fitting basics are key, and then you can add trend pieces as and when you want.

“I’M NOT SURE IF VIVIENNE A FASHIONISTA IN THE MAKING – SHE MUCH PREFERS BEING IN HER BIRTHDAY SUIT AT THE MOMENT!”

Quick and easy ways for new mums to spruce up their wardrobe…?Accessories, and I always say don’t separate day and evening clothes. Experiment. Wear a dress you save for the odd night out during the day over a tshirt, paired with trainers. Just balance everything so you’re comfortable.

I’m not sure if Vivienne a fashionista in the making – she much prefers being in her birthday suit at the moment! The fashion tip I’d pass on to her are to be aware of the power clothes can have when meeting people, working, and on your own mood.”

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