Purple Magazine
— Los Angeles issue #30

mondo mondo

los angeles
jewelry
mondo mondo
natasha ghosn

interview and photography by AMANDA WALL

Twenty jewel-toned rings spread shining across a white table was an image that kept popping up in my Instagram feed. I had to have one. It was a post by Mondo Mondo, a brand I already owned a fragrance from named Center of the World that I purchased in Dallas, Texas. The post about the rings mentioned a weekend store in Highland Park, which seems far away but isn’t, and it was there that I met the designer, Natasha Ghosn, who instantly intrigued me. She has style and she’s smart, a total Eastside girl, and she did it all herself.

AMANDA WALL — So, we met, like, two days ago here at your store, which was very surprising because first of all, I didn’t know you’d be here, and also I didn’t realize Mondo Mondo was just … you. Is it just you?
NATASHA GHOSN — It’s me, and then I have a studio manager who, like, answers my emails and ships orders — I don’t do that stuff anymore. Creatively it’s just me, and then I work with jewelers downtown to produce the jewelry. I make the samples in wax usually.

AMANDA WALL — Oh wow, how does that work?
NATASHA GHOSN — You, like, carve wax or melt it or whatever — it’s called lost wax casting. You can be really precise or melty with it. Then I’ll take it to the jewelers, and they can kind of adjust the settings for me and will make the cast mold, and then they can do production. A lot of jewelers use computer-aided design, which is 3-D modeling. I avoid it.

AMANDA WALL — I know CAD, I went to architecture school. It’s awful.
NATASHA GHOSN — I’ve never even learned it, but I just feel like it sucks the soul out of a piece. I always do it by hand.

AMANDA WALL — I’ve been following you on Instagram for at least two years. How long have you been doing this?
NATASHA GHOSN — It’s hard to say but probably, like, four … or hardcore for, like, three or four years.

AMANDA WALL — What I first noticed about Mondo Mondo was really the packaging of your fragrances, which I was drawn to because I also do packaging. Did you make fragrances first, or jewelry first, or was it all at the same time?
NATASHA GHOSN — Same time. I went to art school, and then worked for a designer in New York for a while. He did sort of jewelry and clothing, but it was really untraditional. I didn’t really learn a lot about design in that job, or business, but I learned about being punk and having a voice and the history of culture. And then I moved to LA to manage a pop-up for him, which ended up being two years. I just, like, never figured out what I wanted to do.

AMANDA WALL — How long have you been here?
NATASHA GHOSN — Nine years.

AMANDA WALL — Nine years?! You’re a legit Angeleno now.
NATASHA GHOSN — I know,I know it’s crazy. I mean, it’s hard to remember, it was kind of a fog of trying to figure myself out. My mom lives in Mexico, and I took jewelry classes there and simultaneously taught myself how to do perfume. They were all things that I was becoming interested in when I lived in New York.

AMANDA WALL — Have you always been in Highland Park?
NATASHA GHOSN — The studio, no. The studio was above Sqirl. It was like … just always this insane brunch line. Highland Park is convenient for work — there are so many restaurants nearby. This space is so chill, and I like keeping it incognito. I can make the inside as nice or dirty as I want.

AMANDA WALL — Why did you want to do your own store? Is it a pop-up?
NATASHA GHOSN — Modo Matto  is, but I want to continue to do Mondo retail here. But it will become something different because I share the space with Shaina Mote. She technically rents half of the space so we’ll do something together probably. My mom had a clothing store my whole life, so I grew up in retail.

AMANDA WALL — So, a physical retail space is important to you?
NATASHA GHOSN — Yeah, I forgot how much I enjoy customers coming in. It’s been a really nice surprise to see the types of customers that come into the Highland Park store. It’s, like, my real people, people that I’ve become friends with. It’s not like this weird disconnect when things are presented to you luxuriously, which is fine. I think it’s really interesting to see what a store does with my product in a certain context. But for me, I think it’s more about a personal, emotional connection.

AMANDA WALL — I’ve noticed that your fragrance packaging has changed a few times. Is it that you always want to switch things up, or was it more trial-and-error?
NATASHA GHOSN — Just growing. The first time, I had minimal resources and didn’t have access to the quantity. That’s difficult if you want to do anything specialized. So, every time I’ve run out of packaging…

AMANDA WALL — You had a chance to redesign?
NATASHA GHOSN — Yeah. I feel like now it’s the most in line with me. The gold caps are new, they’re custom, I made them the same way I make jewelry. We cast it in pewter and then gold-plated it.

AMANDA WALL — It’s great because it references the jewelry.
NATASHA GHOSN — Totally. And I think it draws together the ancient vibe with the, like, sort of glamorous ’80s vibe that I feel like I’ve been riffing on for a while.

AMANDA WALL — I didn’t want to ask you where your inspiration comes from, but are there any strong references that you go to when you’re thinking about jewelry?
NATASHA GHOSN — Yes. I grew up going to Mexico City because my grandparents moved there in the ’40s — so, old Mexican jewelry. My grandpa was an artist and lived in this neighborhood called San Ángel. They lived next door to, like, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. He used to sell his weavings and paintings at this bazaar that’s still there today. It’s called Bazaar Sábado. He shared his stall with this Brutalist jeweler named Pal Kepenyes. So, I was always exposed to that world. It’s very popular on Instagram now and Pinterest. So, I’d say from that to … even, like, my mom’s prime style — now she’s like so chill and relaxed, but I feel like when she was my age, she was obsessed with Christian Lacroix, Fiorucci. Her store in the ’90s was so cool, edging toward, like, a Dead Can Dance vibe. And I feel like those lines draw so much from just ancient jewelry, which I’m obsessed with. It’s so mysterious, so ritualistic, and we don’t really know much about it… I love going to the Met and looking at the jewelry.

AMANDA WALL — I definitely see the Brutalist reference in your work, especially in the ring I just bought. Other pieces have kind of a ’90s hippy vibe, too, though? You did a mood ring.
NATASHA GHOSN — Yeah, like a chic head shop. It was like that more in the beginning. It’s more sophisticated now. I was just at Whole Foods and was smelling the Egyptian musk oil. I love it.

AMANDA WALL — The process of making a fragrance — what is that like? Do you start with notes that you like and want to express, or is it more organic, and you end up somewhere that you didn’t intend on?
NATASHA GHOSN — Sometimes, it’s straightforward, about a certain material that I’m really obsessed with. But usually it’s chasing a fantasy. The way I dress, the way I create anything, and every season with jewelry, too, I’ll just get really obsessed with a certain vibe, which maybe a lot of fashion people do. So, I’m just trying to obtain that unobtainable thing, really. It’s almost like a bubble — you’re, like, trying to catch the bubble, and you touch it, and it pops. It can start with a note and then kind of morph into a story, like a conversation.

AMANDA WALL — Are your fragrances ever based on memories? Or are you going for scents that have no reference?£
NATASHA GHOSN — It’s nostalgic, for sure. I’m very nostalgic. There are some that are more ethereal — I wouldn’t say the future versus the past, but maybe more of a spiritual feeling. They’re very cinematic to me. I love movies, old movies. I love old music. I’m not going to pretend that I like … new stuff. I just can’t. I’m always the odd one out when people put on, like, new rap or whatever. I think I’m always sort of feeling a longing for the past, but I know I’m stuck here.

AMANDA WALL — It’s the same for me. I have very little knowledge of current pop culture.
NATASHA GHOSN — Well, I love modern country.

AMANDA WALL — Okay. That’s pretty fucked-up. My mom loves it.
NATASHA GHOSN — Yeah, I love it. It’s my way of being tapped into pop culture. It’s huge. They still sell tons of CDs.

AMANDA WALL — You mention your mother as a style influence. Did she wear a specific fragrance?
NATASHA GHOSN — I remember she had an Angel phase. By Thierry Mugler, which I thought was so cool. My mom makes everything seem just so cool. Angel’s a weird one because I’m sure back in the day it seemed really cool, and now it’s kind of insane. It’s so sweet.

AMANDA WALL — Yeah, my mom wore Poison. I loved the shape and the dark purple bottle. Are you going to make candles? I would definitely buy a candle from you.
NATASHA GHOSN — Yes. I’m working on it.

AMANDA WALL — I like that your fragrances are unisex. Is your jewelry meant to be unisex? Or do you design it with a woman in mind?
NATASHA GHOSN — I never think of it as for a woman necessarily. I have a list of men I would love to use for a lookbook. But it’s, like, the buyers don’t want to see that.

AMANDA WALL — How do you feel about turquoise?
NATASHA GHOSN — I don’t hate it. There’s this stone that looks kind of like it — it’s like what the Mayans used, a deep blue, deep jade green. But, no, I don’t really like that pastel-y turquoise.
But there are other stones I hate more. I’m so tired of malachite.

AMANDA WALL — I know that you’re from Texas, and you have a fragrance called Cowboy and cowboy-hat jewelry, too. What does this image symbolize to you?
NATASHA GHOSN — Well, a longing for a cowboy! Doesn’t every woman have a cowboy fantasy? Or want to be a cowboy? The scent that I made is super gentle, not very heavy. It doesn’t smell like what an actual cowboy would wear.

AMANDA WALL — It smells like spring.
NATASHA GHOSN — Yeah, I just think of, a gentle man, in a field, chewin’ on grass, whatever — what is it, like hay?

AMANDA WALL — Straw.
NATASHA GHOSN — Straw. Maybe rolling a cigarette. Just, like, a peaceful dude… I think Mondo really works because I can do a lot of different things. I don’t have to hire. Now I feel like I need to start hiring out just, like, because I don’t have the time to do everything — but to really establish the language, I was able to take what’s in my mind and physically make it. Which is really important because then nothing gets lost. You want to find people as psychotic as you are, and then you can just hand it off to them. I feel like the convo destroys it. That’s what I’ve noticed, for me working with other people.

AMANDA WALL — What does Mondo Mondo mean? It’s “world” in Italian, right?
NATASHA GHOSN — Yeah, I feel like there’s an Italian thread going through everything. Italian design I really love. I think there’s some special thing there alchemically that makes them great at design. And just ancient Rome, the vulgarity of it, too — there are a lot of ways I can go with it. Also, it was inspired by this rollerblading sports store in Chicago called Londo Mondo.  I don’t know if it’s still there. I didn’t shop there, but there was this awning that was black and in very bold Helvetica — it was just, like, LONDO MONDO. And I guess also that whole film genre… It’s moved away from that a little bit, but that’s in there. I love camp. I really just love campiness. But
I also love refinement and elegance, so I feel like I’m always sort of balancing it.

AMANDA WALL — What about the jewelry you’re wearing now? You’re wearing four rings, a bracelet, and earrings.
NATASHA GHOSN — I think I’m rebelling against the minimalist thing right now. But sometimes I want to wear nothing. My ring thing is kind of superstitious, or OCD, or something. I will kind of try a formation and see how the week goes, if it’s working, if I’m feeling good about it.

AMANDA WALL — And if something bad happens, you’ll change fingers?
NATASHA GHOSN — Yeah. I’ve been told the middle finger is the Saturn finger. I wear this one on my right hand because I’m not engaged. But then someone told me it could mean you were engaged anyway.

AMANDA WALL — Who told you that? They’re a liar. Do you mix gold tones and silver? Or only wear them separately? I like the idea of it but never feel like I’m really pulling it off.
NATASHA GHOSN — Sometimes. I like it when it’s intentional. But I feel like a lot of times, it’s just being casual about wearing jewelry.

AMANDA WALL — When you make a piece, do you test it out first?
NATASHA GHOSN — I try to. I’m very conscientious about the weight of jewelry and functionality. I lose sleep at night when I feel like something’s not right, and it’s, like, out in the world. Sometimes, the schedule moves so fast that there’s nothing you can do. You can fix it next season.

AMANDA WALL — Do you wear only one of your fragrances, or do you switch between them or go through phases?
NATASHA GHOSN — I switch them up. I go through phases like with jewelry. I think I go back to Cowboy the most, but I also love I Like You in Velvet and Hysteria.

AMANDA WALL — What were you wearing before you made your own fragrances?
NATASHA GHOSN — I love Serge Lutens. I would have, like, five go-tos. I love other fragrances.

AMANDA WALL — Are you going to expand the line?
NATASHA GHOSN — Yes, I’d like it to keep going for a long time. There are a lot of things that I haven’t expressed yet, and these I made, like, five years ago, so I’m in a different place. Though I feel like they occupy a certain function or a tool in my belt. But now, there are other things that I’m interested in, like classical perfume.

END

MONDO MONDO STUDIO
HIGHLAND PARK

 

[Table of contents]

Los Angeles issue #30

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