Sonia Smith-Kang is the founder of Mixed Up Clothing a line for kids that aims to build friendships through fabrics. They encourage the exploration of culture and family through fabrics from around the World! Her mission is to showcase and celebrate cultural diversity.
Her clothing has been seen on the Today show, The Real, NPR, Huff Post and the clothes have been worn by celeb children including Modern Family’s Lily, Zoey from The Little Couple, Tia and Tamera’s little ones and many others.”
Sonia was born to an Afican-American father, and Mexican-American mother in Puerto Rico, and spent much of her childhood in Hawaii.
The idea for her business stemmed from her own mixed-race background and her multicultural family. Her husband is Korean-American and together they have 4 children (2 boys & 2 girls) ages 9,11,18 and 25. She told us about how her clothing line started.
“Clothes struck an emotional chord with people. There was a need for them to have a piece of their culture that they could wear daily and not just during cultural ceremonies or special occasions. They wanted to represent who they were in a mainstream way but didn’t know how?
She told us that she thinks of her kids as “mini global citizens” because they represent the changing face of America.
“We teach them that just like being ambidextrous is using both hands, they can be ambi-cultural in that they can straddle all of their cultures without having to assimilate or lose out on any one culture.”
Her children are being taught children English, Korean and Spanish. They eat all foods and listen to diverse music. They code switch like champs and they understand the benefits of being multi-cultural.
But her life could have gone a very different way. She went to the University of San Francisco and became a critical care registered nurse. Even then she used her multicultural background to become an RN that brought a holistic, cultural and family-centered philosophy to nursing and she made sure she took patients and their caregivers’ religion and cultural needs into account while patients were in her unit. For instance, she would move hospital beds toward Mecca, have prayer rugs available, bring in Chaplains, have translators on hand all in hopes of improving the family’s stay, "which (hopefully) in turn helped the patient get better care."
Being a RN was stressful and a hobby was encouraged for self-care. This is how she started first sewing clothes for her children finding ethnic fabrics sourced from around the world that represented their cultures.Then she started mixing and matching prints and silhouettes in a fun way that would have folks stopping her on the streets to ask what culture was represented on the fabric and where they could buy the clothes.
She noticed that in their exchanges people loved sharing their cultural stories as well. She was fascinated listening to them and learning about other cultures.
She was also building friendships and using the clothing as a vehicle to teach about culture and diversity through the fabrics. It was a comfortable way to discuss topics that can be difficult to talk about, especially in our current climate.
Then the proverbial light bulb went off!
After 15 years as a RN, she took a leap of faith, resigned from nursing, borrowed and took out her savings, took an entrepreneurial business class, got all the necessary licenses and permits, made a payment on a downtown LA studio, sourced fabric and contractors to help get my clothes from idea to distribution and voilà, Mixed Up Clothing was born.
Her children are her motivation each day. She herself struggled with my identity and grew up feeling that she wasn’t Black enough, Latina enough or American enough.
She promised herself then that her children (and multicultural children like them) would not have the same experience. She works hard everyday to dispel the cultural myths and breakdown the barriers that prevent inclusion.
Her kids are not only her motivation; they help her package, sort, take inventory, and ship each clothing season. They make public appearances with her too!
“It’s all hands on deck and they know that they may not always want to but family jumps in and we are there to help each other succeed. It’s a family thing!”
But her greatest success was leaving the comforts of a regular career as a RN in exchange for one that is unknown and she considers herself a small business owner living her dream.
Being an entrepreneur has allowed her to be the mama, wife, daughter, amiga, granddaughter, sister, tia, nina, etc. she wants to be.
With so many projects and things to keep track of she plans her day the night before so that when she starts the morning after morning kid/school drop-offs, she can just hop on the treadmill without wasting time looking over my calendar. While on the treadmill she listen to the news and read emails that have come in overnight and looks over social media accounts and puts out fires as needed.
But behind every great woman is another great woman! She counts her mom as one of her greatest inspiration. And her abuelos who taught her about her “Mexican cultura.” and to respect everyone whether they are a CEO or anyone else.
One of her tips is to “culture-proof” a home is by having toys/dolls/books/movies that LOOK like your kids and reflect their reality.
She lives and breathes diversity in her numerous projects aside from Mixed-Up Clothing that include: MultiCulti Corner: a community group that explores the ethnic enclaves here in Los Angeles to bring cultural awareness to children, Mixed Heritage Day: which a day (9/23/17) where she partners with the LA Dodgers to celebrate those of mixed heritage, in interracial relationships, or are transracially adopted. This is a day of community and celebration held at Dodger Stadium. She also volunteers as Vice President of a non-profit organization called Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC). It is a 501c3 that advocates and educates for the multiracial community.
“I wanted to be the change that I wanted from this world.I needed to be a part of it. So I jumped without a parachute.”
Her commitment to shedding light on multiculturalism has led her to contribute to major websites like Babble, Huff Post, Medium, Mash Up Americans and The Mixed Up Blog and as a multicultural expert who has spoken on different panels about race and identity around the country. She also still uses her medical knowledge as an advisor to a non-profit organization called Mixed Marrow which helps encourage and sign up more bone marrow donors or color and multiracial heritage to become donors on the bone marrow registry.
We are in awe of Sonia and all that she is doing to create a better world for all children. You find her clothing on her website, www.mixedupclothing.com and on Amazon. You can learn more about Mixed Heritage Day on her site.
You find her on social media @mixedupclothing.