Fashion Icons: Mikaila Brown and The Common Thread Project

Being a Fashion Studies major at Montclair State brings plenty of networking opportunities for interested students. In our industry exploration seminar class, we are met each and every week with highly respected industry professionals. We’ve had speakers from Condé Nast, PVH Corp who houses Tommy Hilfiger and other popular brands, local boutique owners, new designers, and design software sellers. However, none of these speakers left quite the impression that Mikaila Brown did from The Common Thread Project

Mikaila came into our lecture hall ready to start a discussion, not an argument, between students from various backgrounds about cultural appropriation in the fashion industry. Her presentation started with an introduction about why she was catering her speech in a different way than previous speakers had. She told us about The Common Thread Project and what it means to her. She's basically a fashion anthropologist (cool, right?) who educates her clients on how to effectively pay homage to a culture without offending said ethnic background. 

Makaila had everyone raising their hands and sharing their opinions on the matter and to my surprise, a lot of people shared brutally honest thoughts about the topic. When some students argued that maybe people respect the culture they are taking trends from and not doing it to mock them, Mikaila told us three things:

  1. You have to get permission and acceptance from a culture in order to borrow from them, there is no set number but of course in certain situations, the number of people who need to accept will vary. 
  2. Nobody can justify their use of cultural appropriation or tell whoever’s culture it is that they see nothing wrong with that. It’s not for someone else to decide.
  3. It is imperative that designers give credit where credit is due. TCT Project aims to bring a brand and culture together by physically and effectively working together throughout the whole process.

I learned so many things from Mikaila and her mission to end cultural appropriation in the fashion industry, especially coming from a white background where I haven’t experienced half of what other people may have gone through. It was an enlightening experience to be able to meet with Mikaila and to see our class have a respectable discussion on the topic. 

To find out more about The Common Thread Project, give them a follow on Instagram and check out their website here!

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3