Oak & Acorn Is a New Sustainable Denim Line Proudly Made in Harlem

When I log onto Zoom with Miko Underwood, she’s sitting in front of a large swatch of striped indigo fabric—fitting for the denim obsessee and founder of Oak & Acorn, a sustainable brand made in Harlem. “It’s Mossi (or Dogon) indigo from West Africa,” says Underwood, whose die-hard love of jeans goes back to her childhood. “I’ve been manipulating denim since I was a kid. I would deconstruct old Levi’s and Wrangler jeans that I would find at vintage stores.”

Prior to launching her own label in 2019, she worked as a design director for brands such as Baby Phat and the Jessica Simpson Collection. While she’s worked in everything from childrenswear to menswear, she says she’s always had a love for designing denim in particular. “The thing that excites me the most about denim is that it’s ever-changing—you have to keep learning,” says Underwood. “There’s so much technology happening within the mill space, including with plant dyes. It’s such a wonderful canvas to work from—you can do anything with it.”

Photo: Courtesy of Oak & Acorn

Underwood has traveled everywhere from China to Pakistan in order to work with different global manufacturers to develop different textiles and washes. It was when she visited a denim-washing factory in Pakistan in 2007, though, that she gained inspiration to start her very own line. “I was like, The way we’re washing [denim] and the amount of chemicals that we’re using on products, we have to do it differently,” says Underwood. “That started my journey.”

Oak & Acorn officially launched in 2019, when she presented its first runway show as part of Harlem’s Fashion Row. With her label, Underwood is striving to innovate on denim production, taking a less harmful approach. “We approach sustainability from a 360 perspective,” says Underwood. “Fabric, and who our fabric partners are, is really important.” For her most recent collection, the Meditation Collection, she worked with artisans in Turkey. “The Buldan fabric is [made from] organic cotton that is indigenous to Turkey,” says Underwood. “It’s woven on traditional looms by a collective of women. They weave this fabric, and then they wash it in the Dead Sea and use plant dyes for the color.”

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