Meet a fashion-forward entrepreneur putting down roots for her family.
Photograph: Catriona Turner
Text: Catriona Turner
When Italian Yvonne Montrone considered the move from glamorous Shanghai to settling in Esbjerg with her Danish husband, Ian, in 2017, it seemed an easy decision for their family of five. But leaving behind the business, she had poured herself into? That was a tougher transition.
“Ian and I met in Germany, where he was working as a designer, and I was a buyer for the same fashion retailer,” she explains. “We lived in Copenhagen for a while, and our oldest daughter, Zoë, was born there. Then, in 2012, Ian got an offer from a big retailer in Shanghai.”
Life in Shanghai was “an intense period. After 18 months, our second daughter, Cloë, was born, and our third, Nera, came 16 months after that. I was on a rollercoaster ride of life as an expat, and a mom, and with a growing family. But I felt like I wasn’t developing. I had left behind a great career, and I needed a challenge.”
That was when she conceived the jewellery brand, With Love from Zoë. Yvonne had so much success at craft markets that she and Ian opened a boutique selling both clothing and jewellery. “The business was in a really good position when I left, so it was sad, because we had built this great customer base which was almost impossible to keep.”
Pulled back to Esbjerg
But they were craving cleaner air and connection to family, so they set their sights on Esbjerg, where Ian grew up. “Ian really loves Esbjerg” says Yvonne, and he chimes in: “I’ve left Esbjerg many times for a job, but I always end up coming back!”
Yvonne was convinced there was potential to recreate what she had begun in China, so she started with home parties where she sold her With Love From Zoë jewellery. Soon they opened a small shop, adding clothing to the range, and now they have a bigger store, Nobelz, on Skolegade, where they display their own creations as well as unique brands that aren’t available anywhere else in Europe.
But she’s keen to stress that Nobelz is “more than just a shop.” As well as a growing focus on online customers, she offers private events, “so that customers have the chance to get out with their friends, and shop over a glass of wine.” It’s an important strategy in adapting the business to succeed in a smaller city. “There is less traffic for the shop here, which is one of the biggest challenges. But it’s a positive challenge because we know there is potential.
“We strongly believe that we can grow here, and we can stand out. That’s a great part of being in Esbjerg.”
"Living here as a family, it's beautiful. I don't feel so restless any more. Now, I feel rooted."
Fresh air and family
The other great benefit is the lifestyle. “Living here as a family, it’s beautiful.” They moved to be closer to Ian’s family, and they certainly achieved that – the children live right next door to their cousins! “And I love being close to the beach, for all that fresh air and outdoor living we needed,” says Yvonne.
Does Esbjerg feel like home now? “It became home because I have my family here.” But having grown up between Italy and Germany, she says, “I have felt a bit restless – I feel 100% Italian, but there’s also part of me in Germany. I can be home anywhere in the world where I have my husband and kids. But what I appreciate having now is a base for my family.” She exhales deeply, with a sense of calm. “I don’t feel so restless any more. Now, I feel rooted.”
You can check out the range and order online at nobelz.dk