Williamsburg-based sustainable jewelry company Mo.Na redefines trendy fashion

mo.na sustainable jewelry
Mo.Na, a Williamsburg-based sustainable jewelry company, is pioneering accessories made of biodegradable plastics.
Photo courtesy of Mecca McDonald

Mecca McDonald and Mia Dunn are passionate about ending plastic waste and looking good while doing it — which inspired the creative entrepreneurs to create their bioplastic jewelry brand Mo.Na.

Mo.Na hosted its first brand event at the Black-owned bar Please Tell Me in Williamsburg on Sunday, Nov. 12, where McDonald, Dunn and several influencers, friends and slow-fashion enthusiasts gathered to launch Mo.Na’s latest design, a revision of the brand’s classic cherry charms. 

“The cool part of being an artist or creating something is when you could go back and update something,” McDonald said. “I’m excited about it because sometimes it’s really hard to see your growth and your progress. This design represents a new chapter, a new era that we’re stepping in.”

mo.na founders
Mo.Na cofounders Mia Dunn (at left) and Mecca McDonald (at right) celebrated the brand’s new jewelry at a Nov. 12 event.

Mo.Na jewelry is made from a potato-based, biodegradable plastic material that the pair developed in their senior year of college. McDonald majored in psychology and economics, and Dunn majored in biochemical engineering. 

“Originally, I just wanted to see if it was possible to create the product. That’s when I reached out to my co-founder, Mia Dunn,” McDonald said. “I knew that she was passionate about sustainability and nature in the same way that I was. I knew her through a mutual friend, but I felt like she’d be a great person to work on the idea with.”

McDonald and Dunn had no business experience before starting Mo.Na, but after developing their product, they began taking steps to build their brand. In 2021, they participated in FastForwardU, an accelerator program for entrepreneurs at John Hopkins. 

“We applied like two days before the deadline. We honestly didn’t think we’d get in, but it was a program where they gave you startup funding and mentorship,” McDonald said. “At the end of that program, we participated in the demo day, and we ended up winning $25,000 just to be able to invest more time, effort, and energy into Mo.Na.”

McDonald noted that she hopes to expand beyond jewelry one day, and to use their bioplastic “to replace as much plastic as possible.” 

Most plastics labeled biodegradable, compostable or recyclable do not decompose naturally. Dunn and McDonald’s biodegradable plastic can break down in three weeks, as opposed to traditional plastic and resin which can take up to thousands of years to decompose. The bioplastic also does not shed toxic microplastics into the air, soil, and water, as traditional plastics do. 

“I came up with this idea during my senior year of college because I was scrolling on TikTok and I saw that there was a resin trend,” McDonald said. “I was inspired to create an alternative that was better for our environment because resin is plastic, and I was like, what if I could make a bioplastic – a plastic that biodegrades and is just better for the Earth?”

The launch was an opportunity for McDonald and Dunn to educate, celebrate and promote sustainable fashion. They gave out embroidered tote bags with hand poured candles and vegan lip products, and partnered with sustainable mezcal brand Rosaluna

mo.na tote bag
The founders handed out embroidered tote bags and other goodies to promote their brand and educate people about sustainable fashion. Photo courtesy of Mecca McDonald

Sustainability activists have voiced concerns about Gen Z consumption habits such as social media “haul” culture and fast fashion microtrends. Companies such as Shein, Temu, Zara and H+M profit from cheaply-made products, quick turnaround and unethical labor practices. Mo.Na combats these cycles by combining trendy styles with sustainable, ethical consumption practices.

“I didn’t know about Mo.Na until the launch party and now I’m a fan,” said Carolyn Amurao, a Williamsburg resident. “They have a clear point of view, the packaging and design are all on point, plus I’m a sucker for bright and colorful things. Fashion should be fun!” 

Mo.Na’s future is community-oriented, according to McDonald. The team has hosted pop-ups and is planning more exclusive brand events. 

“Since we started the business during the pandemic, we didn’t do many in-person, community-oriented types of events,” McDonald said. “This is a milestone, and we just want to bring more people into the process, because I’m a firm believer that you can’t do anything on your own.”

The event surpassed McDonald’s goals, as many guests noted that they found the experience to be educational and enjoyable. 

“As a sustainable fashion enthusiast and up-cycler, I resonate with the brand’s ethos and mission, and I respect the time and effort that went into independently researching and developing Mo.Na products,” said Nis Hamid, who attended the launch party. “I will definitely continue to support the brand and am always looking for more ethically and environmentally-minded small businesses to support.” 

With its community of like-minded supporters, Mo.Na has flourished since its early days in a dorm kitchen. 

“Everyone was so bright, wonderful and of course the earrings are so cute! I’ll continue supporting this brand,” Amber Singletary, who attended the event, said. “A women-of-color business owned by two genius designers doing their part to save the world – there’s nothing better than that!”