When it comes to ethical clothing, I’m a newbie. I’m beyond a newbie, I’m just a thrifter. I often find brands I love, but can never afford them, or find it to be way too expensive for what it is. That’s me being uneducated and ignoring the hard facts of how bad fast fashion truly is. Truth be told, I still buy things from JCP, that’s basically the only store I shop at. BUT, and I emphasize this, I only buy what I need and when I do buy things, they last me forever.
Despite that, I thrift a ton. Most of my clothes at one point were all thrifted. With how my weight fluctuates all the time, I always found it a waste of money to pay full price for a pair of pants that wouldn’t fit me for a year. That’s where Miakoda comes along. Not only is it an ethical brand, created in NY, but it’s lounge wear. I mean…..how perfect could it be? I had seen them featured on Ashley Morganic and finally contacted Julia, and I’m so glad I did.
If you haven’t spoken to Julia, go send her a message and tell her I sent you. She is the sweetest, most helpful and loving person I know in the clothing industry. You’ll see, just keep reading!
With the moon as your inspiration and meaning behind the name Miakoda, how did it come to be?
The name for the brand was so long discussed and contemplated before we finally decided on Miakoda. While on the search for the perfect name we stumbled upon the name Miakoda which means 'power of the moon.' Not only did the sound of the name resonate with us, but the meaning took the "love at first sight" reaction we had to the next level.
I have never personally met someone who doesn't agree that the moon is incredibly magnificent and powerful. It controls the ocean, our planet, and some will even agree that it governs us as individual humans as well. The moon also connects each and every species, walk of life, plant, animal, human on the planet-- Miakoda, at it's core, wants to honor, respect, and protect animals, humans and the planet, so it felt fitting that the moon become the symbol to represent the connection we all share and the symbol for our company.
As a brand that focuses on making sure they are sustainable, how did this come to start in your personal life?
2011 was a pivitol year for me as a human and as a designer. In 2011 I decided to go vegan (after being vegetarian for 9 years prior) to ditch my long standing love affair with designer leather shoes. I really knew nothing about veganism prior to this (I was also one of those people, despite being vegetarian, who thought vegans were extreme). At the same time my sister (the co-founder of Miakoda), Laura, graduated her yoga teacher training. I started practicing yoga and researching veganism and immediately created the connection between my actions and the effects it has on our planet, other humans, animals, and my own health. I became the biggest researcher thru reading books, watching documentary after documentary, and "googling" to learn how the practices that were so "normal" in my life were so detrimental and how I could create small but significant changes to live a life more aligned with my morals and values.
As someone who worked in the fashion industry, how did that help you in creating your own brand?
I don't think that any of my jobs in the industry really prepared me for what was to come when I started Miakoda. I did learn a ton, but I do consider Miakoda my crash course college degree in Business (since I'm formally educated in Design, not business). I think the biggest thing I've learned from my past jobs in the industry is how to work with and communicate with factories. I spent a lot of time in a NYC factory in my first internship... and I really think that was more beneficial to me than I knew it would be back then!
Upon studying fashion in college, did you ever think you'd have your own brand? And if so, was this what you pictured it to be?
At first I always dreamed at working at a big famous design house. When I experienced that dream, it shifted to wanting to work for a more commercial brand....and when I experienced that and learned more about the impact that the fashion industry has on the planet, I knew I had to start my own brand. I think in the back of my mind I always had this goal, but the passion to create options for humans like me who really care about the planet, humans, and animals... and really don't want their clothing options to add to the suffering on this planet... really sparked the need for me to start my own brand.
As a sustainable brand, how do you make sure your customers are aware of all the work you put into keeping the brand ethical?
We recently (last year) added a section called 'Sustainability' on our website where we talk all about our sustainability and ethics. I also love social media because it's a great way to share with customers and our community what we are doing and why it matters.
What has been the most difficult part of starting your own brand and marketing it ?
I think educating our customer as to why our clothing is more expensive than fast fashion and sparking the passion in them to want to spend the extra dollars to support something that is doing good rather than something that's causing suffering and damage to our planet has been the most difficult part. Keeping our price point as affordable as possible is extremely important to us-- but we will never sacrifice our supply chain at the expense of making cheaper clothing. Organic and sustainable materials are more expensive, as is manufacturing locally and ethically. Buying less, but buying better, is a rule we will always live by and share.
As an ethical brand, consumers often complain about the cost of items. As the owner, can you explain why the cost is what it is?
I love that this question follows my response to the previous question. YES! I'd love to share. We only use organic and/or sustainable materials. These materials are naturally more expensive, just as organic food is more expensive than conventional food. It is cheaper to grow materials that are sprayed with pesticides and harvested using unfair labor. We also produce locally and ethically in NYC. There are absolutely staggering statistics about the pay that garment workers make overseas in sweatshops. They literally work for center per hour--- possibly making $2-3 a day. The garment workers in our factories are paid a fair living wage, work in safe and clean conditions, and treated compassionately. The cost of labor raises the cost of our garments quite a bit.
Finally, we produce in small batches. This is a great way to be even more sustainable. When you cut in small batches, there is less fabric waste created. It also creates less waste from garments that don't sell as there will always be one color/size that sells less than everything else. When you cut in small batches, you may have a handful of left over garments instead of thousands. And instead of having hundreds of pounds of fabric waste, each production run, we keep all of our scraps in 1-2 garbage bags, which we re-purpose and use (headbands, pom poms, scrunchies). The reason why this is more expensive is because the price of labor and the price of fabric goes down when you order more. When you order and produce less, you pay more per piece or per yard of fabric.
*As a disclaimer as to why labor cost goes down, when you have more pieces, the cutting is done all at once and you save time there, and the garment workers sew on an assembly line model allowing them to sew fast and more efficiently when sewing many of the same thing. All of these factors go into price. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that most companies that are doing "good" aren't looking to take advantage of you by making their products more expensive.... they really are trying to keep their supply chain fair and ethical.
The company has been around since 2013, what are the top 3 things you've learned throughout the time?
1. Little actions can have a big impact. whether it be switching our packing tape from regular tape to plant based tape, or our shipping labels to recycled shipping labels... over time, every action adds up and its important to do your best whenever you can do your best.
2. Just because someone says there's a problem doesn't mean there's really a problem. I've had a ton of "emergencies" that have ended up being nothing... including a factory calling me on Christmas Eve to tell me a custom eco dyed really expensive fabric was cut for the wrong style. Ends up that they didn't even mess it up! So now my rule of thumb is if someone tells you something went wrong, breath, relax, and wait to see if it really did and if it's fixable... or not even a problem at all!
3. To do lists will forever be your best friend.... and make sure you put something really easy on your to do list every single day. Even if the big tasks are unmanageable and don't get done, you'll always feel good knowing you crossed something off the list.
With fast fashion being so prominent now, especially with fashion bloggers, what do you believe people should do when it comes to preventing further waste?
There's no reason to give up all of your fast fashion, but you can always create better buying habits moving forward. I still have fast fashion clothing from when I was in high school (yes, high school!!). They still fit, I still wear them, why get rid of them? When I personally shop, I always shop with a small ethical business or I buy second hand.
I think changing out buying habits is most important-- less but better, less but better! And of course, if you don't love a piece of clothing, don't throw it in the trash! Give it to a friend, donate it, sell it, turn it into cleaning rags, do something so it isn't adding to the huge amount of waste we already create!
Bringing up fashion bloggers, who are some of your favorite bloggers in general?
Ohhh we love fashion bloggers! Especially bloggers who share their sustainable style and how to shop more ethically! I don't want to exclude anyone, but some of our favorites are: Rhian of Wifelife, Ashley of Ashley_Morganic, Ellie of Selflessly Styled, Liv of Simply Liv And Co, our list of this can go on and on but those are some awesome women!
To continue supporting others, what are some of your favorite beauty, bath, and clothing brands you love to support?
Shopping small is my favorite type of shopping and aside from second hand, the only shopping I do. Here's my favs: Nicora for shoes, Bhava also for shoes and belts, Remember Me Green for the best gifts ever (stay tuned for the next MTM), Fitglow Beauty + Osea + Osmia for skincare, Allison Fretheim + Pitch Pine Pottery for mugs... my list of favorites could be a novel.
What inspires you with Miakoda and life in general?
The desire to make a difference. I really don't believe that one person or one action is too small to have an impact. My big driving force is to ensure that my actions don't intentionally negatively impact someone or something else. It makes me feel good to be a good person and to be good to our planet. That fuels me in my personal life as well as with Miakoda.
What has been the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Trust your gut-- you know what you need best. I've been told it by a ton of people but it wasn't till I started believing it and practicing it that I realized how incredibly valuable it is to believe in yourself and trust that you know whats up!
Run us through your daily routine.
Every single day is different. Some days I'm packing a bunch of orders, some days I'm at the factory, some days I'm designing, some days I'm sourcing new fabrics, some days I'm re-purposing fabric scraps into new little tidbits of love, but the one constant is emails and social media.
Lastly, what can we expect from Miakoda this year?
A few new collaborations, a few new really awesome fabrics, a few new beautiful styles... and even more ethical, sustainable goodness! Stay tuned :)
SSOOOO….I’m pretty obsessed. I have 4 bralette’s, 2 pairs of leggings, 3 scrunchies and a headband.
She just came out with a sports bra and even higher waisted leggings, and I am in lust for them both. I am also obsessed with the orchid, wine and olive color.
I kinda hope she creates leggings in those colors. What’s do you want Julia to create next?