City A.M. - 16 November 2006

Going it alone with diamonds and furs. Rosa Monckton used to head both Tiffany and Asprey & Garrard but she swaped Mayfair corporates for her own business to support a cause close to her heart, says David Parsley.


It was standing room only at the launch party for Rosa Monckton's jewellery and home accessories business last week, held in the lavish Chelsea mansion of banker and philanthropist John Studzinski.


Monckton, the former boss of both Tiffany and Asprey & Garrard, attracted an impressive list of stars to the launch of, especially considering that, on the same night, Vogue magazine was hosting its annual jamboree.


Monckton got Cherie Blair to rub shoulders with Sir Bob Geldof, Sir Christopher Meyer, William and Ffion Hague and, of couse, her sister-in-law Nigella Lawson. Monckton has spent two years since parting company with Crown jewellers Asprey finding British designers and the funds to develop her new, initially online, business.



I joined Monckton to discover why, having already been at the top of the corporate world of jewellery, she was now starting out on her own.


And when I say on her own I mean it. If you ever buy anything from her collection it will be Monckton who takes the order, packs it and posts it to you. This is very much a business run from the kitchen table of her Sussex home. "I have been in the luxury goods business for more years than I would like to remember," says Monckton.


I've always had a dream that one day I would launch my own company using British designers and craftsmen I had admired both from afar and at close quarters.


'What you are looking at is the realisation of that dream".


Those designers include Alison Winfield-Chislett and Celia Lindsell and craftsmen such as Howard Fenn and Alan Baldwin.


The team produce jewellery priced up to £9,000, down to furniture wax at £10. Oh, and there's a couple of possum fur throws thrown in if you fancy that sort of thing - they're not cruel. Monckton explains, as possum is a pest in New Zealand and culled every year.


Monckton emphasises her collection is "fun" as well as having something for most people's wallet.



"It's a collection I hope will make people feel special and brings something of how I think people should live at home," she says.


For Monckton there is a far more personal reason for the business to be successful than just money. Her daughter. Domenica, has Down's syndrome and Monckton is determined she is taken care of when she is no longer around. "Any parent who has a child with a disability is concerned about their future. So my long term plan is to secure my daughter's future for when I'm not here to look after her.'


As a result of Domenica's condition, Monckton is familiar with many charities that help care for Down's syndrome children and those with other conditions. These charities - Acorn Children's Hospice, Downside Up, The Down Syndrome Education Trust and KIDS will benefit from Monckton's business with 5 per cent of all sales going directly to them.


"That's why I asked John (Studzinski) to be my chairman," she says. "He's an incredibly supportive man and believes in the charities we are trying to help."



And what of working alone? It's a far cry from having armies of staff.


"Well, I'm hoping I'll be successful enough in the not too distant future to employ two or three more people," she says. "And I think my family hope that day will come quite soon."


Monckton's private life has often been scrutinised. As the late Princess Diana's closest friend she frequently finds herself correcting the half-truths about the woman's life but Monckton is more than happy to mention it was the Princess who introduced her to one of the charities her business aims to support.


Given her connections and background, I was unsure how I'd find her. Actually, she's just a businesswoman, like thousands of other one-woman bands trying to make a success of something she truly believes in. Could she earn piles of cash working for another large corporate? Of course, but she's risking her reputation, her money and her quality of family life to be successful in her own right.


I thought, and told her, she might be just a posh woman playing shop. I was wrong about that, very wrong.



Kids enhances the lives of disabled children and their families, by providing them with playgrounds, play schemes, family support, education and home learning.


The Down Syndrome Educational Trust is based in Portsmouth. It advances understanding of Down's syndrome through research and provides information, training and services to promote the development of children with Down's syndrome.


Downside Up improves the quality of life for Russian children who have Down's syndrome. 70 per cent of children born with Down's syndrome in Moscow go into orphanages. And of that 70 per cent more than 10 per cent will die before they are three - from neglect.


Downside Up provides an early intervention and integration centre in Moscow.


The Acorns Children's Hospice, to which the late Princess Diana introduced Monckton, cares for life-limited children and their families in the Midlands.



Perfect Possum

"Lying on top of this enormous possum throw is Aslan. My daughter, Domenica, has Down's syndrome, and Aslan is her guardian leonberger.'


Rosa's Rocks

"I love the plain expanse of silver and gold which holds the topaz ...'


Polish and Oils

"The other day I was rooting through some papers and came across my grandmother's Housewifery Notes from 1911. I loved her receipt for furniture polish. This is based on her personal mixture, a blend of lavender oil and beeswax."


Essential Lavender

"Sold in sets of 3, they are filled with lavender grown deep in the heart of Provence. I use them in drawers and suitcases."


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