12 Questions with Jewelry Designer Mona Assemi

Photos by  Meghan Eberlein

Photos by Meghan Eberlein

By: The Making it in Manhattan Team

Do you ever look at your outfit and realize something is missing? Like your outfit is missing that extra pizazz? We do, and that's when we realize we're missing our favorite accessory, jewelry. If you're a jewelry lover like we are, Mona Assemi should be on your radar! Each piece of her jewelry is a unique work of art.

Mona Assemi started her jewelry business about thirteen years ago, after realizing that jewelry was her passion. Her pieces are all handmade here in NYC, and she often makes one-of-a-kind pieces. Her namesake brand focuses on on clean lines, repetition, and negative space. Each piece of jewelry is handcrafted, and they are so versatile that they can go with literally any outfit.

Lucky for us, Mona was happy to tell us all about her incredible brand and stunning products. See below for a look at Mona’s journey and how this boss babe (and mom!) is Making it in Manhattan!

Growing up, did you always have an interest in working in fashion? 

Honestly, I didn’t. I was always wanting to do something to make my dad proud, so I decided to go into International Business because I felt like he would approve.

When did you begin your brand? 

I began full-time about 13 years ago or so! 

The inspiration was an amazing little bead store that I loved, and I just started making them as gifts for people at first. I just remember feeling so creatively fulfilled making these little pieces for people.

All of your pieces are handmade here in NYC. What is that process like and how long does it take from start to finish? 

Yes, I could do them out of the country for probably less, but I really like to have full control over the design of each piece and overseas you just aren’t able to as much as you can here.

First, I usually start to think about what I want to do far in advance. I start thinking about what excites me and what would be innovative + fun to wear. I start coming up with different concepts and finding inspiration in everything I see and what I’m able to actually make into tangible, wearable pieces. I visualize it, sketch it, then start to create the work in wax. We usually do wax models which means making the actual vision into a physical piece made out of wax. Then we mold it, cast it, clean it, solder it, then plate it. It’s a very lengthy, tedious process, but it works and all worth it in the end.

I tend to think about making a cohesive collection that is small yet precise. I try to make some practical everyday pieces yet also some statement pieces as well to appease a specific niche market. We tend to appeal not to the masses, but more specifically to a type of girl who doesn’t follow the trends, yet has her own style and wears what she wants no matter what.

In the end when I get the pieces back from the platers, it feels like opening up birthday gifts every time! I get so excited to see what they end up looking like. It’s really fun to see something you’re envisioning come to actual life. It’s pretty fulfilling although sometimes they don’t turn out exactly how you’re envisioning in your head due to just plain physics or a multitude of other reasons. After I get them back I like to edit and pick my favorites to make the final collection.

Where do you turn to for inspiration? 

I usually see everything in jewelry. I see a tree and I think earrings. In the back of my mind, I’m always thinking of innovative concepts I can make into jewelry. This is my favorite part of the whole process. 

What did you wear to your first interview?  

It was at Morgan Stanley, and I wore a Benetton gray skirt suit, a colorful striped blouse underneath, and a bracelet that I made myself that had bells on it - very artsy crafts and not very well made! Once I got the job, everyone would say they could hear the jingle jangle down the hallways and they always knew I was coming into the room. That’s when I knew that maybe I’m not in the right industry!

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before starting your career, what would it be?

There are a few: Don’t sweat the small stuff, stay focused, have more mentors, be more fearless and don’t listen to everyone’s opinions except those that you actually value.

Also, be unapologetically yourself always. Be very specific about what you want when working with other people and have it written down to make sure people do what they say they are going to do. Don't ever, ever force things if they don’t work out. Do the best you can and if it doesn’t work out then take another path instead of forcing something to happen that just won’t happen no matter what you do. Spend your energy wisely. 

I’m sure no two days are ever the same, but what does a traditional day look like for you?

I am not a super early riser. I loathe mornings and that’s probably because I’m a night owl. I used to really hate this about myself, but now I’ve learned to embrace it. My best ideas are late at night. I keep a sketch book next to my bed just in case! Around 8 A.M. I wake up and check emails and respond as best I can. I read somewhere that you shouldn’t look at your phone when you wake up so I need to probably work on this. I give breakfast to my 2-year-old little girl, Lila. She goes off to school with her daddy since it’s near his office. I go to work depending on what I’m doing that day. Usually production, working on orders, emails, shipments, whatever is priority that day. At the end of the day, I come home to make dinner because I really love to cook. I try to prep beforehand so it’s not as time consuming. We eat dinner as a family, and then either my husband or I put our daughter to bed. After, we enjoy relaxing together. I should note that during all of this I am always still working, whether it be an email with our buyers or a pull from a stylist. I try to not let it interfere too much with my personal time, but as an entrepreneur you’re constantly so busy doing anything and everything that you rather do it that moment than let it pile up and get to it later because, for me, it can be very overwhelming that way. 

What would you say is the secret to achieving a good work-life balance?

Not doing everything to perfection. As long as you do it 90 percent, it’s still an A! Not everything has to be exactly how you want it - sometimes close enough will just have to do that day. Making sure to spend quality time with the people you love and putting work aside when it really matters most. Connecting on a deeper level with your loved ones helps you feel more fulfilled and in turn do a better job at work. And also making sure you have YOU time here and there to keep you feeling good about yourself. Color coordinate your to do list. You get way more done that way! Do the best you can with what you have at that time and make the most of it!

Who have been your biggest mentors in the industry, and what is the best advice they have ever given you?

Karen Duffy, AMEX Fashion: 

“Put yourself out there to be able to get the things you want. If you’re not out there, you won’t be able to ever get them and if you don’t get them, keep trying until you do.”

Deanna Berkeley, President of Alice and Olivia:

“Find your niche and create a category of your own that stores will want to fill with your product”. 

As a busy woman on the go, what are three things you never leave home without? 

Wallet, sunglasses and jewels, naturally! 

Favorite places in NYC to…

Eat: anywhere cozy! Morandi’s is the go-to for a date night with my husband.

Drink: celery gimlet at Saxon and Parole. Go and thank me later! 

Shop: all the incredible eclectic vintage stores in the city! 

What advice would you give to young women hoping to one-day follow in your footsteps? Where do they even begin?

JUST DO IT….

and figure it out all later! The biggest step is the first step as cliche as it sounds. Do not procrastinate, don’t wait for the perfect time, just be fearless and do what you want to do without overthinking otherwise you’ll never do it. Be devoted, consistent, work really really HARD and smart. Do a little bit each day to work towards your goals and the life you want. Do what your innately good at as your job - the gift you’ve been given in life. That's what needs to be given to the world: your talent.

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