Launching in the midst of a global pandemic and yet still amassing an army of cool-girl fans is no mean feat. But it’s all in a day’s work for Monika Young, the owner and Creative Director of Monika the Label. I had the opportunity to talk to Monika about building her brand and all of her small business recommendations last year, but she has become a firm friend since and I’m constantly in admiration of her ability to wear and style her pieces in amongst the rest of her enviable wardrobe in the most covetable of ways!
It’s time to make your morning coffee/afternoon tea/evening glass of something delicious, and have a read as PARROT catches up with Monika the Label.
Hi Monika! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat to PARROT Talks! Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Hi! I’m Monika and I’m a 25 year old designer from London and I recently joined the self employed/ business babe crew and launched a sustainable womenswear brand, Monika the Label, last summer!
How did Monika the Label first come to fruition? Was it always a dream of yours to have your own fashion label?
Oh for sure, it has always been a huge dream of mine, however I never thought it would be so soon! I always thought it would be much later on down the career path I’d venture into something of my own. Up until I moved home last summer, I worked in fashion buying out in Berlin at one of Europe’s biggest fashion ecommerce websites. For the most part I loved it there and I would highly recommend living in Berlin. I even see myself moving back at some point. It’s the bloody best for young creatives! However I worked in the fast fashion department and saw first hand how that area of the industry was detrimental to the planet and I began to educate myself further and further on how we can do better. A company restructure also left my job in a weird limbo so I decided it was a sign from the universe and time for a big change. I ended up handing in my notice and moving back home to make a start on Monika the Label. And I guess the rest is history!
Monika the Label has a really strong (and gorgeous!!) aesthetic – can you talk us through some of the inspirations behind the brand and the pieces?
Ah thank you so much! Monika the Label is a love affair between Cali cool and London grunge. Inspired by all the best parts of the ‘70s and the badass women of rock and roll, we design sustainable clothes for wild-hearted women who want to make a change and feel pretty damn cool when they do it. I feel like I’ve created my own dream wardrobe which is mad, it really is an extension of my own style. The label is also strongly influenced by vintage fashion and silhouettes, which I’ve updated with a modern twist. Even down to the prints, which I hand-drew myself, a lot of them derive from my obsession with the seventies – the Camille dress for example was inspired by a vintage scarf I found at a Berlin flea market last year.
The process of building and creating a brand is a long one! When was Monika the Label first dreamt up and what was the process like as you worked towards the launch?
I think the initial idea came into my head probably during my last year of uni when I ventured out to California for the first time to attend Coachella (it was such an amazing trip but a word of advice, don’t book a huge holiday for two weeks before the biggest deadline of your university career!) and I fell in love with Cali as we spent some time exploring before heading out to the festival. I’ve always been a huge advocate for free spirited, boho 70 style and fashion and I really felt like I was in my element out there. From the gorgeous Malibu beaches, to dusty desert dreaming out in Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. I also noticed over the last few years a gap in the UK/European market for such a style and decided to have a go at it and give it my own, sustainable twist.
In terms of the process of working up to the launch, well 2020 was the year of the unexpected to say the least. The pandemic hit just as I was about to go into production and everything came to a grinding halt. I was gutted and trying to set up a business during such a strange and uncertain time is unnerving, it took some getting used to but I guess in the end it did have its ‘silver linings’. At the very start of lock down I was able to take a step back and reevaluate the label and the direction I wanted to go with it. The extra time stuck at home also allowed me to focus on areas of the brand besides production, such as branding, marketing, social media and the website and get them all just right! I was in a fortunate position where I could give them all my undivided attention for a number of months which wouldn’t have been the case without lockdown .
What have been some of the highlights so far?
I bloody love seeing people in my designs, I don’t think that will ever get old! Also over lockdown, I really feel like the world became more digitally connected than ever and encouraged more partnerships and collaborations to bloom via the internet. It’s been amazing connecting with so many amazing, like minded creatives along the way. Last autumn, I launched a new campaign shot out in LA that came to fruition thanks to the world of instagram. Another highlight is working with one of the UK’s largest rental platforms, By Rotation. At MTL, style and sustainability is at the heart of what we do and we’re stoked to be featured on a platform that is transforming the way we consume fashion in a forward thinking , diverse and planet friendly way. By allowing the option to rent MTL products (at a fraction of the price) enables the brand to be a contributor to a more sustainable and circular economy.
Are there any elements of running the brand that you struggle with, or still finding your feet with?
I think this is something you might be able to relate to at PARROT being a solo biz owner, but something I’m still finding my feet with is having to wear many, many hats (and I’m not talking fedoras haha) – from design, merchandising, marketing, social media, admin, packing and distribution, the list goes on! I hand wrap and post out each and every order myself ( I love leaving a little personal note inside <3) and I’ve had to learn a lot of things quite quickly too in order to keep on top of things, but I’m getting there ! I’m also getting better at maintaining a healthy work life balance and knowing it’s ok to switch off and relax to avoid burning out! It’s so easy to put an unnecessary amount of pressure on ourselves.
PARROT Talks is all about shouting about small businesses! Can you give us some recommendations and favourite small businesses?
For sure! Over lock down and generally while setting up Monika the Label I’ve got to know so many incredible small businesses, including PARROT 🙂
My other recommendations would be:
These are only a fraction of the indie brands I love, my list could go on forever!
And finally, what should we get excited to see next from Monika the Label?
I won’t reveal toooo much but keep your eyes peeled! I’m just about to start designing my next big collection coming out in the Spring. It’s been great getting back to the drawing board and working on the next big project.
Thank you Monika for being part of PARROT Talks! You can shop Monika’s amazing sustainable, UK made dresses, logo tee’s, co-ords and accessories here. If you’re anything like me, you won’t have made it through this post without wanting something!
Readers of this post can use MTL15 on PARROT London for 15% off until 12/02/21.