Cool Friends:  Mikaela Clark of Hansel Clothing

Meet Mikaela, the artist behind the Black-owned, Earth-conscious art and apparel company: Hansel Clothing. Mikaela creates ”color-punched contemporary art with a hint of nostalgia” and her hand-painted vintage jackets are all one-of-a-kind. We fell in love with how playful Mikaela’s pieces are and now, you can too — with unique Hansel clothing pieces for sale at UO in collab with Urban Renewal! Head here to check out the collection and read on to hear about Mikaela’s inspiration and journey.

How did you start your upcycled clothing company, Hansel Clothing?

I started Hansel Clothing about two years ago shortly after moving to New York City. My first few months in the city I remember feeling really green. I was working remotely, had very few friends and was trying to find a creative purpose. Hansel was my way of giving myself something to hope in and to build while I navigated a new adventure. Not to mention it was my childhood dream to be a designer! I'd been making clothes since age 10, so fashion was always a part of my life. I remember sketching "clothing lines" in composition notebooks during church, haha. The upcycling aspect came from being raised in a very resourceful household with a mom who never threw anything away. When she taught me to sew, she would cut patterns out of newspaper or source my "fabric" from my sisters' boxes of hand-me-downs. I still remember the first project where I really impressed her. I turned a pair of Liz Claiborne golf pants into a 1950's style short and bustier set. She taught me that anything could be given a new life. I knew if I ever had my own brand it had to be built around that principle. Hansel really started with a few custom jacket orders I did for friends. Then friends of friends started coming my way. Then cousins or boyfriends or coworkers of friends -- and so on. In the first three months of operating, I made 24 jackets mostly from word of mouth orders. It was such a gift to grow a business that way, through slow relationship-building (and some well placed Instagram photos lol). Two years later, I feel extremely lucky; because now I have this incredible community of people who make up the fabric of the Hansel story. They helped build it!

What's your favorite part about the New York creative community?

I like that New York's creative community is actually so much smaller than you'd imagine. It's this hub of collaboration, shared learning and, alongside the right people, the instinct for gatekeeping artistic expression is low to non-existent. The artists here -- and even more specific to my experience, the black artists here -- lead with this energy that the pie is big enough. When you find someone who vibrates with the same energy you do, the goal is to connect and encourage, rather than to compete. I wouldn't be half the artist I am now without the people I've met here. No one gets anywhere alone.

What’s inspiring you right now?

I'm reeeally into movies. I'll watch anything -- from period pieces to the entire Marvel canon to foreign films. I have a lengthy watchlist crowding my Notes app and usually begin and end my day with a movie. My favorite thing is to look up who did the score, or costumes or cinematography and then go watch their other films to look for through-lines. It's a new way of consuming and appreciating visual art that I like, because I get to extract the key players and hone in on their contributions, appreciate their patterns. And I love being immersed in a storyline! It unlocks my imagination *cue Spongebob voice here*.

Follow along:
@hansel_clothing on Instagram

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Made in Brooklyn, NY