There are many experiences that have impacted both my professional & personal life. One in particular introduced an ideology that shifted my perspective as a maker & member of a larger community.
During the summer of 2007, as Creative Director for an apparel company, I was charged with traveling to Pakistan to meet & work directly with the factory partners. Pakistan was known for their superior cotton fiber & cheap labor; its partnership was critical to our business. At this point in my career, I had solely traveled to Hong Kong & had never seen a working factory. I was excited to embark upon this journey.
Upon arrival, I wasn’t prepared for the poverty I would see. This was my first visit to a third world country. Many buildings were destroyed & inhabitable. Some roads were paved, but many were dirt & flooded. Children were begging in the streets for money, food and outside my hotel there were armed guards, metal detectors & barbed wire on the windows. It was evident the country had endured much trauma yet there was a genuine kindness from the people. It was a humbling experience for me. It truly put things into perspective & I felt extremely grateful for the life I had back home in America.
When I reached the factory, I couldn’t help notice the number of chemicals it took to create the effects on one jean. Depending on the desired finish, each jean had to undergo a multi-step process of chemical treatments. The finishing process is often executed manually via an assembly line of factory workers, many of which were not suitably protected by the harsh chemicals they were exposed to. The pollution accumulated from the garments was evident in the pools of waste outside of the factory & on the limbs of the factory workers. I assumed this had been a result of the instability of the country.
With frequent trips abroad, Hong Kong & throughout Mainland China, I discovered environmental pollution was not exclusive to Pakistan, but rather a consequence of jean manufacturing globally. While the images of children playing nearby indigo dyed puddles had been etched in my memory, this was not an isolated incident. I couldn’t help but feel as makers we had contributed equally to the economic growth & ecological devastation of the communities that manufacture for the American fast fashion demand. The internal question for me, became, what could we do to reduce our impact. Thus, the idea of sustainability became eminent. I didn’t have a resolution, only a burning desire & passion to stay abreast of the innovations in denim, including textile alternatives like recycled cotton, eco-dyes & hemp.
I spent the next years of my career educating myself on sustainability. Today, I contribute my artistic talents & expertise to create sustainable content in an effort to propel change around the social, political & ecological issues in America as well as host events promoting sustainability as a lifestyle. Oak & Acorn - Only for the Rebelles is my contribution to educating the community while producing a more responsible product.
an artist, healer, eco-designer, creative strategist & actionist, is the founder of Oak & Acorn - Only for the Rebelles, the first sustainable denim-based brand in Harlem, NY. She is also the founder of BLDG 357, Inc, a boutique multimedia design firm and ENO∞ONU a curated event experience promoting healing through the arts and meditation; sustainability in practice.
Additionally, Miko works in collaboration with We Got Us Now, a non-profit that focuses on identifying & amplifying the voices of children and young adults impacted by parental incarceration.
Miko Underwood lives and works in Harlem, NY is a mom, a vegan, a daughter of an incarcerated parent, an avid traveler of the planet, an advocate for whole body health & balance.