Denim is often classified as an American fabric, but rarely as a Black creation—and that’s a lesson Miko Underwood, founder of denim brand Oak & Acorn—Only for the Rebelles, addresses with her brand. Underwood’s passion for denim design stems from a sense of cultural responsibility to share the origin of the American blue jean, which is directly connected to the African slave trade. Over time, the Black community chose to wear these pieces to show respect for their ancestors and rebel against their oppressors’ wrongdoings—hence the brand’s name and laser-sharp focus.
Through historic storytelling and social impact measures, Underwood aims to create positive change in both the fashion industry and the Black community. She’s an avid supporter of We Got Us Now, Inc., a national non-profit supporting children and young adults impacted by parental incarceration and contributes 20 percent of profits from select collections to the cause.
Her signature draped silhouettes were ahead of their time, providing genderless, sustainable denim before it was trendy to do so. All designs are made using eco-fibers like hemp, Refibra, Tencel, recycled and repurposed denim, natural indigo artisan textiles and deadstock fabrics. This commitment to sustainability underscores her visions for creating a future that shows more respect to the environment and its people.
What is the biggest misconception that consumers have about sustainable denim?
The biggest misconception that consumers have about sustainable denim is that it isn’t cool or fashionable and that it consists of used, old and damaged denim. I think they also assume the variety of washes are limited.
What can the denim industry do to ensure a positive post-pandemic rebound?
The denim industry can ensure a positive post-pandemic rebound by continuing to present the rich and diverse heritage of denim, its origins and its connection to the land and people who make it.
Skinny jeans: Over or a new staple?
While the demographics may have changed, the skinny jean is for sure a staple fit.
How can denim retail improve?
Denim retail can improve by reducing segmentation in offering. It can make such a difference to increase the availability of genderless styles and functional, universal fits.
How many pairs of jeans do you own?
I haven’t counted how many pairs I own, but I would say I’ve amassed over 50 pairs of jeans. I collect quite a lot, but people also gift a bunch to me.
Which jeans do you wear the most, and why?
The jeans I wear the most are vintage, oversized, slouchy fits that are slung low on my hips because I enjoy a more relaxed, loose-fitted jean that doesn’t squeeze my waist.