We first met Mikaela Bradbury briefly at a coffee shop in the West Village nearly two years ago, and she has since very happily and serendipitously popped back into our world.
Mikaela is a South African-born New Yorker and the designer and founder of a fashion line called ARJUNA.AG. Mikaela first discovered the power of silver when her mother, an 11 year cancer survivor, used silver to treat radiation burns while going through treatment. Arjuna incorporates silver-plated fabric into it’s minimalistic and versatile designs, offering garments that are designed to be worn over, under and between your everyday wardrobe. Arjuna is holistic protection for the modern day warrior.
Mikaela’s newest collection combines sustainably farmed organic bamboo with silver for a soft, yet strong aesthetic that really resonates with us. Check it out here.
Hey Mikaela. What does the name ARJUNA.AG mean?
Arjuna means white, bright or silver in Sanksrit. It is also the name of the main warrior prince in the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text that teaches about karma yoga or “sacred action.” AG is the chemical symbol for silver.
The notion of ‘sacred action’ is very important to the mission of the company… More broadly, it is about how to live a spiritual life through action. But specifically, it speaks about the paradox of acting with an inner intention and purpose, yet remaining detached from the outward manifestation and results. This tension resonated with me as someone who is deeply influenced by Buddhist and Eastern philosophy, which teaches detachment and selflessness — and yet still feels the need to engage the world, make a positive difference, succeed as an entrepreneur, etc.
Do you have an ideal customer or muse? Who is he or she?
Style-wise, one of my muses is Tilda Swinton (I’ve always been a fan of a turtleneck…). I find that she embodies a kind of otherness and interiority that is very attractive and also key to the brand. She has also been involved in a number of environmental initiatives that I care about.
In general, my ideal customer is someone is who making a positive change in the world. Someone who is highly engaged — with their hands, and feet, and voices and bodies — in fighting the battles that need to be fought right now — environmental, social, or economic — but recognizes the importance of self-care and retreat in staying strong and grounded. So, entrepreneurs, activists, explorers, filmmakers… I feel very honored that a lot of my founding customers are these people and that my clothing supports them in their work.
Tell us a little about your creative process. How do you come up with a new design or collection?
I did not study design formally so I lack a traditional framework or structure for designing things. For example, I only just discovered the concept of making mood boards, and I never do any kind of trend research. Leading up to the design process, I tend to get repeated signals from conversations or experiences around me that something needs to get made: a topic will keep coming up, or my eye will keep returning to a certain material or object or cut — and eventually it just culminates into a clear vision of what needs to get created. Once this sets in, the actual creative process requires that I step back from my day-to-day computer work surrounding other parts of the company and go into a kind of unconscious creative zone where my hands take over.
What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
For me, sustainable fashion means valuing things. It means valuing the labor, energy and resources that goes into what we buy. From that true sense of value, I think a lot of sustainable practices follow naturally… you buy less, you buy things that harm the planet and people less, and you use what you have for longer and with greater care.
Your brand is all about inner peace, beauty and strength. How do you stay balanced whilst working as a designer in New York City?
My mornings are really really precious to me. Having a hour or so in the morning that is completely quiet, offline and undisrupted is very important. I usually will meditate or take a bath, then do some personal writing with recordings of teachers that are important to me in the background. I’ve been listening to this one series of dharma talks by this zen master on repeat since January… it really helps sets the tone for the day. When I stop doing this and just jump right into my emails or day, it catches up with me and I start to feel like I am losing the inspiration and integrity behind what I am doing.
If you could only wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Well, right now, I practically live in a black turtleneck, with either black leggings or these vintage Pleats Please trousers, and Arjuna underwear and hand guards. Its kind of cliche, but its what I feel the most comfortable in and what works for my lifestyle. If I lived outside of New York though, like in the country, I would probably want to live in a super soft, worn out pink tee shirt dress…
Finish this sentence. Simplicity is: