Jessica Manno is only 27, but she’s already worked and interned for some of fashion and lifestyle PR’s most prestigious firms (she’s asked that they not be named in this article). So she knows how to nurture and promote niche brands.
Now the tristate-area native is applying that know-how to her own business—an e-commerce website called Leismo that she conceptualized as a “one-stop shop” for sustainable and ethical jewelry collections.
The 3-year-old online shop, which Manno officially relaunched this month, has four collections—Melissa Joy Manning, Article 22, Soko, and Mata Traders. They’re solid, well curated, and share a common design language: earthy but edgy, and mostly minimalist.
More importantly, they share values: Mata Traders employs fair trade artisans in India and Nepal to handcraft their jewelry, with a focus on employing women; Article 22 makes its jewelry from recycled materials from Vietnam War bombs, plane parts, military hardware, and other aluminum scraps; Soko is created by skilled workers in Kenya from reclaimed and recycled materials such as brass and locally sourced reclaimed cow horn and bone; and Melissa Joy Manning uses only recycled silver and gold sourced from a green-certified refinery with the highest environmental standards.
The name Leismo (pronounced lay-is-moe) is a portmanteau—a silky smooth blending of “less is more,” because “the style of jewels is minimal, but they’re of substantial quality,” says Manno. “Each purchase makes a meaningful impact on the environment and on the artisans who create the jewels.”
The retailer also donates 5% of proceeds from each purchase to a nonprofit customers choose from at checkout. The selection includes Earthjustice, Inheritance of Hope, Do Something, Free 2 Luv, Planned Parenthood, Knights of Heroes, Her Justice, and Alliance of Hope.
Manno first flirted with jewelry retailing when she was studying in China as a college student and fell in love with a jewelry collection that was handmade by a Chinese artist, which she ended up importing and selling in the U.S. for a time.
But it wasn’t until she started working with U.S. clients that specialized in sustainable practices that the idea for Leismo really clicked in. She launched the site as a side hustle in 2016 from her home in Jersey City, N.J. She still works in PR and does Leismo in her off-hours, gamely noting, “It’s a hustle, but I love it.”
The brands, Manno adds, are what inspire her most. “They’re small brands and designers, but the impact they’re making should be known. Each brand has such a unique story, and I just wanted to call attention to that.”
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