Alex Monroe graduated from London Met's The Cass in 1989 and now runs his own critically acclaimed jewellery business, Alex Monroe, selling his distinctive, quirky pieces all over the world. He has collaborated with many major brands including Nike, Anthropologie and the National Trust, designed fabrics for Liberty, won awards and written books. He still has fond memories of his art school years at The Cass where he undertook a jewellery and silversmithing degree.
Can you tell us a bit about your educational background and what you were doing before joining The Cass at London Met?
I’d finished a foundation course in art at Ipswich Art School and was working as a groundsman.
What attracted you to London in particular?
You obviously never went to Ipswich in the 1970’s...
What made you choose London Met and The Cass?
It was in London and they taught jewellery and silversmithing. In those days you got a grant and help with your rent and a travel allowance. It was an easy choice.
What were the facilities and the tutors like in the art school then?
I’ve no idea what it’s like now, but back in the 1980’s it was the best place in the world. Amazing facilities and even more amazing tutors.
What was your favourite piece of equipment at The Cass and why?
The spinning machine! It was so incredibly dangerous but when you got it right it was just fantastic. If you got it wrong… disaster!
Did you get to do much practical work or an industry placement on the course?
We did so much practical work. In those days it was a four-year sandwich course so I did a year out in industry.
What did you like best about your course?
Everything. It was incredibly technical, we learnt perfect bench skills, argued what art and design meant and made amazing things.
Did anything surprise you about your course or The Cass?
Just how good it was. And the tutors were incredibly generous in sharing their knowledge.
Can you tell us a bit about your jewellery business and how you’ve built it up since graduating?
I started out in a tiny shared workshop off the Wandsworth Road designing and making jewellery. Since then I’ve moved a few times and grown the business. I have built workshops, shops and offices in London to house our press, sales, e-commerce, retail and manufacturing departments. The business is now a limited company. We employ a great many people both in London and across the UK. We have many hundreds of stockists across the UK and internationally. We design for film and TV. Our signature designs are popular worldwide and we are often asked to collaborate with companies like Nike, Anthropologie, Buckingham Palace or the National Trust. I’ve written books, designed fabrics for Liberty… lots of fun things.
We understand you’ve won some awards – can you give us more details?
I’m not 100% sure but lots of Exporter of the Year, Designer of the Year, best boutique and e-commerce of the year sort of thing. Lots of awards for our buildings too.
What are your best tips for new students?
Enjoy it. It’s a really fun world to work in. Remember that success is getting to wherever you want to. It’s not gauged by size or sales, but whether you’re doing what you want to be doing.
What’s your favourite London spot and why?
Chelsea Physic Gardens. Drawing and inspiration and then a cup of tea in the café.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your time at The Cass that isn’t covered above?
I loved every minute of it.