Costume Jewelry: Monique Pean Talks Her Creations for La La Land

Dale Robinette

The jewelry designer answers our questions about the stunning pieces she created for Emma Stone's character in Damien Chazelle's new film.

La La Land, Damien Chazelle's exuberant love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood musicals, is a visual feast befitting the genre. No detail is left unconsidered—midcentury furnishings, retro cars, and ’50s-inflected fashions are all shot in lush technicolor hues. That eye for style extends to the smallest elements, including Emma Stone's jewelry, which Monique Pean designed specially for the film. More than just embellishments, however, Pean’s creations help tell a story: As Stone's character, Mia, rises from an aspiring actress to a full-fledged leading lady, so too do her gems evolve, going from delicate gold bands to statement pieces with standout diamonds. Best known for her work with fossilized materials, Pean had never worked in a costuming capacity before. We spoke with Pean about her experience creating the sparkling flourishes for the film.

How did you come across this project?
I was introduced to Damien, whose work I've admired over the years, by Fred Berger, one of the film's producers.

What attracted you to La La Land in particular?
The story resonated with me, particularly Sebastian's character [Ryan Gosling] and the dilemma he faces between staying true to his music versus pursuing a more commercially successful path. I was similarly attracted to the concept of a modern musical set in Los Angeles and thought that while it would be difficult to pull off, Damien would make it spectacular!

What did you take into consideration when designing these pieces specifically—as opposed to one of your own collections?
I spent a lot of time discussing Emma's character with [costume designer] Mary Zophres, Damien, and Fred to get an understanding of her character's progression throughout the film and imagined the type of pieces that she would be drawn to. It was amazing working with Mary and collaborating on Mia's fine jewelry looks with her. The idea for an aquamarine pendant came from Emma as she felt that Mia's character was a Pisces.


Courtesy Monique Pean

Were there any specific inspirations other than the film itself?
The pieces in the film could comfortably sit within my Atelier Collection, so on a certain level my own inspirations had an influence, but the overarching direction was from the film itself and I added a classic Art Deco twist.

How do you think jewelry factors into character building?
Jewelry does not usually overtly factor into character building but can add subtle hints about a given character's personality. It can signal whether a character is more introverted or extroverted, more classic or avant-garde, etc.

Can you describe some of the key pieces you designed for this?
Most prominent is Emma’s aquamarine pendant that features recycled white-diamond pavé and 18-karat recycled yellow gold. Some of the other pieces that she wears include a white diamond engagement ring featuring an antique hexagonal diamond and recycled platinum, and an asymmetrical rose cut diamonds bracelet comprised of antique white diamonds. These pieces were very exciting to create for Mia's hero moments of the film!

Will any of these pieces be available for purchase?
I expect that some of these pieces will be available for purchase and will keep you posted!