Made from fabrics and beads from far-off locations such as India and Guatemala, Monique mixes the traditional with the contemporary, and creates pieces reflecting our sisterly bonds through knots, but individuality through the final product.
Can you describe what kind of family you grew up in and how that contributed to your development as an artist?
I was born to a Canadian mum and a Jamaican dad. Braiding hair was always a part of my culture, and I used to spend hours upon hours, just braiding hair with women from the community. In a lot of my pieces I use weaving, knotting and braiding techniques, which come directly from the culture. I also enjoy and appreciate the colourful aspects of the culture: The fabrics, clothing and African influence. Being around strong, independent women also made me who I am today, and made me appreciate women in communities.
What is the story behind the name for your business?
As women, we have a story to tell. My pieces reflect our individuality: IMoniq, IKristin, IOprah hopefully! (laughs) Women being themselves and doing great things is the inspiration for my business name.
How did you get into making jewellery?
I’m a graduate of Fashion Design from Ryerson University. On a trip to India, I fell in love with the people, colours and fabrics. I witnessed things being made by hand on the streets of Chennai and New Delhi. I remembered why I had gotten in to fashion in the first place: That personal touch! I wanted to create something different, so I started collecting scarves and textiles. I cut them apart and sewed them with beads and crystals. Then, I took them to UPC Boutique in Yorkville and Chassegardee on Queen Street West for feedback.
When did you first realize this was what you wanted to do for a business?
When I started to see that people wanted the stuff! Then the artist became the businesswoman.
What was your first significant life changing moment while travelling?
Last year I went to Guatemala. It was my first real experience as a foreigner, collaborating with local female artists. I had a bird’s view of the Guatemala City dump, which is miles upon miles of garbage. It smelled like gasoline, and I could see a lot of movement in the garbage. At first I thought it was birds or animals, but then I realized it was people! They were foraging for things. A lot of the women who I worked with lived there. My one thought after seeing that was “What can I do?”
What impact do you think I’Moniq is having on the world or your community?
In Guatemala I work with a women’s collective called Creamos. They make recyclable jewellery. The average salary without us trading is about $7 per day. By buying their products and collaborating with them artistically, I’Moniq is able to empower and motivate these women, and make tangible improvements in their lives.
Why is it important to you to honor the cultural practices of the people you meet on your travels?
We’re all people, whether we’re women or mothers. We want the best for ourselves and our children. It’s important to respect where we all come from, so we can work together.
What advice would you give to any entrepreneur wanting to launch a business?
Make sure you have some savings. Don’t be too quick to quit your day-job! There is no rush. You should put your product out there without having to worry about making money off of it.
What did you wish you knew before you started your business?
To not over-think things. Just show your products to people. Don’t be a perfectionist. Realize your product is a vehicle for something bigger and better, and just promote it.