Monica Rich Kosann is known for her vintage-inspired and timeless lockets, image cases and charm bracelets, with fans including A-listers like Katie Holmes, Madonna, Lauren Conrad and Allison Williams. Sitting in her all-white Fairfield County, CT office and design studio, she is the epitome of classic chic, with a white Row t-shirt, a black Tom Ford jacket and Zara pants, accented with layers of her gold necklaces and signature charm bracelet. She openly shares her thoughts and moves quickly between topics like her inspirations, design and family. That’s not surprising for someone so accomplished in a variety of mediums. (Her jewelry, photography and home goods can be found in 120 stores nationwide, including Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, and online at monicarichkosann.com). And the words come easily—fittingly for someone who says, “I’m a storyteller.”
Serendipity: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Monica Rich Kosann: Museums, art galleries, books, magazines, people and architecture. I get a lot of inspiration when I travel. We were in Paris and there’s one vendor in an antique market that sells French pottery called craquelins, from the Deco period. There were all of these beautiful animals in old white ceramic with tiny lines. And I’ve always loved the art deco jewelry from the 20s when they used a lot of white agate and black onyx. So I had the idea of designing deco-inspired lockets along with meaningful animal pendants inspired by this period and this pottery, so I turned to ceramic. Chanel uses it for their watches and I always thought that was so chic. We created a whole locket collection with black and white ceramic. It’s so elegant and modern, mixed with 18k gold and diamonds.
Serendipity: You got your start selling powder compacts with spaces for photos—image cases—in Bergdorf Goodman. Where did this idea come from?
MRK: I’d find cigarette cases and powder compacts while vintage shopping, and I’d put clients’ photos into them, and [they] would say, “Oh my goodness can you find me more?” And I’d say “I bought that in Paris or in Italy—I can’t get you more!” My husband, who is my business partner, and I went to Italy and found the old models of these powder compacts and cigarette cases. The Italian artisans thought we were crazy but humored us and started to make them for us. People loved them.
Serendipity: Why have lockets and charm bracelets also been a focus?
MRK: I always thought lockets were one of the sexiest pieces of jewelry a woman can wear. They’re sexy because they are mysterious; they hold your secrets. It could be a quote, a rose if you’re a gardener or a secret lover. Nobody knows unless you share it. And I always loved charm bracelets. I couldn’t find anything that I liked because [the charms] were literal—a tennis racket for a tennis player. I wanted grander themes—life, luck, love, carpe diem and perseverance. We have one that’s the earth that comes with a little diamond, and you tell them where to put the diamond. A charm bracelet is another way for a woman to tell her story, and God knows women have stories to tell!
Serendipity: What’s your personal style?
MRK: It’s kind of eclectic. I mix a lot. Simple, chic, with a little edge. And a black leather jacket is a necessity. My husband always says, “You buy the same black jacket every year.”
Serendipity: Have you handed down any special pieces to your daughters?
MRK: We all have a charm bracelet, and I started my daughters’ for them, because I’m still here and not giving up mine! Every holiday, special occasion or birthday, they get a new charm. And they wear it every day, just like I do. It’s my story and my good luck charm. It sort of defines me—the sound of it and the feel of it…
Serendipity: Your photography is stunning. Do you have any great tips?
MRK: I never ask people to smile. I don’t find it natural. I strike up conversation and am goofy and have fun. And I always say “Feed your eye.” Go to museums and galleries and look at art books. Learn about cropping and angles. In this digital world I still think it’s important to take a film class and learn how to shoot with film. It helps you see shades and hues and understand light. My dad was an amateur photographer and gave me my first camera and talked to me about framing a photo.
Serendipity: Who has mentored you over the years?
MRK: My parents are Holocaust survivors. They lost everything in the war and came here with nothing and became successful. In my household, there was nothing you couldn’t do—you’ll figure out a way to do it. And that’s what I tell my girls—to follow their passion and do what they love. And I think that’s what they did by starting the blog The New Potato (thenewpotato.com).
Serendipity: What professional advice have you given your daughters?
MRK: Follow your passion. You’ll figure it out. Do what you love. It’s important to wake up in the morning and love your job. I’ve been lucky. I wake up in the morning inspired.
Serendipity: What’s it like working with your husband?
MRK: It’s so interesting. We balance each other. I’m like, “Let’s do this! Let’s do that!” He reigns me in. He’s brilliant and also very artistic and is great at merchandising, marketing, operations and sales. I always have new ideas, and he makes them a reality.
Serendipity: When did you know you had “made it”?
MRK: When I am in a store and a woman walks in with a friend, not realizing I am Monica, and turns to her friend and says, “You know she started out as a photographer…” and tells her my story. It’s the biggest compliment! I love my customers.
Serendipity: How many of your clients are repeat customers?
MRK: A huge percentage. Once you give one of our pieces as a gift or you wear it, you want more. We’re a happy company. When you give someone a “carpe diem” necklace, you’re giving something that says, “You go girl—seize the day.”
Monica’s 10 Favorite Places in CT AND NYC
1. Le Pain Quotidien (various locations)
2. Bedford Post Inn in Bedford, NY
3. Personal Training Professionals in New Canaan, CT
4. Soul Cycle in Westport, CT
5. Mitchells and Richards in Greenwich, CT
6. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in Columbus Circle
7. Sant Ambroeus in the West Village
8. Bergdorf Goodman in Midtown East
9. Nick & Toni’s on the Upper West Side
10. The Polo Bar in Midtown East