“Seeing something real strikes me as a luxury in itself”
Marc Monzó, Jeweller and Creative Director at Misui
Misui is the project with which Unión Suiza is celebrating its 175th anniversary. It is a new high-end brand of jewellery, luxury accessories and contemporary design that underlines its roots in Barcelona.
Coinciding with its 175th anniversary celebrations, Unión Suiza created the firm Misui to contribute to a rethink of the idea of deluxe today and, above all, to underline values that are on the rise in contemporary society, such as trade and local talent. To do so, the historical and prominent Barcelona-based jewellery firm has turned to the jeweller and now creative director of Misui, Marc Monzó.
The 2016 recipient of the prestigious Françoise van den Bosch Award, Monzó heads up Misui’s creative commitment with a team of artists and designers that includes jeweller Estela Guitart, milliners Nina Pawlowsky and Cristina de Prada and shoe designer Norman Vilalta. These are names that prioritise the art of each step in the process of creation, whether it’s a piece of jewellery or a fashion accessory. They all bring to Misui a passion for unique objects and the concept of deluxe as the outcome of tradition and excellence.
The Misui collections can now been seen on the first floor of the Unión Suiza building in Barcelona. They are framed by an exceptional space, where Art Nouveau emphasises the exclusive nature of the items on display. Misui presents itself to the jewellery market with a new language that is communicated to customers who understand deluxe beyond the materials in the jewel.
Question: You are the art director of the new firm Misui, created by Unión Suiza. What does that responsibility entail?
Marc Monzó: I joined the Misui project right from the start. We began from scratch and, together with the whole of the team, our responsibility is to generate the new brand’s spirit and identity. We analysed many aspects before finally making the first collection, from the concept of deluxe today through to the situation of contemporary jewellery as it currently stands.
Q: What convinced you to join?
MM: My profile and that of Unión Suiza are practically opposing. But [Misui director] Joan Gomis saw some links. He thought there were possible connections between a new high-end jewellery project and my profile as a jeweller.
Q: But what was the most decisive factor for you?
MM: As the conversations progressed, I saw that it was a project with a great degree of freedom and commitment. We could do interesting things and try to build an independent voice. We could really create a new and unique brand with its own identity. It wasn’t going to be necessary to follow trends.
Q: Why does the high-end segment have to ask itself what deluxe means?
MM: It is something we need to ask ourselves constantly. Making high-end goods requires you to always be on the alert. In the jewellery sector there was a need to return to some more traditional values, to a more measured way of thinking and with more awareness of the world. By that I don’t mean the bucolic aspects of craftsmanship. I mean questions such as non-treated materials and local production that supports the city’s workshops. There are some fabulous jewellery workshops in Barcelona; it is a place with a longstanding tradition.
Q: Both you and Misui talk about a human dimension to jewellery. What do you mean by that?
MM: I like to consider the human dimension in all aspects, from design to economic and environmental-friendliness. I want it to be a brand that is aware of what’s going on in the world.
Q: Is there a demand for this new take on high-end?
MM: It’s a global necessity, not just on the Barcelona market. There are customers around the world who have the need for a singular piece and at the same time this sense of awareness.
Q: Do you mean the ethics of high-end production?
MM: In addition to styles and aesthetic designs, there does have to be a sense of ethics, yes. Particularly in the high-end market. At Misui we are very aware of caring for the environment and the treatment of people. We want to make a “clean” product; to produce items that leave the world a little better, or at least not to have messed it up.
Q: How is that materialised?
MM: We have made a number of collections using Fairmined gold, the assurance label for sustainable mining. No cyanide or mercury are used in the areas where this gold is mined, no toxic that makes the areas sick. When you mine gold from rivers, these toxins are used and the water is contaminated. The people who live nearby suffer the consequences.
Q: And the stones?
MM: The stones we use are untreated, in other words they have not been exposed to high temperatures, radiation or oil treatments to bring out their colour. Ninety-percent of our stones are real. What you see is real, there is no manipulation. The idea of seeing something real strikes me as a luxury in itself.
Q: What role do jewellery-related trades play in Misui?
MM: The brand was established to try to have a cultural-project side. It endeavours to communicate the values of jewellery-making trades, everything that surrounds them and their knowledge. Disseminating all of these values fits in with our idea of high-end.
Q: Misui was established as part of a firm celebrating its 175th anniversary. How has that legacy been conveyed to the new brand?
MM: We share with Unión Suiza the fact that we are big fans of traditional jewellery. You can only truly give your own opinion on what jewellery-making is about if you know its history and tradition. The legacy of Unión Suiza can be seen in small aesthetic details that form part of the language of the jewellery constructions.
Q: What does Misui bring to contemporary jewellery-making from an artistic perspective?
MM: I don’t think we are innovating in that sense. We relate with the trade the same way that jewellery firms have always done, trying to have our own voice. But one of Misui’s distinguishing features is that it looks to the future of the jewellery business, taking tradition into account.
Q: What makes Misui different from other contemporary jewellery brands?
MM: Misui is a brand that has only just begun. It has to establish a road to go down, which is what defines you and illustrates what you are. Other designers will be added in the future and it will be lovely to see them bring their own vision to jewellery-making, always at the service of Misui.
Q: You designed the Lightbeam line by Misui which heavily features the baguette-cut. Why is that?
MM: The baguette is the cut that always goes well with other cuts. Here the entire collection is built solely on baguettes that are more stylised than standard cuts. I wanted to work with beams of light that went further than the stones. I wanted to graphically explain what high-end brilliance involves. The baguette is also a unitary element, like the number one. Being able to build a collection from the basis of the number one and showcase its value struck me as something that would generate an interesting tension.
Q: In contrast to Lightbeam, you also designed the Fruitful collection, simple silver pieces with shapes that are very common in the day-to-day home. That is a completely different idea from the former.
MM: When we presented the collections, including the one by Estela Guitart, they were all based on strong discipline, starting from very particular calculations and in-depth studies. I thought it would be interesting to make another, free and easy collection. There is a strong tradition among Barcelona jewellery houses for silverware and a large fan base for volumetric objects. Fruits are innocent shapes, featured in the meal of any child in Barcelona, and I decided on these shapes because I collect plastic fruit.
Q: Do you need gold, silver, diamonds or gemstones to consider a design to be a real jewel?
MM: No, no. You can make jewellery from a piece of paper or iron. Anything you believe can be a jewel, is. It can be made from any material.
Q: Computer modelling has become increasingly common in jewellery design. How do you use it?
MM: I work directly with the material. I hardly even sketch it. I would say there were a few years when people were abusing technology. It’s a fantastic tool, like a file or a saw, but it’s important to define ideas and languages away from the computer. Today there is a debate about what craftsmanship is and is not, because of all the productions that use 3D printers and so on.
Q: And what position do you take?
MM: I’m not terribly interested in whether a piece is made by hand or not. It’s important to analyse the thinking behind a design. Has an artisan approach been taken that considers the human dimension? That’s what gives a piece value. Then there are other aspects, such as the artisan’s skill.
Q: You were recently awarded the 2016 Françoise van den Bosch Award, the most prestigious sector prize in Europe, and in 2006 you won the Design Award from the Jewellers, Gold and Silversmiths, Watchmakers and Gemmologists Association of Catalonia (JORGC). They speak of you as a driving force behind a new language in jewellery. How would you define that language?
MM: The award is given to people who don’t seek acknowledgement; people who have done a lot of research. I don’t think what I’m doing is any different, but rather that there is the insistence on a path. I have stayed true to my way of doing things and the judges valued that.
Q: But when they talk about your own language, what characterises the language of Marc Monzó?
MM: It’s hard for the person who makes a piece to describe it. I can only say it comprises the essential and that there is always a desire to achieve synthesis.
Q: From London to Japan, via Germany and the US, you have given classes and seminars all over the place. Why do the world’s leading jewellery schools invite you to speak at them?
MM: They are keen to know the work of people who are not setting trends and who stay true to their own designs. It’s very good for students to be able to see examples of people who are making a go of it in something other than market trends. Jewellery schools want to promote that.
Q: There are a good number of schools training new generations of jewellers. How would you describe the local talent pool?
MM: I was surprised by the high quality of the end-of-year works I saw at the Escola Massana school two years ago. There are a great many schools and good teachers. From my point of view, they encourage students to become artists rather than jewellers. The balance between artistic and contemporary design and knowledge about the job of a jeweller and trade designs is important. I think the JORGC contributes to this balance with its training offer.