I was born in Afghanistan and raised in Berlin. We moved to Kenya in 1989, shortly after the Berlin Wall came down. I went to the International School in Nairobi for three years, had the best school years, met great people from all over the world, but made my parents promise to move back to Berlin after their contract was over. (I missed my friends!)
I finished school in Berlin, studied Visual Communications, and decided to do an internship in an ad agency in NYC before getting “stuck” in Berlin. I wrote a bunch of application letters (via normal mail), but never heard back, so my parents encouraged me to fly to NY with my portfolio and apply in person. Aside from the big international agencies I did not know much of the advertising world in NY, so I took the yellow pages when they still existed and cold-called one agency after the other to ask for an interview.
I was in luck and found LPNY, one of the first women-owned agencies in the US. My art direction internship was supposed to last for 10 months, but after a few months they offered me a job and I’ve been in the US ever since.
I loved the agency, my job and the women who ran the agency so much that I stayed for 16 years until we moved to Miami Beach in 2015 for job reasons and a change of scenery! Along the way I met my husband and two children.
How did you and Nilüfer meet?
We met in front of school, picking up our kids. I always noticed Nilu, not just because of her height, but how she carried herself, and because of her style. We smiled at each other, said hi and started talking, and eventually became friends.
Tell us more about your brand. Where do you get your inspiration?
I started Nina Momena during Covid when my “regular” job as creative director slowed down. I have always been fascinated by jewelry and have always loved wearing jewelry. However, I am also allergic to a lot of metals used in costume jewelry, except for stainless steel. I decided to start my own jewelry line just with stainless steel as a base material. Most of my pieces are gold plated which lasts much longer on stainless steel than other materials. It also does not rust or barely tarnishes so you can wear it in water.
"I think most of my inspiration is subconscious or comes from within. I might see something in a painting, a photo or on a person on the street and take that as a starting point in creating something that I would like to wear myself. It helps a lot to get feedback from family, friends and customers as well."
We know you donate to an orphanage in Africa. Can you tell us more about that?
My dad worked in Africa throughout his career and was in Kinshasa in 2015 for one of his deployments. He got the chance to visit the orphanage and was very impressed by the lady who single-handedly runs the orphanage without any government help. He was shaken by the poverty and lack of means yet impressed by the perseverance and joie de vivre of Esther, her crew and the kids at the orphanage.
My dad came back to Berlin and thought about what he could do to help. He started writing to all his friends, describing the situation and asking for donations to the orphanage, no matter how small. He wires all donations directly to Esther and she sends him receipts and photos to document what the money is spent for. Most of the donations are used for school fees and the basic needs of the 65 children and staff.
Luckily the orphanage has a small manioc farm and access to water, so they can sell both to supplement their needs.
I was impressed not only by Esther but also my dad’s grassroots initiative so I decided to help out as well and therefore donate 10% of all my sales to the orphanage.
Do you have any at home rituals to protect our environment?
Not really rituals, but we do recycle as much as we can, drink filtered tap water, only use reusable bags for groceries. We turn off the lights, turn the air conditioner to a reasonable (not frigid) temperature. We conserve water when we shower and try not to use the car too much. We bike or walk when possible.
Do you have any holiday rituals & how do you keep them alive?
I love Germany for Christmas. The dark, the cold, the festive lighting, the Christmas markets, the cookies and everything else. Not easy to recreate that here in Florida, but we have tried to keep some of our German traditions alive. For example, we eat something simple and fast (think hot dogs and German potato salad) on Christmas eve, as we do our gift opening that night. In my family it has always been the case that one has to open their gifts gently (instead of tearing the wrapping paper) while everyone is watching. You can imagine how long it takes until we’re all done.
In Germany we used to buy our tree on the 24th, but we have changed that tradition a bit and now buy the tree a week earlier to enjoy it longer.
Do you prefer champagne or wine?
Champagne of course!
What is your favorite niLuu style?
I love love love love the Harper Pants, my Monroe Kimono and my new Amara Kimono Dress which I like wearing with the black Harper pants. I also really like the Jagger Alyx Wrap Top. Everything’s so amazingly versatile and perfect for travel too!
Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
My parents really liked the midwife at the hospital in Kabul where I was born and named me after her, “Momena”. As a kid I was not a fan of the name as it wasn’t very common, but I love it now and named my jewelry line “Nina Momena”.