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Eco-Friendly Jewelry Designer Melissa Joy Manning Talks Sustainability

Melissa Joy Manning

Melissa Joy Manning; Image: Driely S.

Sustainability may be a buzzword in 2015, but it’s nothing new for Melissa Joy Manning. The New York-based designer has been handcrafting eco-friendly fine jewelry since launching her namesake brand in 1997. Her “organically urbane” bijoux has caught the attention of celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba and Anne Hathaway, and garnered some well-deserved industry praise along the way. In 2012, she took home top honors at the CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge and in 2013, she was appointed the co-chair of the CFDA Sustainability Committee. We caught up with her to talk about how she celebrates Earth Day all year round.

theFashionSpot: Why is running a sustainable brand important to you?

Melissa Joy Manning: As an artist inspired by nature and community, it would be disingenuous of me not to honor either. For me, being an artist is living an authentic life true to my beliefs while expressing my ethos through my work. My jewelry echoes my commitment to social and environmental responsibility through my design, production and sourcing processes.

tFS: What practices are you implementing that make your company eco-friendly?

MJM: All of our jewelry is handmade, to order, in our own certified “green” production studio in California. Our work is made using 100 percent recycled precious metals and responsibly sourced stones. In addition to this, we carbon offset every box we ship, follow strict “green” production guidelines as defined by the State of California, use energy efficient heating and cooling, ban plastic bottles in our offices, use recycled papers and most importantly, are a zero waste manufacturer.

Melissa Joy Manning

Melissa Joy Manning; Image: Courtesy

tFS: What are some of the obstacles you face in creating sustainable jewelry?

MJM: Finding ethically sourced materials. You have to ask questions about a material’s provenance. When you know what you’re using and how it was made, it empowers you to make incremental (or momentous) changes that can shift your environmental and social impact. In today’s transparent culture, we can all see how our designs affect the world. As a designer, I believe that I should aim to empower, improve and beautify it.

tFS: You’re the co-chair of the CFDA Sustainability Committee. Since its inception in 2013, what strides has the organization made in the industry?

MJM: As a membership-based organization, the CFDA’s main focus is the support of its members. Since the inception of the committee, we have endeavored to educate our members about responsible choices while creating key partnerships to lessen our cumulative impact. It is our hope that the information shared with our fellow designers will foster educated business decisions leading to proactive industry change.

tFS: Why do you think more fashion and accessory brands don’t go green?

MJM: Ethically sourced resources and materials are limited, and as a result, often more expensive. But being responsible is a process — most companies can start small and contribute to cumulative change that engenders big impact.

tFS: What would we be surprised to find out about green companies like yours?

MJM: That you don’t have to sacrifice style for sustainability. I want to prove that responsible design is, and should be, the ultimate goal in luxury fashion.