‘I want to create beautiful objects without having a negative impact on the earth,’ Monique Péan explains in the office boardroom of Adjaye Associates, where her remarkable new Atelier collection is laid like a glittering feast across the table.
This eco-friendly philosophy permeates her practice, from the recycled materials she chooses and the local artisans she employs in New York City, to her outreach programme that helps to build clean water wells across Africa. In return for environmental consciousness, it seems the earth repays her with an abundance of inspiration. Péan travels extensively to remote locations, most recently Antarctica, searching for naturally occurring phenomena (shapes, erosions, colours and textures) that she can artfully replicate in her designs.
Monique Péan’s New York studio, featuring furniture she has collected or designed
The natural world also appears throughout Péan’s collection in a very literal sense, through fossilised dinosaur bones. ‘They really are like nature’s paintings,’ she says, pointing to a bold necklace featuring a large, highly-polished fossilised disc. The deep grey colouring is flecked with moments of white, telling an ancient story in an animated, highly contemporary way.
Alongside these, Atelier sees a more focused emphasis on diamonds than previous collections, inspired by the icy, arid landscapes seen on her travels. Hexagon, trillion, waterfall and rose cuts are favoured, contrasting the organic, rough-edged fossils.
Sustainable grey Tahitian pearl arch ring with white diamond pavé and 18ct recycled white gold
Whether raw or refined, each stone is held by a structural, architectural framework. ‘I’m interested in shadows and the interaction between positive and negative spaces,’ Péan offers. This spatial awareness is crucial to the collection. Theatric, arched ring settings hold the industrial diamonds in suspense. Precise lines of antique pavé diamonds pause mid-way across the wrist on slim silver bangles. Angular shapes gently touch and overlap, creating geometric puzzles at the end of each earring.
Rather than fighting each other, the natural and manmade elements form a double act, proving that both forces can coexist quite happily – if treated with as much care and creativity as Péan applies.