One might say that Julia and Laura Ahrens literally wear their beliefs on their sleeves — and on their tank tops, too.
The Herricks graduates and avid yogis and vegans founded their own fashion line in 2013 dedicated to eco-friendly, cruelty free clothing made in New York City.
Now, hoping to expand the production of their most popular items, the sisters launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $6,000, which would allow the company, Miakoda, to order fabrics and work with a Brooklyn factory to produce additional a-line and circle tank tops.
In three days, the campaign raised more than $3,000, with three donors contributing more than $500, including a nice $500-plus boost from mom.
“I was just hoping we would get funded. I was really nervous about it…I definitely didn’t expect halfway in three days,” Julia said. “It’s really exciting and you get an email [when somebody contributes]. It’s even more exciting when it’s somebody you don’t know, and you say, ‘Yes! They support the cause.’”
Kickstarter is a website that pairs contributors with creative projects, such as films, music and fashion. However, the project receives the money only if it meets its fundraising goal by its deadline, which is up to 60 days.
The Miakoda Kickstarter began on April 2 and ends May 2.
Julia, the designer for the New Hyde Park-based company, graduated from Herricks High School in 2008 and attended the New School’s Parsons School of Design, where she graduated in 2012.
In February 2013, she and Laura started Miakoda.
“I had recently gone vegan and started to practice yoga,” she said. “Most people just think about eating healthy and eating organic food and being compassionate to people in their lives, and they don’t think about what they’re wearing. I started looking into the more eco friendly options and there” weren’t many.
She added that Laura, a yoga teacher who graduated from Herricks in 2005, was the “one who really got me into yoga and the environment and my impact on this planet.”
Miakoda clothing is made entirely by plant-based materials grown organically, Julia said. For example, Miakoda’s most popular tank top, the circle shirt, is made from a bamboo, organic cotton and spandex blend.
“I’m vegan for four years now, so it’s very important to me not to hurt animals,” she said. “Most people don’t even think of their wardrobe as something that can be compassionate.”
While Julia works as the clothing designer for Miakoda, Laura performs “more of the writing end of things,” Julia said.
“She’s the wordsmith behind the operations,” she said.
While environmental conscientiousness is important to Julia, so is style.
“You don’t have to sacrifice style with ethics,” she said. “I’ve always been obsessed with fashion and making things. I liked that fashion is a practical art form that you can use…I like a very clean, refined slouchy look, so it’s always very comfortable and good for a girl who’s on the go and active and doesn’t want to be held back by uncomfortable clothing.”
Helping to revitalize the New York City garment industry is also important to the sisters, Julia said.
“The garment industry in New York used to be really thriving. Since then, the number has reduced drastically, and it’s suffering, so it’s really important to me to help the industry,” she said.
In high school, both Ahrens participated in Herricks’ Student Television Arts Company, a course for artistically gifted students specializing in film.
“It definitely influenced me and shaped me as an artist and a designer,” Julia said.
As of April 6, the Miakoda Kickstarter had received $3,092 in pledges. Backers receive stepping-stone rewards based on the amount they contribute.
For example, donors who contribute more than $42 to Miakoda receive the company’s a-line tank top, donors who contribute more than $75 receive a pair of the company’s slouchies and donors who contribute more than $250 receive all four of the a-line tank tops and both colors of circle shirt.
The complete list of rewards is on the Kickstarter page.
More information and a link to the Miakoda Kickstarter are available on the company’s website, miakodanewyork.com.