When Julia and Laura Ahrens set out to create Miakoda, an eco-friendly clothing company, they had one mission in mind: compassion. The Herricks High School graduates have laid the groundwork for the vegan fashion website and have grown since launching in February 2013.
“I started to think about how I could be more compassionate and mindful in the way that I’m dressing,” Julia said.
Now, they’re looking for an extra kick. The two sisters launched a campaign on Kickstarter.com, a popular crowdfunding platform that raises funds for projects, causes, etc.
They’ve pledged a $6,000 goal, which they’d use to relocate from their current manufacturer in Manhattan, to a bigger spot in Brooklyn. The design office is based in New Hyde Park.
“The great thing with Kickstarter is that you’re not asking people for money,” Julia said. “You’re offering clothing to funders.”
The two have set up monetary goals for backers, who would receive their top-of-the-line selection for a reasonable price.
“If we surpass our goal, it’ll be even better and the money will be used to create more alternatives to the habitual way people consume,” Laura said.
Miakoda clothing is made of hemp, organic cotton, bamboo and soy. This is a prime alternative to standard cotton, the Ahrens sisters feel.
“Traditionally harvested cotton, they use so many pesticides and it’s actually one of the most detrimental to the environment,” Julia said. “It’s also dangerous for cotton harvesters.”
The two complement each other. Julia can create from scratch while Laura is a force in formalizing a plan to its finality.
“We always say ‘Everyone should have a sibling,’” Laura said. “We bounce ideas off of each other. It’s the best thing that could happen to you.”
Julia’s background in design stems to early childhood. As a youngster, she learned crocheting and knitting from her grandmother and mother, respectively.
“When I was little, I always wanted to do crafts and create art,” Julia said. “But I wanted them to be useful. So that’s where I think the design element came into it.”
In 2006, Julia was accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology’s high school program. She also attended classes at the Pratt Institute in New York City. Her obsession continued to grow.
“I started taking high school classes at FIT and learned about fashion and selling and fell in love with it,” she said.
She graduated from Parsons The New School of Design in Manhattan— where the popular fashion TV show Project Runway is filmed—in 2012.
At the start of her senior year in college, Julia decided to become a vegan after starting yoga classes. Laura, a yoga instructor, shares in her sister’s values of believing in what you do and what you wear.
“One of the big principles in yoga is ahimsa, which is non-violence and non-harming,” Julia said. “I was looking at foods I was eating and changed a bunch of things. I realized the one place I wasn’t caring about beyond how it looked, was fashion.”
Laura graduated from Herricks in 2005 and studied musical theater in University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Her work in yoga, coupled with her beliefs in veganism, give her an avenue to push the envelope.
“I felt really passionate about that and I wanted to support her,” Laura said. “I love words and love communicating with people. I’m using that to create the description of the clothing and how we convey our message via the Internet.”
Laura’s quick to point out her sister’s role as the chief visionary but knows it takes two.
“She’s the talent behind it,” Laura said. “But I have the same sort of vision of conveying a passionate message for the way that we eat, what we wear.”
The dream is to open a storefront in Manhattan. Right now, the two see the business thriving on the Internet and expanding into fashion boutiques.
“That gets a big outreach,” Julia said. “But the ultimate goal is to get people to realize that they have an impact in the clothing they decide to wear.”
The Miakoda Kickstarter campaign has garnered $4,384 from 45 backers. To donate to Miakoda’s Kickstarter campaign, go to kck.st/1Gvm2BO.
Check out the Miakoda Kickstarter campaign video on YouTube: