Julia Ahrens: Threading the Needle in Vegan Fashion
After turning vegan, Julia Ahrens felt conflicted working in the fashion industry where animals are exploited so often. When she discovered so few vegan brands were hiring, she decided to create her own: Miakoda.
Occupations, affiliations, and projects.
Owner and Designer of Miakoda
PEOPLE WHO DO FOCUSES ON THOSE WHO TAKE ACTION TO PURSUE MEANINGFUL LIFE PASSIONS. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO YOU TO “DO”?
It’s important to me that I “do” because it is literally impossible for me not to do something about the things that matter to me. As a designer and as a human, it’s impossible for me not to take other humans, our planets, and animals into consideration when making choices. The majority of the fashion industry exploits all three! If I don’t “do,” who can I expect to create options I can feel good about supporting and how else can I expect change to happen in the industry and in the world?!
Tell me more about why it was important for you to create Miakoda?
After going vegan, I no longer wanted to wear or create clothing that exploited animals and used animal fabrics/skins/fibers. I worked in the industry and felt so conflicted when asked to work with these materials. I tried to look for a company that I felt comfortable supporting and designing for, but there were so few 100% vegan companies and they weren’t hiring (and most were pretty small!). This was my initial reason for starting Miakoda. As I thought about what vegan fashion meant for me, I realized it goes beyond animals and includes the planet and other humans. I really wanted to work for a company that made me feel like I was making a difference and supporting our planet in a meaningful way. I love fashion and I love designing, but design without purpose and reason felt extremely lackluster to me and I really wanted to build a career for myself that made me want to jump out of bed in the morning and made me feel good to fall asleep at night.
To date, what accomplishments are you most proud of?
I would say that our greatest accomplishment that I’m most proud of is that we have consistently grown every single year since conception. We have increased our production runs and our sales every year—and that’s most exciting because it shows that people love our clothing and that more people care about the morals and values that we bring to fashion and want to support them as well!
What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned so far this year?
2018 just started less than a month ago and I’ve already learned so much. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is that when you share something you’re really passionate about, people feel your excitement and passion, and they start to share your passion and excitement as well! We’ve been sharing more about sustainability and ethics and people have been responding with so much enthusiasm, it’s so exciting!
#1 motivating mantra to get through tough moments.
“Nothing worth doing comes easy”—I say this to myself every single day. Starting Miakoda has extremely challenging, extremely scary, and extremely worrisome, but nothing worth doing comes easy. This saying also reminds me that it is worth doing because it’s not easy and that consistency and hard work create success.
What's your go-to song to put you in a better mood?
I don’t have a specific go to song, but the Spotify throwback playlists are incredible and always make me smile!
What’s your favorite lesson you’ve ever learned?
My favorite lesson ever is "trust yourself". I’ve listened to others advice even when it went against my gut intuition and it’s always backfired on me. Listening to my gut and trusting myself have helped grow Miakoda more than anything else.
Favorite method for logging any kind of inspiration.
I love pictures. I’m such a visual person—creating folders on my computer with tons of inspiration images, whether I’ve taken them myself or found them on the internet, is my favorite way to compile stuff I love. It’s also the most eco friendly!
Top 5 people you would invite to a dinner party and why?
Emma Watson (because she embodies a celebrity who cares about our planet and her consumption!), Miley Cyrus (because she is always shamelessly true to herself and is vegan), Oprah (everyone loves Oprah, right?!), Nathan Runkle (because he founded one of my favorite animal advocacy groups, Mercy For Animals), and Vincent Van Gogh (because he’s been my favorite artist forever).
What’s the best piece of advice that you can give someone right now?
Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. It’s generic and we’ve all heard this advice, but it is so true. In this age of social media, it is so important not to compare yourself to edited, perfected, and curated images of others. We are all on our own journey and comparing yourself (whether it be your outside appearance, your abilities, your success, or your failures) to someone else will never make you happier.
3 words that you want to be remembered by.
Compassionate, Inspiring, and Loving
By "do-ing", you create your own unique legacy. How do you want your legacy to be remembered?
I want my legacy to be one of selflessness and compassion. So many people think people start businesses with the main purpose of “being rich”, “making lots of money” etc. I want Miakoda to be my legacy, and I want it to be looked at as something that strives to fix a problem in an industry that we all support [fashion]. I want Miakoda [my legacy] to be one of compassion for the earth and all the people and animals living on it.