Contributing Monkie Julia Ocean
Published on May 9, 2010
This weeks Exclusive G/Fashion interview is with New York based Fashion Designer Mika Machida. Mika started her company after being influenced by Johanna Hofring, the owner of Ekovaruhuset / House of Organic. Everyone should remember, we interviewed Johanna back in January. I can see why Mika would be inspired by such a dedicated and amazing woman.
But Mika is obviously inspired by more than just other G Living fashion designers. One look at Mika’s line and you can’t help but notice something different is going on here. Mika literally wants you to wear your love of nature on your sleeve, chest, and back.
Julia: Mika, your dress have to be a major conversation starters for the women wearing them. I have to ask you about all the embedded animals in your design, what inspired this design path?
Mika: I think being a designer right now is an extension of what I have been doing since my childhood. I Always loved drawing, making things, flipping through animal books…and I still do the same things! As for green fashion, after I realized that there’s the other side of urban human life, the whole human impact on nature and on ourselves. With the knowledge of unfair labor practices in poorer countries, there was no other choice left for me than going green with a responsible production process. It’s still hard to be 100% ethical and have no impact on the environment, but I am trying as much as I can and hope this will someday make a difference.
Julia: If you where not creating eco-fashion would you still be so focused on green living? How “G” is your personal life?
Mika: Almost everything I eat is organically grown, and I try to select sustainable items as much as possible.
Julia: Before launching your company / brand, what experience did you have in this industry? Are you are product of tradition fashion or are you learning as you go?
Mika: I actually have never worked in the main stream fashion industry except as a store attendant in small fashion boutiques. One of the stores was a green boutique, and it was definitely a great experience for me to communicate with customers, share the ideas of the green process of how products are made. Also I learned a lot about many other designers and their green atittude towards their work. Through these meetings with other eco-concious designers I had the opportunity to exchange ideas and inspirations…all the elements are helping me to push another step foward everyday.
Julia: Do you think green fashion has a chance with a main stream world audience?
Mika: Definitely. I heard someone saying that this whole green awareness is not a trend, it’s a ‘movement’. Once we are aware of the urban impact on environment, globally and individually, the only choice we should have available is going green. So hopefully more and more people are aware of the facts, and start to go a greener way.
Julia: Who would you say are your favorite designs past or present?
Mika: Johanna Hofring, Tor Soderin, and all my inspiring friend designers including Kaori Yamazaki, Meiling Chen, and eko lab. Johanna is a designer and owner of the pioneering organic clothing boutique ‘Ekovaruhuset’. Her clothing is just so beautiful. She has a serious high standard for making her creations sustainable, and is not afraid of spending a long time to make one beautiful item. She is definitely standing at the opposite end of the mainstream mass fashion world.
Also, all my eco-friendly designer friends are always fun and inspiring. It’s just so great to share the sustainable ideas and have fun being green together.
Julia: Everyone knows starting any business from the ground up is a real challenge, and I am guessing the eco-fashion business is no different. What challenges have you experienced?
Mika: In my case, after changing my clothing materials to organic, I started getting to know more about how each fabric is made, from a cotton seed to a dress, and how the process affects soil, water, rivers and ocean. By paying attention to all the processes of how things are made, I have started to change the way I see everything around me. Living sustainably has made my life more healthy, both mentally and physically.
The difficulties I face keeping my line organic is that the materials are still not as economic as using mass produced, non organic materials. To grow things organically takes more care and time, therefore it ends up a little more expensive. But I hope more people are supporting sustainably made products and can feel good about the whole process that they are paying for.
Julia: Things in the world a bit crazy at the moment and with all this economic doom and gloom, how has it effected your business plans?
Mika: In this economy, I think it’s a great time to think about what we really need in our life, and not wasting things. The idea of not wasting things connects to the idea of not buying unnecessary things. This helps not only saving money but also making us think twice about our life and how many things we really need and how much waste we produce. It is a good time for people to select only the fine things that last longer, and I hope the truely green items are there for them.
Julia: What are some “Green” companies doing wrong in your opinion? Are you upset at all about bigger companies using the green theme as a brand, but with very little substance behind the messages?
Mika: A bad thing, or a skeptical thing that I see more and more is that not-so-seriousely green companies are trying to advertise their product as ‘green’ to take advantage of this green movement, although their products are not completely ethically made. For example, a company that makes chemical cleaning products advertise themselves that they’re green because they use windpower to generate power at their factory, but they still produce massive amount of chemicals! But I would like to believe that this is a first step of some upcoming big green change.
I think it’s not right to take advantage of this green movement, just to make more profit. But again, I belive it’s the beginning of the transitional time towards a more sustainable society, so I hope those companies will keep improving themselves to be greener.
Julia: What about pricing? You mentioned above your cost are higher, because of your choice to use organically grown fibers. Is the price point an issue?
Mika: It is still a challenge to keep the price affordable to more people, but I see more variations of fabrics with a more affordable price range so I am excited to use those new materials. People who put their labor into the process of making the fabric and the clothes need to be paid fairly so I believe the fair price for the fair product is the best balance for both producer and customer.
Julia: Where do you see your company going? What are some of your short term goals?
Mika: I hope to continue to create a more fun animal inspired line. I donate part of the profit from all the animal series to a non-profit organization who support endangered spieces in the world, and all the items have their own message. For example, the elephant top has ‘Save the elephants’, and the Horse dress has ‘Support organic farming’. I hope to send more messages to more people and will be able to help those endangered animals.
Julia: Finally, I just want to ask you about Traveling. Are you a woman who loves to travel and if you are, like many designers seem to be, do you get any inspirations from your travels?
Mika: Life is fun, I know not everything is fun, but all the elements I have in my life makes fun things more fun! I live in NYC, the city life is exciting, and the city life makes me appreciate the nature so much at the same time. I would love to balance this city and nature experience at the same time someday, but so far NYC is a pretty comfortable place as long as I go out of town quite often.
I love traveling. My husband and I try to travel as often as possible. We have been to Morocco, Mexico, Venezuela etc…and we are planning to go Madagascar this summer. I love traveling within the US also. My favorite palce is the west, Colorado, Utah, arizona, New Mexico…all these places are so unique and I just love the massive and silent nature.
See Mka’s latest line on her site at mikaorganic.com