Saturday, August 29, 2015

Starting a Conversation about Diversity

Diversity is a topic near and dear to my heart, especially as my ancestors upon immigrating to the United States from Italy and Poland shed their differences, their cultures, and attempted to disappear into America's melting pot. But as a person of primarily European ethnicity, starting a conversation about our differences can be tricky especially if you don't want to offend. So I'm super excited about an upcoming collaboration with Sonia Kang of Mixed Up Clothing.

Starting conversations about diversity through fashion


Over the next few weeks, Sonia and I will be swapping meals that represent our cultures and explaining the significance of the food we choose to share with one another. I'll kick off our project with a Meet the Maker Profile and continue this coming Friday by sharing our typical Shabbat celebration. Then you'll hop over to Sonia's blog for an Asian/Latino inspired fusion dish.

How do you start a conversation about differences?

The coLAB Project

At Alt Summer 2015, Alt Summit along with Latina Bloggers Connect and Blogalicious announced a unique collaboration opportunity, coLAB. Its goals were (are) simple:

  • Meet someone new.
  • Try something new.
The only requirements? Get to know your partner. Kick off your project or idea by September 1st. Basically there were no restrictions on what we could or couldn't do. The sky was the limit. The scope could be as grand as we could imagine or as specific as we needed. We could trade skills. We could author guest posts on one another's sites.

Girl's Aloha Shirt from Mixed Up Clothing


Sonia Kang, founder and creative executive of Mixed Up Clothing

Meet my coLAB partner, Sonia Kang, founder and creative executive of Mixed Up Clothing. Through her ethnic-inspired baby/children's fashion line she celebrates diversity, inspiring our mini-global citizens to embrace and appreciate the beauty of the 21st Century's Americana family.

Sonia has successfully turned a question that I've struggled with into an opportunity to start a conversation and raise awareness. The question? What's your ethnicity? (If you're curious, she shares five things you can do to teach your kids about race and cultural diversity. The tips work for adults too! This post, along with my post on using food to find community, was the genesis for our summer project.)

Meet the Maker: Sonia Kong, Mixed Up Clothing


To kick off our coLAB project, I interviewed Sonia about her business and what drives her. I can't wait for you to get to know her and for you to experience our collaboration!

What do you make?

I design and manufacture children’s apparel that celebrates cultural diversity here in Los Angeles.

When did you first start making?

I have been sewing since 7th grade home economics class in middle school (totally dating myself since these classes are no longer offered!). I worked as a critical care RN and as a stress reliever I would sew clothes for my children, but not just any kind of clothes. As a multiracial mom, I wanted to make clothes for my children that had pieces of cultural on them. I wanted to use the clothing as a sense of pride for them that could be worn in a contemporary way and not just during traditional cultural holidays or special occasions. They couldn’t wear their Korean hanboks everyday, but they could wear a fabric print from Korea made into a dress. They could wear Ankara made into a skirt or fun pants or bloomers. When the kids were wearing the items, we would get questions of it’s origins and meanings of the fabrics and ultimately about the culture. I found myself teaching about different cultures in a new and fun way. Hey, I could use fashion as my vehicle to teach about cultural diversity! Mixed Up Clothing was born.

What challenges do you face (or did you face)?

Time, guilt and money are not my friends! As a mama of 4, one of whom has special needs, I find that there is never enough time in the day to get everything accomplished. Guilt because I can’t be everywhere all the time. If I’m at soccer, I’m thinking about work. If I have appointments and have to miss something with the kids, mommy guilt kicks in! My RN skills come in handy as a solopreneur when you have to prioritize your day with work and kids. Money!! It goes so fast when you are starting your small business. Through networking and getting in with local small business associations and women’s groups, I have found access to monies that I may not have found otherwise. This has helped lead to my first employee.

Boy's Hola Shirt from Mixed Up Apparel Girl's Hola Shirt from Mixed Up Apparel


How is what you make today different from what you first made?

Ha! I’m legit now. I can’t just “wing it” with patterns and sizes anymore. Everything is systematized: I have patterns, graded sizing, and sewing contractors. There’s order where there was none.

Why do you make?

From as early as I can remember I was asked: “what are you” by strangers. To this day my children and I are asked that question. I have a spiel I say: I’m Sonia. My mom is Mexican, my dad is Black. I was born in Puerto Rico, then Hawaii, before coming to LA. I married my husband who is Korean and together we have four children we raise as mini global citizens celebrating their multiculturalism.

Mixed Up Clothing is an extension of the question. It’s about providing information about the culture. It’s about celebrating who you are. It’s about inclusion. It says you are beautiful no matter who you are and where you’re from!

Who inspired and encouraged you to make?

I’m inspired by my cultures and of my children. The beautiful places I have lived and visited. I’m inspired by the beautiful people I meet and their respective cultures. I’m inspired by learning about others.

What advice would you have given yourself when you were first starting?

Get help sooner rather than later. You can’t do everything by yourself and there’s no reason you can’t delegate and outsource some of the tasks needed to grow your business. Virtual assistants, fiverr, and hoot suite have been helpful to get my business off the ground and sanity back in my life. I know I CAN do it all if I have to but why when there are some really talented folks you can contract out to. It helps me be the wife, mama sister, friend… I want to be.

genuinely eden

Credits: All layouts designed by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life. Photo of the Kang family and Mixed Up Clothing product photos from Sonia Kang and used with permission.

DISCLOSURE: Since March 2014 I have been consulting part time with Alt Summit. All opinions presented are my own.