Monica Reyes is a Wonder Woman.
Reading Monica's bio, I have to pause for breath. Is there anything that this women doesn't do? Art Director, Mixed Media Illustrator, Wardrobe Stylist, Set Designer, Curator and vintage retail founder, it's no surprise that in her bio this is neatly summarised by the all-encompassing 'multi-faceted creative'.
Long time fans of Monica's dreamy Instagram feed, we were really excited when she came on board for this collaboration. Based in LA, Monica took our Silver Togetherness lace-ups along on her recent trip to Japan where we follow her through industrial backstreets and manicured parkland. Returning home, we talk to Monica about her creative process and extensive sources of inspiration. Radically insightful, welcome to Monica's world.
Interview by Alex Birch, Images by Dan Monick
The more we learn about you, the more enthralled we are. Your creative work spans wardrobe styling, set design and vintage collection through to illustration and art directing. Can you talk us through your creative direction? What drives you? What work most satisfies you?
First thing I tell myself before I embark on a new project that I am either collaborating, partnering, co-creating, or solo creating is, "Is this my truest form… how much time and creative energy will be spent on this? Is this a one time gig or an ongoing gig that will fuel the growth and happiness in our lives?". The second questions I ask myself is “Is this an honest project? Is this moral?". Being kind to others and treating each other with respect is very important to me. Creative Direction doesn’t happen alone, it is fuelled with inspiration by the amazing artists that I am surrounded by. My partner/boyfriend, Dan Monick, being one of them. I always need a solid team that believes in the same ethics as I do, in order to proceed with any project. Great ideas come and go all the time while successful execution with an amazing team will always make a vision come to life.
The work that satisfies me the most is the work that liberates me of any restrictions and limitations for creativity. Being a creative has no category, to me, it’s a way of life, a life I didn’t choose, a life that chose me and I am honored and obligated to that duty. While money and paying bills are very REAL and important factors in our daily lives, and this is what supplements the creative fuel… the drive is to enrich others with inspiration and encourage other artist’s to follow their truest passion while staying honest with themselves and keeping the integrity and value in relationships with others at a high standard. The only way to do this, is by doing this yourself. Leading by example and never faltering even when trying and challenging times seem to be a never ending obstacle walking within the flow of your path, but just remember, these are all blessings and lessons, and God never gives us anything that we cannot handle, He gives us exactly just what we need in order for us to move forward so that we can navigate this life with discernment, wisdom, patience, understanding, and compassion.
We’re really excited about your project Masculine de La FEMME. A portrait series documenting female empowerment and gender equality, the monochrome photographs are intimate and emboldening. Tell us about the projects’ beginnings and where you hope to take it in the future.
My partner/boyfriend, Dan Monick and I co-founded this together during the fall of 2015. I have always loved black and white film portraits, especially the ones that are so timeless, you can’t tell which era they’ve been taken. The graininess, natural light, development of film is all so beautiful, pure, mysterious, and romantic to me. It’s really about documenting an artist having a relationship with herself, while sharing that magical, elegant, and quiet space together. I art direct both the artists and the photographer, while Dan uses his incredible skill of rotating between several different film cameras and co-directing the artists to pose so that he can capture the right vibe and abstract angle that makes us tilt our heads to the side a bit. We encourage the women to wear zero to little make-up, natural lighting, zero retouching or post-production. This allows both the artists and the creators to be honest with each other, and most importantly, with themselves.
In 2016, the political climate and social issues took a pretty dark turn, and we were greatly affected by that. It seemed as though there wasn’t a day or week that went by without some major headlining news about something incredibly sad and or increasingly alarming that we all needed to stop whatever we were doing at that moment to pay closer attention. I made it a point to really open up my time and energy to those important issues, but I had no idea where to start or how to get involved. The only way to be a part of the change is to not be a part of the problem, and by doing so, it was to open up a conversation to re-educate ourselves and others on the consequences of staying quiet. It was necessary for us to expand our platform to female artists to share both thought provoking art and their voice so that we can open up an honest discussion of the underlying suppression that we ourselves cannot fight alone. Doing this has encouraged other women to really support each other with the love and respect that this society seemed to be lacking. We don’t have enough women heroes…. and we need to talk about them and how they are making a positive impact through their art.
Both Dan and I are always evolving, so does Masculine de La Femme…. It changes frequently, but it always goes back to it’s roots of supporting female empowerment and gender equality. We are already so blessed and honored to have been a part of We Choose Art : A Feminist Perspective’s art show (curated and hosted by Baha Danesh) in March 2017 and to have worked with the amazing women on this project thus far. We plan to continue and expand our in-house team (it’s just Dan and I), as there is so much to do, and we can realistically only focus on a few strengths at a time. We would love to meet, interview, and photograph women within politics, climate change, activists, organizers, journalists, cinematographers, photographers, writers, directors, mothers…..you name it. These women are changing the world one conversation at a time, and we want to know them.
Monica wears Silver Togetherness
Your ethereal styling and art direction is so entrancing. Who are some of the people who have inspired you, who have led you to this distinctive aesthetic?
Ah, the list goes on with inspiration. Nature, shadows and shapes, silhouettes and interesting prints play a big role, especially when used in garments that can be worn by both male and female — such as designers like Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, and Issey Miyaki, and one of my best friends Ayumi Shibata —- a true powerhouse and one of a kind. She has a way that always makes people feel so good and positive. Incredible women that represent strength, humbleness, and the necessary voices that never stop, like Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Sally Yates. Other artists like Yayoi Kusama, Pina Bausch, Kathe Kollwitz, Helmut Newton, Andy Warhol, Wes Anderson. Music wise: Joy Division, New Order, Bauhaus, The Savages, Alan Vega, Nick Cave, The Velvet Underground…..
Not to sound biased…. but Dan Monick is also a major inspiration. His work is exactly how I envisioned this project to be. I am very very blessed to have him on this journey with me.
Can you tell us a little about the creative process behind the photographs featuring our Dharma Gold Velvet and Togetherness in Silver Leather? What sort of story are you telling?
The creative process is to be honest and natural. I wear the Dharma Gold Velvet and Togetherness in Silver Leather with outfits I know I’d actually wear in my daily lifestyle. I try not to over think it and I put very little thought in what I wear because of my busy schedule. I kind of have a uniform and it’s usually jeans and a white t-shirt with a favorite worn out jacket, or when in doubt, I wear coveralls, overalls, and jumpers. And I live in those mostly. I am always moving, walking, driving, bending down to pick up something, carrying something, crawling on my knees because I use the floor as my desk sometimes…..so I have to wear something that is comfortable, stylish, and flexible, and also good enough to attend a meeting in between so that I still look put together and not some disheveled mess. The Radical Yes Shoes are PERFECT for that lifestyle, and it makes my mornings and my days go by smoothly.
As for styling —- I always like to pair the Radical Yes shoes with a fun pair of socks that brings focus to the shoe and ties the whole outfit together. I use minimal jewellery, sometimes add a vintage printed scarf, and usually throw on hats like a good Westerlind, Vintage Stetson, or Brixton.
What does being radical mean to you?
Being radical means staying independent, strong, and to follow your own and truest path. Stay creative, productive, and never settle. Be conscious, stand up for yourself and for others, even when you think it isn’t affecting you. Find time to relax and self-reflect, so that you can always share your best self. Take care of yourself, eat healthy, exercise, and have love in your heart —- you’ll need the strength and health to keep going.
Monica wears Silver Togetherness