Mona Akhavi wasn't always a leader in luxury goods. The entreprenuer started her career in technology after earning her degree in mechanical engineering from the University of British Columbia, followed by an MBA from Simon Fraser University. Her first foray into the world of tech was to help brands grow their e-commerce presence, leading her to found her own start-up—a technology platform that helped brands capitalize on influencer marketing. "Fashion and technology are my two biggest passions, but I also wanted to work on things that enable a better future for our planet and for our society," Akhavi says.
Her current role as the CEO of VRAI—the lab-grown diamond brand backed by Leonardo DiCaprio, that’s likely taken your Instagram feed by storm—is doing just that. VRAI's diamonds are produced using hydropower in the Pacific Northwest, with zero mining involved. Their parent company, Diamond Foundry, created its own zero-emission technology that releases no greenhouse gases during the production process, and became Certified Carbon-Neutral in 2017. "There is all this wonderful opportunity that comes up if you align yourself with your values,” Akhavi says.
Since Akhavi took the reins at VRAI in September 2019, the brand has expanded exponentially. They've branched out to both Europe and Asia, while gathering a celebrity following that includes names like Gwen Stefani, Justin Bieber, and Jennifer Lopez.
"Consumers are demanding that brands showcase the origin of their products and that they are transparent when it comes to sourcing and the supply chain," Akhavi explains; Vrai offers that.
As a consumer herself, Akhavi's own style philosophy is aligned with sustainable values. We sat down with the busy CEO to hear about her mix-and match formula for building outfits, her love for layered jewelry, and how discovering new, slow fashion brands is a big part of her shopping experience.
Her Morning Routine
I try to be up around 6 or 6:30 a.m, L.A. time—both myself and VRAI are based here. We have remote teams in Europe and Asia that I speak with early in the morning and the day can get quite hectic very fast. Before I start work, I try to get in a session of yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Having an hour to balance and center myself is really important. After meditating, I do 30 to 40 minutes of cardio on the Peloton —it gets my energy up for the day. Then I have coffee of course, which is a big part of my morning. Whether I’m at home or going out for coffee, I seek out organic beans.
After my coffee, I start with my skin routine. Colleen Rothschild has incredible products with natural ingredients. Her daily vitamin C serum keeps my skin happy for the day.
If I’m at home, I'll make a plant-based smoothie. It always has ginger, carrot, beets, kale, coconut milk and all sorts of berries in it, from raspberries to blackberries to strawberries. You have to get the antioxidants in!
Her Personal Style
I choose clothes that make me confident in my own skin, which in turn makes me feel comfortable. I tend to gravitate towards styles that are sleek and edgy, with a touch of fun glam.
Her Getting Dressed Process
I still get ready as if I'm leaving for work, even if I'm at home. I feel like that really sets you up for the day. If I’m traveling to visit one of VRAI's partners or showrooms, I pack a few essentials that are easy to mix-and-match. Accessories really set the tone for my outfit and I love layering them—pairing mixed metals together or sporting mixed diamond shapes. You can really dress an outfit up or down depending on which accessories you choose.
Her Work Uniform
My go-to pieces are blazers and a sleek, sculptured dress in a solid color. I usually have my statement diamond VRAI necklace on and a stack of rings. I love matching my shoes to my jewelry. I like to wear very colorful, but comfortable, stilettos.
When I'm taking calls from home I pay more attention to my earrings. They inject some fun and excitement into a remote work situation.
Her Shopping Philosophy
When I'm shopping, I'm always looking at how pieces are being sourced in addition to the supply chain. The supply chain is really where you see the most impact on the the community and how the production of that particular product affects the people and surrounding environment.
I love the designer Gabriela Hearst. Her sustainability principles completely resonate with me and her designs are timeless, yet modern.
My other go-to is Maison de Mode which was founded by Amanda Hearst, who is one of our partners. They’re one of my favorite ethical fashion retailers. They curate a unique selection of sustainable ready-to-wear and accessories brands. I keep on discovering new brands on the site.
The Piece That Makes Her Feel Empowered
Hands down, my tennis bracelet makes me feel invincible. This is the one piece that is with me through everything, from my morning routines to surfing and skiing to weddings and dinner events. It's durable and comfortable to wear and it offers the perfect amount of glam.
Shop Mona's Wardrobe
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Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based journalist, editor and author. She is the morning editor at Marie Claire, and her work has appeared in the likes of InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Bustle and Shape. Iris writes about everything from celebrity news and relationship advice to the pitfalls of diet culture and the joys of exercise. She has many opinions on Harry Styles, and can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.
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