art-awareness_web.jpgAs I have stated before, I dabbled in amateur fashion.  I also like to shop. So I know about fashion and what looks good.

But I’ve never experienced a fashion show like the one I witnessed July 11 at the Deluxe Art Gallery in Downtown Miami. 

To set the stage, imagine a small art space with white walls filled with hangings of fashionable clothing and accessories.  But the fashion isn’t typical. 
There are grenades, blood diamonds and hanging limbs.

“Aliakim (pronounced Ali ock kim) is a distinctive accessory and clothing line,” says CEO and Founder Mikaila Brown, Ph.D.  “That uniquely melds countercultural icons with high-end fashion elements to artistically raise awareness of current world affairs.”

Aliakim, which is Brown’s first name spelled backward, is a fashion line that specializes in activism chic. Mikaila Brown makes made-to-wear fashion for people who have stories of cultural awareness that can be made into high-end fashion.

Here’s how it works:  A client contacts Brown, tells her what she wants, most often includes a story as well, and Brown creates an outfit.  When the outfit is worn, it tells the story.

But Brown’s activism is not just about made-to-wear.

“Bear Threads is a community development project committed to creating a platform for impoverished youth, ages 13 to 18, to explore social activism while learning the basic intricacies of the fashion design industry,’’ said the six-foot-tall fashionista, her four-inch heels providing an even taller appearance.

She also wore a long, black gown with black leather detailing on the back, courtesy of seamstress Shanell Sanders. 

Bear Threads is Brown’s non-profit organization. Through it, she seeks to educate youth about being culturally aware of the world around them. 

Now that we’ve covered the background information, let’s get back to the show itself.

The show is one model, walking around a room, schmoozing guests in three different outfits.  The real fashion is in the artwork on the wall.  Each piece reflects the strife of wars and the reasons for them.

My favorite piece is the “Blood Diamond Dress,” which includes a purse and necklace combination (“purlace”) and a picture of Africa with blood diamonds dripping from the continent.  It sounds dramatic, but the dress is gorgeous.

Each piece, which is a picture of a dress or a replica of an accessory, is accompanied by a description and a quote.  For the Blood Diamond Dress, Kanye West’s “Diamonds (Sierra Leone)” is quoted.

But my favorite quote belongs to a hand-grenade purse: “If you’re in a war, instead of throwing a hand–grenade at the enemy, throw one of those small pumpkins. Maybe it’ll make everyone think how stupid war is….” 

This quote is by Jack Handy.  It’s a strange thing to say, but it has a certain ring to it.

In attendance at this “fashion show” were three of my fave girls of the arts: Hindy Stegman, Alison Eager, and, of course Brown. We had a good time looking at fashion and enjoying the camaraderie of the people who came to enjoy the arts.

I learned a few things that night. 

One, just because the media isn’t covering the war in Iraq as much as it used to doesn’t mean that it’s over. It still deserves some much-needed attention. 
Two, a gallery walk is when people walk a ten-block radius up and down Northwest 2nd Avenue in Miami, between 20th and 30th streets, and visit all of the galleries along the way, hence the name. And three, downtown Miami is a good place to soak up some culture, and has good food on a Saturday night. 

In a bold move, Brown has opened my awareness of cultural issues that seem to have disappeared, but are quite prevalent.

She used the basics: dresses, purlaces and a great space.

Photo by Erik Brown. Pictured above is a purlace, a combination of a purse and necklace, which was on display July 11 at the Deluxe Art Gallery in Miami.


For more information on Aliakim, you can email your inquiries to and for information on Bear Threads, you can email

For more information on Shanell Sanders and to view her sketches, you can visit her website at