Meet Fabiana Papaleo, the Mimo Store owner, a Canadian brand led by a female immigrant entrepreneur that combines metal and exotic fish leather into a sustainable, conscious jewelry line.
How did you start designing jewelry?
Jewelry and fashion were always passions of mine. I had lots of ideas of styles that I could not find in the marketplace, driving me to create my own pieces and experiment with jewelry design since I was a teenager.
When I moved to Canada, I joined the retail universe. As a Buyer, Fashion Trend Forecaster and Footwear Product Developer, the fashion industry was my home for ten years.
After my son was born, I wasn't comfortable with the corporate world's travel requirements, deciding to start my own business called MIMO (Meaningful Ideas for Meaningful Objects), a metal eco-conscious fish leather jewelry line.
Tell me about the creative inspiration for the collection.
I find in nature the inspiration for most of my collections. The creative process is entirely organic. My background as a trend forecaster serves as a baseline for all my creations. After I have decided on the idea or theme for the season, I immerse in an image search and build an inspiration board to wrap my thoughts around the concept. Then, I start drawing, designing and building the prototypes.
The initial brainstorming and ideation process is quite spontaneous, and the inspiration is usually related to feelings or references I want to portrait that season. Please see below an example of how flow fluid and different the creative process can be:
For the Ocean Collection, I went to the sea and its creatures for inspiration. Since our primary source is fish skin turned into leather, it would be only natural that the underwater world would always spark my interest and creativity. The jellyfish movement and the organic shapes of shells, corals and anemones were the leading players of this line.
Photographer: Vanessa Patton.
For the Glam Warrior Collection, the initial creative trigger was the Mark Anthony quote: "And one day she discovered that she was fierce and strong, and full of fire and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears."
The "we are all warriors" concept prompted a feeling that was combined with the references I was living at the moment. I had finished just finished binge-watching Game of Thrones. Simultaneous, the 90's trend was also starting to emerge. After pulling together the images for my inspiration board, I realized that the collection would mix all these elements.
Photographer: Brandon Allen
Why fish leather?
I had fallen in love with fish leather when I was requested to develop a Footwear collection for The Bay. The texture, colouring, resilience of the material and the sustainability aspect inspired me to create a unique and elegant jewelry line.
The fish leathers we use - tilapia, carp and salmon skins - come mainly from fish farms dedicated for meat consumption that would otherwise be discarded back to nature, mainly in a non-environmentally friendly way. The skins are turned into leather and tanned with a 100% vegetarian powder technique extracted from an assortment of trees.
The line evolved, and today we also have a metal-only collection.
What type of woman did you have in mind when designing the line?
We design exclusive products with the right amount of creativity, trend awareness and boldness for the fierce yet stylish woman who will embrace the uniqueness of our pieces. We build versatile pieces that can be worn many different ways.
Who would you most like to see wearing your jewelry?
My target market is mainly females aged 25 and up. However, depending on the collection, the interest has proven to be quite age-agnostic. I see them as style-conscious women interested in music, art, fashion, and alternative pieces. She values uniqueness and the concept of "finding treasures."
Can you name one or two style icons you admire?
Jenna Lyons and Emmanuelle Alt.
What are three wardrobe essentials every woman should own?
A well-cut blazer, a cool (Clash) t-shirt and a nice pair of jeans
What is it like to own a jewelry business?
Having your brand is not always easy in this dynamic and competitive environment. You will find strength in the ability to wear many hats at once and learn how to adapt at every challenge (some as tough as the COVID-19 Pandemic). However, the freedom of creating your designs and the enjoyment that comes in seeing someone choosing to wear your creations make it all worth it.
What advice do you have for aspiring woman entrepreneur?
First, start your brand with a plan in mind. It is easy to lose sight of the overall business strategies when you are in the middle of busy daily life. If you have a road map, you can always refer back to your overall business objectives and pivot in the right direction when necessary.
Be creative and understand that change will be a constant. Don't be afraid of judgement. Be patient, persistent and willing to invest a lot of time and energy into the new business. The road ahead can be long and bumpy, but also beautiful and fulfilling. ;)