Julia Ahrens has one of those contagious smiles that draw you in immediately. This zest for life translates into her newly revamped brand, Miakoda New York, a fresh take on modern sportswear. The fun pops of colour breathe life into classic staple pieces, while the sustainable materials tie into Julia’s passionate visions of what fashion should be. She had two main goals in her latest collection. One: produce pieces that are modern, light and give women the ability to stay comfortable while still looking chic. Two: avoid as much as possible of the harmful effects of the fashion industry. “Typical production involves so much waste, it’s insane.“ she says. “It is eye-opening, and has made me want to change the way fashion is produced.”
As a child obsessed with doing arts and crafts (especially the kind you can wear, such as friendship bracelets), she began to take weekend classes at The Fashion Institute of Technology. The passion that the class awakened was an incentive to pursue a fashion degree at the Parsons School of Design. After interning and working for various brands, such as Zac Posen and Club Monaco, Julia founded Miakoda, along with her sister (and former Vilda team member) Laura Ahrens.
It’s one of the first sunny days in NYC when I’m offered the chance to see Julia’s new collection and style some of my favorites, alongside with some of Julia’s favourite pieces from her closet, while enjoying some of the best doughnuts that Dunwell has to offer. We chatted about her brand, the newest collection, and what Miakoda is all about.
Let’s start off with three quick questions:
1. clothing is…a way to express yourself visually
2. Being vegan means…caring about all living beings and our planet.
3. Style is…feeling Comfortable in your own skin.
Do you have a favorite summer look ?
Vegan leather sandals, denim cut offs and a simple tank…. it’s a classic!<
Where do you find your inspiration for Miakoda from ?
My inspiration comes from my environment. I’m constantly inspired by nature and our beautiful planet. My yoga practice inspires me as well. I find that the movement and meditation of the practice inspires my creativity. The shapes and physical elements of the practice inspire my clothing designs to be fluid, comfortable, and easy to move and live in.
What is the story behind the name Miakoda ?
Miakoda is the native American word meaning power of the moon. The moon connects all beings and all walks of life on this planet and any others. To me, the name means that we are all connected. We are all one.
Tell me about the woman that wears Miakoda? How do you see her?
I like to think that a huge range of women can wear Miakoda. We have the woman who cares about the environment, animals, people and wears it because we align with her lifestyle. Other women have no idea that Miakoda is an ethically made company and just loves the style. The Miakoda woman is someone who wants to look chic and fresh while wearing some of the most comfortable clothing around.
Julia wears: Miakoda hoodie, Miakoda racerback tank, Wrangler vintage cut-offs (similar here), Aldo booties (similar here) and Matt and Nat Mitsuko bag.
We talk a lot about this, but can you give Vilda readers some insight about the challenges vs opportunities in building an ethical vegan brand?
A big challenge and opportunity is that people don’t know why veganism and ethics are important in fashion. Price is a huge factor for most people — unfortunately, if you’re not paying fair prices, someone making the clothing is paying for your cheap labour by working for low wages in unsafe environments. The biggest challenge is communicating why it’s important to pay higher prices for high quality garments that are created ethically. This also gives us the opportunity to educate, which is so important!
Do you find that there are stereotypes that accompany the word vegan, or vegan fashion, why do you think that is? How do you feel about both?
Yes, definitely. Most people think hippy, crunchy, granola when they think vegan— especially vegan fashion. I think that’s because vegans are looked at as radical earth loving beings. Although that may be true for some vegans, veganism goes much deeper than that. It’s a general caring for all beings and our planet; however, it’s a moral guideline and lifestyle, NOT a design aesthetic. Being vegan doesn’t mean you dress a different way; just as being a carnivore doesn’t mean you dress or act a certain way. Vegans come in all shapes, sizes, styles, aesthetics, etc. I think that it’s important to break that stereotype that vegans can only ever be un-fashionable. That’s our goal with Miakoda. To show that vegan, ethical fashion can be something that ALL people want to wear. Our clothing doesn’t discriminate. It just helps the buyer support fair practices with their dollar.
I know we share a love of keeping the NYC garment district alive, what’s the best part for you about designing your collection in NYC?
I’m so inspired by the energy of the city. The nature, the people, it’s the best environment. In NYC everything is at your fingertips which makes a designers life much easier.
Do you have a quote or mantra that you live by?
In the end it will all be okay. If it’s not, it’s not the end. The quote is so important…. Especially in the world of owning a new business, it helps remind me that the world has its plan for you and if you work hard, good things will happen.
Finally, my most favorite question: what are some of your favorite places to eat in NYC ?
Candle Café for lunch, the Butcher’s Daughter for dinner, and Candle 79 for dessert. Yum!
Highlights of Miakoda’s new collection