Designers / Industry

How We Got Here: Lily and Jenny Monbouquette Pushed Each Other to Dream Bigger


Wrong job, wrong time. Both Jenny Monbouquette and her daughter Lily made moves in their careers that seemed like failures at the time but in hindsight proved essential to their development as a jewelry power team.

For mom Jenny, the gig that wasn’t quite right was working in Los Angeles art galleries as a front-desk “gallerina,” as she puts it. Later on, for daughter Lily, it was a job in New York as a merchandiser for a lifestyle and clothing company. They would speak on the phone as Lily walked home, discussing the good and bad about work and other things in their lives.

During those daily chats, something magical happened, Jenny says. She told Lily about her jewelry-making class and how much she enjoyed making rings using the lost wax process. They talked about Jenny’s creativity and about Lily’s insights into the luxury business, such as customer demand for sustainability, versatility, and specialized elements that make a piece of apparel or jewelry distinctive.

“We had an aha moment during one of those phone conversations when Lily challenged me to design for trends she saw happening in the fashion industry,” Jenny says. “I took her suggestions to heart.”

Monbouquette Jenny Lily
A love of art (and each other) bonds mother-daughter team Jenny and Lily Monbouquette.

Jenny’s primitive prototypes plus Lily’s constructive criticism turned into real products. Today, the Drop and the Hatch are Monbouquette’s signature earring styles and are patented for their unique designs. The mother and daughter’s collaborative process—begun when they were 3,000 miles apart—has resulted in a jewelry brand they are equally proud to co-lead.

They debuted Monbouquette in 2019, based in Los Angeles. They describe the brand as heavily influenced by their favorite artists (including Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, and Ruth Asawa) and offering a playful approach to fine jewelry. What makes Monbouquette stand out from its competition, the women say, are its functional twist, such as moving elements, hidden compartments, and mechanisms that transform a piece, giving the wearer versatility.

The Monbouquette story—the family, not the company—started nearly 40 years ago, when Jenny met her future husband, Hal. She’d grown up in Northern California and graduated from University of California, Berkeley, and was finishing her master’s in art history at UC Davis when she and Hal began dating. “He’s a scientist, and we never would have met if it hadn’t been for graduate dorms,” Jenny says.

Monbouquette earrings
Monbouquette’s Tropix Snapback earrings ($495) can be worn at a two- or three-stone length.

They moved to North Carolina for Hal’s Ph.D. and work. There, Jenny took at job at the North Carolina Museum of Art and had the opportunity to drive New York Times art critic Roberta Smith to area studios, as the reporter didn’t drive. “We visited hundreds of studios, and I learned a lot just watching her in action,” Jenny says.

After the couple relocated to Los Angeles, Jenny floated between galleries, then worked as a curator for Security Pacific Bank, developing its art collection and exhibitions. She and Hal had two children, Max and Lily.

Jenny says that Lily has always been the family’s fashionista. “She’s had a Jackie O sense of style from birth,” Jenny says. “Both my husband and I encouraged her bold and unique sense of style that blossomed while in elementary school to the woman she has become today. Lily continues to teach me a thing or two in the style arena pretty much daily.”

Monbouquette ring
The Swirl Pillbox ring ($385) is a trickster of sorts because the wearer can twist off the lid to reveal a secret compartment.

Lily says her mother’s art collection at home and working in fashion since age 16 shaped her appreciation for creativity. “I’ve experienced the fashion retail world from a lot of different angles, working my way up from the floor in sales to joining the luxury label Rodarte, assisting them in Los Angeles as well as at three New York Fashion Weeks,” says Lily, who graduated from the University of San Diego.

“The first moment I watched a Rodarte model walk down the runway in a look I had seen develop from conception to finished piece felt like the most beautiful, tangible magic. After that, I knew I wanted to be a part of this world.”

Lily took a merchandiser job in New York, but it wasn’t what she hoped for, she says. Thanks to those mother-daughter telephone calls and Jenny’s jewelry class, cofounding a jewelry brand turned out to be the right move at the right time. Jenny and Lily work side by side and say their approach is ideal given the jewelry industry’s shift toward the self-purchasing female consumer.

“We design for kindred spirits,” Jenny says. “Since we are multigenerational, we are thinking of people in their 20s to 60s and beyond who have a strong and unique sense of style but don’t take themselves too seriously. We believe in good design that goes far beyond what meets the eye—products that surprise and delight.”

Top: Monbouquette founders Lily and Jenny Monbouquette say their long daily phone calls between New York and Los Angeles led to their creating a jewelry brand. (Photos courtesy of Monbouquette)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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