Profile on Sonia Kang of Mixed Up Clothing
What was the inspiration for starting your company/brand?
The inspiration for Mixed Up Clothing came from my diverse multicultural experience. I was born to an African-American father and Mexican-American mother on the island of Puerto Rico where we were based while my parents proudly served in the military. After Puerto Rico my family was transferred to the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. Today I am married to my husband who is Korean-American and together we have 4 children we call our “mini global citizens.” As my children grew, I wanted to provide them with an environment that fostered a positive self-identity in relation to their rich cultural heritage. We lived with intention-we surrounded them with books, music, movies, and art that showcased their cultural reality. We believe in “if you can see it, you can be it” mentality because we wanted them to see themselves in all these works. Representation matters and clothing/fashion is no exception. There are traditional garments they could wear during special occasions that reflect their cultures but I wanted them to have something they could wear in everyday life. There wasn’t anything out there in the stores so I designed styles and made them myself. Folks stopped me to ask about the clothing and the cultures represented and that’s when I had my Oprah “A-ha” moment. People felt the same way I did and wanted me to make them items. I was taking orders and was growing quickly so I decided to leave 15 years as a critical care RN and create a children’s clothing line that showcased different cultures from fabric sourced from around the world and turned into fun, everyday garments like dresses, rompers, bibs, tops and bottoms for boys and girls. I discovered that our clothes were our vehicle to teach about cultural diversity and encourage inclusion. In 2011, Mixed Up Clothing, Inc. was founded and the brand has continued to grow and evolve.
Tell us about how doing good for people and/or the planet is a key part of your company’s philosophy.
Mixed Up Clothing began as a way to provide my children with clothes that represented their multicultural heritage but evolved into much more. It melded my passion for community service and advocacy, which is built into my business plan. I work in the multicultural and multiracial space creating opportunities and seeking representation for these communities. As VP of a non-profit organization called Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC) with over 25 years in existence, one of my roles is to put on educational programs on such topics as race and identity. Proceeds of Mixed Up Clothing’s sales go to support the wonderful work MASC does. Our mission is straightforward: the multicultural community is here, has been here and not going anywhere. I am doing my part to bring awareness to this underrepresented community to the forefront. One of my goals is to have adequate representation for this community and I am proud to be one of the voices leading the way.
What role does community play in inspiring, starting or helping your company grow?
Showcasing cultural diversity is our focus here at Mixed Up Clothing, Inc. but it comes via different forms. There’s the fashion arm, which is Mixed Up Clothing where the clothing tells a story and provides a fun way to highlight diverse cultures. Then there’s MultiCulti Corner (MCC), which I co-founded with my publicist, Delia Douglas, of DDHPR. We love L.A and love that we have so much cultural diversity here. We wanted to take children and their families to the different ethnic enclaves and cultural experiences that go on in our city so we started MCC to do just that. We explore areas like Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Little Ethiopia to encourage children to learn about the many different cultures we share our world with. We listen to music; try different foods and listen to storytellers share their history.
We understand that not everyone has access to travel, but we are fortunate to live in L.A where you can spend lunch eating galbi in Koreatown and end the day eating ramen in Little Tokyo. We didn’t want to stop there. Delia and I started Mixed Heritage Day, which is a day for celebrating those that are in interracial relationships; transracially adopt or who identify as multiracial.
We are keenly aware that the multiracial community is one of the fastest growing populations and we wanted to commemorate this fact by having a day where we can celebrate with others in a day of community. For the last two years we celebrated Mixed Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium and hosted hundreds of attendees including celebrities, influencers and sponsors who believe in our mission. Mixed Up Clothing grows through these grassroots efforts to build community and we’re proud of the work we have done so far but there is still more work to do. We are excited about the future.
What obstacles or challenges have you and your company had to overcome, particularly considering things like social/eco impact or running a small business.
Being a solo entrepreneur of Mixed Up Clothing is challenging. Financial resources are tight so I am the designer, bookkeeper, sales representative, customer service, fulfillment and shipping. It’s challenging spending time on all duties but finding access to capital has by far been the most challenging. The lending and venture capital systems are difficult to navigate and come by.
What’s next for you and the company?
Mixed Up Clothing, MultiCulti Corner and Mixed Heritage Day are excited for the future. We are primed for growth in the multicultural space from a market perspective and socially. We aim to be in more boutiques across the U.S and abroad. We are honored to be seen as the folks to watch in the multicultural/multiracial milieu. As an expert in this field, I will continue to be a positive voice for our community and raise awareness. I will continue to speak on panels, do interviews, write for various media outlets and consult as needed in order to further the opportunities for this community. My dedication to diversity and inclusion is unwavering and I’m ready to put in the work necessary to make things better for future of our children.