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Mia & Mecca are on a Mission to Show Sustainable Jewelry Can Be Modern and Fun

The resin jewelry trend took the internet by storm in 2020. We were all stuck at home and picking up new hobbies left and right. The market became huge, and it seemed like literally everyone was wearing jewelry made out its resin.

But what exactly is resin? The short version: Plastic. Plastic that will be on the planet long after we are.

TikTok made resin crafts extremely popular during the global quarantine in spring of 2020. A lot of people who picked up the hobby found it to ease their anxiety during the trying times, and others found a way to capitalize off of it. The resin art market is estimated to reach $10.3 billion by 2027.

But as the social media platforms continue to become advocates for the environment users began to quickly realize the problems that resin entails. Some people even came up with their own solution.

John Hopkins graduates, Mecca McDonald and Mia Dunn developed a solution for the future. Biodegradable Jewelry. Mo.Na (a shortening of “Mother Nature”) is a New York City based jewelry brand that delivers trendy, colorful and sustainable earrings and necklaces. With two collections, they have amassed 160,000 plus followers between their Instagram and TikTok. 

We had an opportunity to sit and chat with them about their brand and success thus far.

Mia wearing the Besitos XOXO earrings

Savannah/No Kill Mag: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you start?
Mecca: Mo.Na is an idea that I had almost two years ago. Before the summer, I was active on TikTok, and I saw that there was a resin earring trend taking off, and I was like, “Oh no, this is so bad for the environment, what if I could do something like this, but better. What if I could make bio-degradable jewelry?”  That was the inspiration.
I knew Mia through a mutual friend, and we’d had discussions about sustainability in the past. She’s both an artist and studying chemical engineering so I thought she could be a perfect business partner. I reached out to her and told her my idea, and she was open to it. 

Mia:  We started while we were seniors at John Hopkins and initially started selling to the community, which included students but also people in the Baltimore area. We wanted to show through our jewelry that sustainable fashion doesn’t have to look a certain way, that it can also look modern and trendy. Mecca had seen that certain sustainable brands had a specific look that appealed to someone who liked following trends and maybe weren’t thinking much about sustainability. So, our mission was to show them that sustainable fashion can be fun and modern. 

I absolutely agree. Yeah that’s something I –at No Kill Mag– I’ve made it my mission to pull in that gen Z trend following demographic. As you said, we see brands lacking that while hitting the sustainability checkmark. How does your own personal style infiltrate your brand or products?
Mecca: Mia and I are both people who love colorful things. So that is what we focus on because a lot of sustainable alternatives can be brown or dull; I don’t know exactly what.

Mia: In addition to our style, our personal artwork has influenced us a lot.  All the photography you see on our page is through Mecca’s photography business; she has a very distinctive, colorful style. And for me, I do a lot of visual art. Both of these, our illustrations and photography, help with the branding around Mo.Na. 

Bioplastic gummy bears! - a great alternative to resin jewelry
Mecca in Teddies Choker

Along that same line, do your individual cultural backgrounds play into the DNA of Mo.Na?
Mecca: I think our cultures do play a little bit into the design. I’m from Florida, and my parents live in Jamaica. I grew up eating a lot of fruit. So, I think that a lot of what we make is inspired by fruit. The way Mia draws, she does a lot of the graphic designs, and I think that is very Japanese inspired too. 

Mia: Yeah, I did the logo design, cardholders, we’ve done stickers… I do all the illustrations for Mo.Na and my personal art has a lot of Japanese influence. Not necessarily the colors, but usually the layout and the style.

That’s Awesome. What do you wish you had learned before starting out? 
Mecca: How to run a business! I think that many creators and artists have dreams of sharing their art with the world, especially on a large scale, but get trapped in logistics. You can have these wonderful ideas, but executing them and selling them is another thing, outside of creativity.

Mia: Another thing is, we both graduated from John Hopkins, and we didn’t have that many mentors in the fashion space. I think having connections in fashion would’ve been something good to have before we started this brand. We’re still navigating that, so mentorship is definitely another huge thing. 

Bioplastic blue circle earrings - a great alternative to resin jewelry

I think Mia and I became obsessed with failing, especially in the early stages because we knew we didn’t really understand what we were doing. We were trying to develop our product, so we were just like, “let’s get all of the failures out of the way”. It became really fun for us to try new things.

Mecca in the Full Circle Earrings

I’ve noticed you often show “how it started versus how it’s going,” and I think that is a fun play on trends in video sharing but in a BTS of business way. Have the trial and error ever discouraged you from continuing? 
Mia: I mean, for sure there were times when it was discouraging. I don’t think I could do this by myself I think having people around you to keep you inspired is really important. 
Mecca: Yeah, I definitely agree with Mia. I don’t think this is something I could’ve done on my own. There were times when we felt we finally figured out our product, like, “Yes, this is it! This formula is going to work!” And then it’s just a huge disappointment when it doesn’t. Now Mia and I are just like, “eh whatever” because it usually just means we’re one step closer. We were able to be delusional together and it worked out.
Mia: I think that’s an excellent way to put it. At least we were not delusional alone!

I think that’s inspiring for someone who wants to start a brand. Maybe don’t go into it alone. Where do you hope to see Mo.Na in a year’s time?
Mia: I think Mecca and I want to establish a stronger presence for Mo.Na in New York. In terms of what we want to be in a year’s time, I think bio-plastic earrings were good pilot products to test whether people are interested in having a biodegradable accessory. We want to expand to other products outside of earrings, in addition to lifestyle goods. So growing the type of product we carry, as well as developing a team would be really awesome. 

Mecca: Like it would be cool to have a biodegradable cup, you know what i mean? There are so many different products. It would be so cool if we could learn how to make clothes from our material; that would just be revolutionary. But it is just a lack of funding, we need funding to get a bigger space, so we can do the research on this because right now, Mia and I are just doing this out of our apartments.

Yes, funding can be a massive issue for small businesses. How do you two personally live sustainably? I know the earrings are bio-degradable, but as far as packaging goes. 
Mecca: Personally, I don’t buy brand new clothes. I always shop second-hand. Honestly, I’ve been thrifting before it became trendy. I would just go to goodwill and buy clothes because it was cheaper. When I was in high school, you know when you get your first job, you’re like, “Oh I have money!” You’re making like seven dollars an hour, and you think you’re rich. I was just going to goodwill, and I would spend all my money on clothes, and that was just fun. It was a cool way for me to express myself. You know it’s hard to be 100% sustainable, but that’s one way I try to be, by not buying brand new clothing. It’s hard to find sustainable shoes, though. 

Mia: I also find myself buying second-hand a lot. And I buy things that I know are better quality and will last longer. You can’t always buy second-hand shoes, for example, so buying from smaller brands or brands that aren’t Amazon –and supporting a local boutique is a great way to be sustainable. In terms of Mo.Na, we use reusable tins and dried flowers as padding. We use compostable mailers. In addition to that, everything is handmade. I make them myself, so the practices are very ethical. It’s a very slow process which is reflective of our sustainable nature. 

Bioplastic orange earrings - a great alternative to resin jewelry

I used to be that person who was like, “Oh, Forever 21 is great because you get such great deals.”

But then after learning about fast fashion and the unethical way these clothes are produced, I really reevaluated where I was buying everything.

Mia in Pretty Cuties

I must say the flowers as bedding for it is genius. It’s so cute. It goes along with the brand perfectly. I made an unboxing video because I was so excited, and when I saw the flowers, my mouth dropped open because it’s just genius.
Mia: That’s so cute! Someone actually sent us a video of them using our packaging, the tin, and the dried flowers to make a candle. Which was really cool. They used the flowers in the wax and then used the tin as the candle holder. 

Wow, that is so insane. So you just dropped your new collection, Mad Scientist; what is your favorite piece? 
Mecca: I think mine is the hoops, it’s called happily ever after. 
Mia: I really like full circle; it reminds me of a mochi donut. 

As a magazine, do you think there’s anyone we should have on our radar? Any small and upcoming brands? 
Mia: We’re part of Sense of Shelf, it’s a sustainable marketplace that carries a bunch of smaller brands that are great. Also there’s another brand, Taara Project, they made pants and bags, with and to quote them, “ethical means” They’re another one from Hopkins.

I found you through TikTok, and social media, in general, is huge. But I would love to hear your personal takes. Do you love it? Hate it? How do you feel about social media?
Mecca: I personally hate social media. I just don’t think it’s a meaningful place for people to connect. I think it’s a tool for connection, an opportunity for connection, but it’s not a meaningful connection. Social media lacks context; you will just see something, but you don’t know what the backstory is, you don’t know where the story is headed. You see something online, and you can interact with it; it can make you enraged, it can make you happy, it can make you sad. I just think it’s a weird place. 

Mia: I think for me, social media has its pros and cons. For me, when I use social media, I think I discover a lot of artists, which is great; I get to see what other people are doing, get inspiration, so in that sense, finding other people who have similar interests as me, is something I gain from social media. But I think it should be used in moderation. As Mecca said, there are negative parts to social media. Like on Instagram, people put the highlights of their lives on Instagram, and you never see the full context. Sometimes, things like that can lead you to think you’re not doing enough; you’re not working hard enough. Overall, I believe using moderation is important, but it can be a cool tool to discover new things. 

I absolutely agree –moderation is key. But I discovered Mo.Na on social media so that’s one good thing!
Website | Instagram

Shoot info
Photographer: Katya Moorman
Make Up Artist: Hailey Jones
Assistant: Savannah Foley
Jewelry and Hair Styling: Mecca McDonald + Mia Dunn

–Savannah Foley

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