Another instalment in our People Who Inspire Us series comes from jewellery designer, Leora Moreno. After launching her brand Leo With Love in her hometown of LA in 2016, Moreno names each of her designs after the women in her life. We talk to the founder about imposter syndrome, how she gains inspiration for each collection and what it feels like to be a female entrepreneur in 2019.
What sparked you to start your brand?
The idea was born in 2016 back in LA, where I’m from. My sister was recovering from a near-terminal illness and we were talking about how you only get one certain chance in life and simply, that’s to live. I knew I’d always wanted to start a business and loved making jewellery as presents for people, but had never thought to put the two things together. My background is in marketing and I’ve always had super corporate jobs, but the experience with my sister’s illness helped me see what was important. So I saved up for months at a job I hated – a necessary evil – and I would work on branding and designs in the evenings. After a few months, I was at a point that Leo With Love could get my full attention.
What is the lead inspiration for your designs and how does this alter with each collection?
The original concept was to name designs after the incredible women in my life. I mixed their personal style with my design aesthetic, wanting to find a balance between something minimalist and wearable yet elaborate enough to catch your attention. I consider my designs as the accents that bring a look together.
As I branch out and keep creating, I want to commemorate certain times in life and all the people who have played an important role. My aim with each design is to elicit a good memory and a feeling of empowerment, and this helps my approach when creating each collection.
So the recently launched Carousel mini collection is based on the concept that life is like a carousel; it’s a vibrant experience that literally goes full circle and you choose how you ride the ups and downs. The newest collection which will be released at the end of September is called Layers, and was inspired by my travels to Israel and Greece. When I was there, I found it so fascinating how archaeologists are still discovering new buildings in various architectural styles because of the layers upon layers of historical eras that were built upon previous buildings. It made me to look at shapes and jewellery as wearable pieces of art in a way I hadn’t before and it encouraged the creation of a collection that beautifully intertwines with previous designs while being perfectly independent of anything made before.
So what materials do you use in your handmade products? And how important is sustainability to your brand and in product manufacturing?
My first few collections were all brass-based because I love how versatile and affordable the material is. I then made silver and rose-gold plated versions of those collections because the demand was there, but have kept brass versions because it’s important that I provide an affordable option for potential customers. For the brass, I work with a family-owned manufacturer in Turkey. The Layers collection will be mostly silver, and as I work with silver more regularly as a base metal, I use Eco Silver which is recycled silver from the jewellery, giftware, medical and electronic industries.
Where there any hurdles you found when starting your business? If so, how did you tackle them?
Ha, a few! I think one of my main hurdles was and is managing imposter syndrome. Convincing myself I’m worthy of being defined as a jewellery designer took time because it’s something I did in my own way with a lot of trial and error. But the best way to combat imposter syndrome is to learn and not become stagnant. Within the imposter syndrome is the comparison to others, so it’s super important to remember when you dilute your focus, you dilute your drive. Your energy is finite, so don’t spend it looking for discrepancies between your success and someone else’s. Learning to recognise this is paramount in order to pull yourself out of an imposter funk.
It’s also vital to welcome the adrenaline. Being an entrepreneur with drive means meeting a lot of new people which for some also means perpetually being out of your comfort zone. But when you embrace the butterflies in your stomach, these new experiences don’t feel so scary after all.
My journey has been one of constant growth on a professional and personal level. I’m actually going to make profit in my third year of trading and it feels amazing! It’s a legitimate representation of all the effort I’ve put in for the past 3 years; all the testing of new designs, branding, collaborations, partnerships, panel discussions, pop up stores, interviews, metaphorical blood, literal sweat and tears all brought it to this point. I feel proud.
And so you should! So on a grander scale, how does it feel to be part of a wider network of women who are starting their own fashion businesses?
It is so motivating and exciting to see how many women from all over the world are doing what I do too. I’m in awe of them as individuals and their businesses, so it’s truly an honour to be in this group of fierce, creative women. Although we live in 2019, and to an extent there has been enough progress that a woman can choose what she wants to be, there’s still a lot of room for improvement for equality. I feel like this wave of female entrepreneurs are going to be the change needed to ensure this transition happens in years to come.
Speaking of the future, where do you see Leo with Love in the next ten years?
There are a few different areas I see LWL going. One is going into bridal jewellery and another would be to produce a men’s range as I get this request often. Part of LWL’s growth and following online has been the relatability of wanting to make a career change or give a side hustle a real chance to thrive, so, in the next 10 years, I would love to host workshops for women based on where they are on their journeys.
Moreno’s relentless drive and distinctive creative approach empowers both herself and others, helping create a brand that prides itself on individuality amongst a strongly bonded network. Leo With Love’s brand identity stands out against other jewellery brands – Moreno’s positive outlook puts the customer at the forefront, making both design and wearer feel equally unique and valued. Thank you Leora for giving Backstage Tales your brilliant words of wisdom.
Shop Leora’s wonderful designs at www.leowithlove.com.
Text: Natalie Zannikos
Images: Leo With Love