Connecting Cultures by a Common Thread: An Interview with Mixed Up Clothing’s Sonia Kang

The culturally eclectic prints and designs of Mixed Up Clothing can be best understood in the context of its founder and creative director, Sonia Kang. Kang, who is half African-American and half Mexican-American, was born in Puerto Rico, raised in Hawaii, and lived in two of California’s greatest melting pots—San Francisco and Los Angeles. She not only understood what it was like to be person of multiple ethnicities, but she also experienced a world of various cultures from a young age.

Reminiscing on her childhood, Kang said, “Life to me was artists like Frida Kahlo, salsa music, birthday piñatas, Hawaiian shirts, the aloha way of life, and the list goes on and on.” Kang went on to explain, “From all these various cultures and experiences in my life, Mixed Up Clothing was born!”

Yet while Kang experienced many different cultures in her upbringing, it was Kang’s husband, a Korean-American, and her Filipino sister-in-law who cultivated her interest and further understanding of Asian cultures. “My children and I enjoyed learning about the history of kanji writing and the kokeshi doll.” As is evident in outfits like the kokeshi print kimono-style wrap dress, it is Kang’s desire to learn about and share other cultures that inspires her creative designs.

“It all starts with the fabric,” explained Kang, “I find an interesting print from some of the most famous fabric houses and then I learn about their significance. I then have fun with the style or silhouette. I mix things up by putting a fun African print on a kimono-style wrap dress. Or a Hawaiian style print on a popular Latin guayabera-style shirt.” In combining various cultural prints with often contrasting cultural styles, Kang celebrates the beauty of various cultures, and in doing so, encourages a better understanding of cultures. “I want us to learn about each other,” Kang said, “because it is then that we begin to understand, and that’s a wonderful thing.”

Enthusiasts of Mixed Up Clothing have expressed to Kang the sense of nostalgia that is evoked when they see her clothes. “They enjoy seeing their culture represented in my clothes,” said Kang. “I’ve been told from many parents that they used to have a kokeshi doll when they were little or that they feel a great deal of pride when they get to share a bit about their culture.” It is through these clothes that parents can share this sense of cultural pride with their children. And in an increasingly diverse world where cultural misunderstandings are not at a loss, Mixed Up Clothing celebrates cultural and ethnic diversity and helps children understand various cultures a little better.

Mixed Up Clothing will be debuting new items in the Spring inspired by vibrant Indian prints. “I will be introducing as many cultures as I can,” said Kang.

“Mixed Up Clothing—developing friendships through fabrics.”

For further information on Sonia Kang and Mixed Up Clothing, please visit

Updated December 2011

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