Monica Sordo was well on her way to becoming a designer long before she knew the journey had begun. Although this path may have been unsurprising to those close to her given Monica’s precise eye and affinity for curating scale, purpose, and comfort in her surroundings – from creative output to personal style and decor choices. These talents that come so naturally for her are precisely what led to manifesting the eponymous jewelry collection she first launched in 2012 following a return home to her birthplace.
Born in Caracas, she left to study abroad at an early age in Milan at the Istituto Marangoni. After university, she initially settled in Madrid, where her first fashion industry role began at Marie Claire magazine before taking a teaching position at the Instituto Europeo di Design. Throughout her stay in Madrid, she began to question this trajectory, believing her purpose might be on the other side of the fashion styling and merchandising coursework she studied. On a voyage back to her native Venezuela, Monica found herself re-immersed in the influences of her father’s industrial design workshop and her mother’s creative sensibility while becoming reacquainted with the breathtaking scenery that now finds its way into every collection she conceives. This auspicious timing at home is what cemented Monica’s desire to shift direction and pursue what is now clear to be her lifelong calling: to create timeless, collectible objects that pay homage to the heritage, landscape, and craftsmanship of Latin America.
“When I was a baby and growing up, we had a weekend home an hour away from the city on the coast of central Venezuela. The house was at the very tip of a mountain and overviewed the majestic open Caribbean sea. This house was handmade from scratch by my father and grandfather, who became my biggest influences. That view is part of who I am is a memory that is part of my hard drive; the way the mountains drop into the sea and draw a sharp yet organic line in between a green and blue block is just so powerful.”
Moving to New York City in 2009 to take a position with Christian Louboutin, she simultaneously studied Jewelry Design at the Gemological Institute of America. The influence of the city’s Art Deco architecture shaped her work, adding another layer to the collective elements – both naturally occurring and man made – that shape her renowned designs. Monica’s signature, oversized pieces occupy equal space between sculpture and sophisticated statement accessories.
Monica is committed to sustainably crafting jewelry alongside a team of artisans in Peru – specifically from San Juan de Lurigancho, one of Lima’s most underprivileged districts. As a firm believer in contributing to a more equitable society, Monica works with a Fair-trade International-certified atelier to ensure a safe work environment exists to foster younger talent in their pursuit to master valuable crafts such as these. In merging her innovative design practice with ancestral crafting techniques, she infuses new purpose into ancient traditions for future generations to cherish.
With a new venture into designing home decor on the horizon, Monica is determined to continue working with Latin American artisans to guarantee the same craftsmanship is upheld. “I’ve been so attracted to lighting and have been studying about it over the past months, so the first collectible objects we will be launching are wall lamps as we introduce glass as our newest medium. I’m very excited as this project gives me the opportunity, or better said, has pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me explore new territories. These first objects are currently being developed in Mexico City and Oaxaca.”
As a Latin American brand committed to the same ethical and sustainable practices, Dan Cassab is honored to present Monica Sordo for our Voices series.
DC: Could you tell us a bit about your early creative influences and your journey to where you are today?
MS: I grew up surrounded by metals, woods, and tools in my father’s industrial workshop… Well, workshops! The workshop would move with us from home to home and kept growing ….it has always been his hobby. I was the girl and the boy in the house, and as much I liked fashion since I was little, I did spend more time with him fixing something or putting a super cool project together for school than with dolls, shopping, or in dance classes. A decade after I left home to study in Milano, I realized what a big impact this experience had on me, and I began to suspect that my calling lay elsewhere, returning south to the heartland.
I started developing my first pieces in collaboration with him and my mom, who has developed a new career as a silversmith after her retirement. Surrounded by their creative sensibility, I embarked on this quest of forging collectible pieces that explore the pursuit of permanence through design, heritage, and craftsmanship.
DC: Growing up in Venezuela, you were surrounded by beautiful landscapes which still inspire the MS collections today. What are some of your earliest memories of these places? How did you approach the initial transformation of such poignant visuals into designed objects and jewelry?
MS: When I was a baby and growing up, we had a weekend home an hour away from the city on the coast of central Venezuela. The house was at the very tip of a mountain and overlooked the majestic open Caribbean sea. This house was handmade from scratch by my father and grandfather, who became my biggest influences. That view is part of who I am is a memory that is part of my hard disk, the way the mountains drop into the sea and draw a sharp yet organic line in between a green and blue block is just so powerful.
I could go on and on about visual memories from when I grew up. But I always like to mention that the arrival of modernism to Latin American happened through Venezuela. Caracas was the Mecca of Mid Century Architecture and Design and played a fundamental role in the Kinetic Art Movement. Jesus Soto’s public penetrable sculptures were my playground; Calder decorated the ceilings of the theater hall we frequented on Sundays. I met Bruno Munari as a kid and played with him and his mobile sculptures when he visited as part of a cultural program at a bank where my mom used to work in marketing. There is a video of this! I have to share it with you!
DC: Your personal style is always effortless, structural, and timeless… Much of the imagery in your campaigns and content you share – both personal and inspiration – comes from the same place…rooted in your creativity. What can you share about this?
MS: I like being comfortable. I’m comfortable if I look elegant, I’m comfortable if I’m not wearing makeup, but my skin looks and feels great. I’m comfortable when I’m wearing great fabrics, I’m comfortable wearing clothes that fit my body right, I’m comfortable wearing light yet bold jewelry…this is the definition of being timeless and effortless; to be comfortable in your own skin. No time or era defines my style because it is very personal as my day to day inspiration lies in my roots and my own experiences. Even though there are many many layers of how this influences my work and my style…what can be more effortless and timeless than our roots?
DC: Does design run in your family? Who might you credit with playing a significant role in shaping your creative disciplines?
MS: I have mentioned my parents already a few times! Even though they dedicated their careers to more corporate yet creative and successful positions, they always loved design. They were autodidacts in the new fields and passions they wanted to explore, which I find fascinating. As a matter of fact, I didn’t go to design school either; I did economics and fashion merchandising…so I guess it runs in our blood! They are my biggest mentors and role models. From my dad, I learned about precision, manufacturing processes, quality, and team management… from my mom, I learned to develop my sensibility and find beauty even in the most unexpected places.
DC: You have mentioned a potential venture into sculpture and home. Can you share a bit about the direction you are taking? When and where will you show your work?
MS: I am happy to announce that we are finally working in full on this project very organically and taking the time to really understand how to scale up from our tiny pieces of jewelry. I am learning how to transition into a more multifaceted creator and detach naturally from the jewelry designer persona without losing our DNA and making sure to get our current Peruvian artisans involved. Keeping the craftsmanship from the region is one of the main focuses. I’ve been so attracted to lighting and have been studying about it for the past months, so the first collectible objects we will be launching are wall lamps as we introduce glass as our newest medium. I’m very excited as this project gives me the opportunity, or better said, has pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me explore new territories. These first objects are currently being developed in Mexico City and Oaxaca.
DC: What have you learned about your process through your more recent work? How has your approach from concept to creation changed?
MS: These past 10 months have been extremely challenging. I always thought: What would I do the day I can not visit my artisans and workshops in Lima? As I develop hand in hand with them. Unfortunately, that day arrived due to a global pandemic that paralyzed yet awakened the world in many ways.
I did realize I was so dependent on being there and micromanaging to develop new ideas, which kept me away from new projects and evolving. It was time to develop new communications tools with the team and profit from the creative flow and outstanding quality and trust we have developed in the past 5 years working together. So I will say I have learned to delegate, trust my team, and work with more time in smaller collections.
DC: What is the most important thing you consider before introducing something new into the world of your own creation?
MS: Volume, Weight, and Functionality
DC: Does living in New York play a major role in your creative process? How has your time in Miami impacted your approach to work differently?
MS: It definitely has! You can see in my first collections a strong Art Deco influence. With time though, I understood that the Art Deco movement was born through the composition of earlier ones such as cubism, futurism, De Stijil, and many others… So to that point, New York allowed me to not just have access to some of the most amazing art collections in the world, keep training my eye and my own style, but it also gave me that energy and mojo that is hard to explain but makes you so creative and strong.
On the other hand, Miami has helped me be more eloquent in the more organic discourses that characterize my latest work. There is that Caribbean vibe and the feeling of being closer to home. The mesmerizing and dramatic sunsets have even made us evolve into a new core color palette.
DC: How do you stay motivated? What is the most important part of your day?
MS: Being more mindful has become my main motivation. It is not an easy task, but it is so refreshing to nurture yourself with this practice.
Favorite local coffee shop or restaurant:
La Natural (Mia)
Your signature drink order:
Fresh orange juice with a splash of Campari
What you’re reading:
Wherever you go, there you are. by Jon Kabat-Zinn
What you’re listening to:
Favorite museum or gallery:
Spinello Projects (Miami)
In your free time you:
Let the Martha Stewart inside me cook for my family and friends.
Where you find peace:
Where I find peace.