Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Inspired by a travel blog she had been writing, Leo launched a new online store called Swoon For. The store incorporates her expertise from both her time as a New York City fashion editor and as a photo editor National Geographic Society.
“The biggest inspiration for the store has been my travels, experience as a fashion editor, as well as working as a photo editor for the National Geographic Society,” Leo said. “The store really is a culmination of my professional journey and personal travel adventures. I have an insatiable appetite for travel and when you combine that with my passion for design and style you have Swoon For as the result.”
Swoon For focuses on products that trigger conversations and evoke a sense of adventure.
“Each items has to offer a style that speaks to something you would purchase while traveling to a far off place,” Leo said. “The items that are from various countries in our boutique really speak to the crafts that are highly valued there. For example, our handmade baskets from Rwanda, handwoven palm bags from Bali, silk sari necklaces from India, Moroccan rugs and blankets just to name a few.”
Leo aims to help artisans all over the world continue their traditions while sharing those traditions with the people of Arlington and the rest of the United States.
“One designer I work with for example has started her own small business in Jaipur, India,” Leo said. “The items she designs are made in partnership ikat fabric makers and hand-block printing artisans whom she has worked with personally for years.
“So not only are we helping her, but also aiming to help keep the arts of (and jobs of) ikat making and hand-block printing in the hands of the artists and not the machines that are able to replicate and mass produce these special items.”
Leo, who lives in Arlington’s Old Glebe neighborhood, said her personal touch also sets Swoon For’s swag apart.
“The collections are curated by me personally and are representative of my taste when it comes to fashion, home décor, jewelry and children’s goods,” Leo said. “The merchandise is international inspiration for the home and closet where.”
In addition, Leo said the online store offers a chance to give back. The majority of Swoon For’s items are sold in partnership with not-for-profit organizations or are ordered directly from artisans.
“I believe we are seeing a steady shift in shoppers’ philanthropic interests,” said said, adding,”And while there are other stores offering this, I feel that many of the items I have found are not available elsewhere.”
But Leo doesn’t plan to just exist in cyberspace.
“The dream has always been to open a brick and mortar store, but financially I’m not there yet and feel that by launching the store online it is a way to get my feet wet and learn many of the lessons necessary to run a successful retail business while gaining a loyal customer following,” she said.
For now, Leo said her next step is to hire summer interns focused on communications and design.
And she will never forget her store’s roots in the blog world.
“I regularly update the blog, which can be accessed from the store, and will be including interviews with our artisans, more about my inspiration and trips to find merchandise around the globe.”
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