Italian label Miomojo - which means “my mojo” in English or “lucky bag” in a South African dialect - has been producing vegan accessories since it was founded six years ago. Recently, bags and handbags made of nopal cactus leather and AppleSkin have also been added to the product range. They are also 100 percent made in Italy. FashionUnited spoke with Miomojo founder Claudia Pievani about how domestic production is possible, the challenges the vegan label had to face and how Covid has changed the industry.
The ten items in the new Prima Linea upcycled collection are long-lasting, durable and soft. The lining of the bags is made of recycled plastic bottles and all metal parts are allergy and nickel free. In addition, each bag is 100 percent ‘made in Italy’ from conception to completion - all within two hours from Bergamo, where Miomojo is based. Claudia, was it difficult to establish this local supply chain?
(laughs) When there is a will, there is also a way. Though there is much industry around Bergamo, it was quite difficult because we had to find factories that already produced leather to test our new material made from apple waste. Some manufacturers were quite skeptical, but challenges are normal when you come up with something innovative. They laugh at you a bit and the material was thoroughly tested to see if it meets the requirements, but then they accepted it.
How did you find the material?
We are constantly looking for new, innovative materials that are natural and vegan; apples are suitable, but also mangoes and pineapples. Our AppleSkin material is produced in South Tyrol. The cactus leather comes from Mexico, but it was very easy to get in touch with the founders of Desserto, Adrián López Velarde and Marte Cázarez. They were at a fair in Milan and use only the waste of cacti for their vegan cactus leather from Mexico.
That almost sounds too good to be true.
Yes, it is a wonderful, soft and yet durable material, very elegant. Soon there will be leather alternatives made out of wine, grains and other non-animal materials. You can already see them at trade fairs. There is really no excuse to continue using leather.
Is Miomojo aimed specifically at people who want a vegan lifestyle?
No, not exclusively. We want to cater to those customers who are buying leather now. That means we have to offer them a good alternative without sacrificing style. Consumers ask for vegan products, also sustainability, but it also depends on the lifestyle. We want to get more into the lifestyle area, so we also address non-vegans who want to buy a vegan bag, maybe their first one. This is also our motto - Miomojo, “my mojo” means that today I can do anything I want; today I know I can do it; I am active, positive, inspiring.
Miomojo was animal-friendly from the beginning, not just in regards to the products but also beyond that, even supporting organisations that protect animals.
Yes, that was very important right from the beginning. I had already gotten to know AnimalsAsia during a visit to Thailand before Miomojo was founded. The organisation is fantastic, very detail-oriented and I knew that I wanted to donate 10 percent of our proceeds to it. In six years, we have been able to raise 200,000 US dollars [almost 170,000 euros / more than 150,000 British pounds].
Since then, you have also started donating to other animal protection organisations?
Yes, we have added more over the years - Four Paws and Mercy for Animals for example. We are planning to support animals through the Miomojo Foundation, which we want to establish, and to finance new projects every year.
This is the keyword - what does the future look like for Miomojo?
Our future looked really good and then came Covid; all retailers are having problems at the moment. 2020 would have been our best year financially, now we have to expand. We also want to make shoes, belts and wallets, but Covid slowed this plan down a bit because we finance everything with our own income. But consumers increasingly want companies that stand for something, that think about where they spend their money. This was already the case before, but Covid has now accelerated this trend. This year, we want to increase our brand awareness.
Do consumers accept that these items cost a little more? Our latest collection costs more - sustainability costs more now, but in the long run, it will cost less. We need to get used to buying less in general, but better products, only then can the industry make a difference.
Images: Miomojo website; Prima Linea; animal protection; founder Claudia Pievani on site with Animals Asia / Miomojo