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Rise Stories | Michelle K. Hanabusa
Jan 16, 2020
We wanted to kick off 2020 with our founder, CEO and Creative Director Michelle K. Hanabusa as she shares her journey creating WEAREUPRISERS and her vision for the future.
What is your story?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Growing up in a household that intersected between Japanese and American cultures has greatly shaped my lifestyle and philosophy today. When I look back I believe that Uprisers stemmed from my early days as a figure skater being dedicated to something for so long. I spent 15 years of my life figure skating competitively and a goal of mine was to make it to the Olympics. My years of competitive sports taught me discipline. Unfortunate circumstances made it to where I was no longer able to compete; therefore led me down another path. I discovered a new passion, graphic design and was able to study that passion at USC (University of Southern California) while also learning business and communications.
Post-graduation I went down the corporate route in fashion and entertainment and was able to hone in on my creative skills. However, I couldn’t help but notice the disconnect between what companies are doing internally and their consumers. Corporations having all this influence on their consumers just for the sole purpose of making money made my work seem meaningless. I knew that I wasn’t going to work for a corporation for the rest of my life whether that was freelancing or creating my own company. I would rather create something that was in my head rather than create someone else’s vision. I started to connect with like-minded people; those who stand for something bigger than themselves, pushing boundaries and who care about collaboration.
Uprisers is a brand focusing on activists, trendsetters, these warriors of change who are pushing the narrative and we’re telling their stories through visual design and fashion.
As Uprisers has evolved I have found both an internal team and a community at large that shares the same vision. Uprisers is more than just clothing and continues to evolve every day. The core remains the same but the opportunities are endless and that is what I am excited about. Above everything, I want to make sure that people feel the community spirit in everything that I do. Whether that is through wearing our clothes, coming to events, supporting us at pop-ups and collaborating with our team.
Why the middle finger?
It’s not me, and it’s not my mom either. It stems from the iconic photo of the Gidra Sisterhood. They were warriors of change that stood for something bigger than themselves. Gidra was the first Asian American publication created by young men and women who stood for API representation in media, government, business etc. at a time when their immigrant families were too scared to speak up. Gidra was coined “The Voice of the Asian American Movement” and we want to further their message.
The woman raising the middle finger is Mary Uyematsu, whose poems and life story is an inspiration to us.
It is truly beautiful to engage with people and listen to their stories of why they resonate with that symbol and it’s also pretty entertaining to see people who are offended. The middle finger is a very universal symbol and communicates defiance. We raise the middle finger to show our defiance to the “traditional” way that things have been and instead want to push the narrative and create positive change hence our name, Uprisers.
What is a challenge or obstacle that you have faced with Uprisers?
I guess the biggest challenge that I have been faced with is that there is no roadmap or guide to what we are creating. From the way we run the business to how we engage with our consumers, we are reinventing the traditional business model. In order to stay true to our company values we put purpose over profit. I don’t believe in fast fashion and want to create unique pieces that you can’t find at any random store. We also have to be mindful of our carbon footprint and are cautious of size and quantity. Even though it might cost more to create our items, I think that there is something bigger to say with how our actions are impacting the environment.
What is your vision for Uprisers?
The vision for Uprisers goes far beyond apparel. Through working on projects with other like-minded businesses and creatives, we have slowly and quietly been building Uprisers.World. When we put our current team’s strength together, we turn into a full force creative collective that companies that align with our brand can come to in order to find a one-stop solution. Uprisers.World is its own personality and when people resonate with our business, that is when they show their support. We want to use our talents and skills in order to help other brands and communities succeed. With Uprisers.World our community has access to design + merchandise, event production, content creation, digital marketing and so on. Our message goes beyond fashion and we are beginning to see different verticals that we can make an impact in.
What can we look forward to in 2020?
We are so excited for 2020. Aside from new products and collections, you can expect more collaborations with like-minded creatives with both merch and media.
Uprisers will also be popping up in our second home New York, as well as new cities like Austin, Texas and Honolulu, Hawaii. We will be expanding our Good Times events series as well as producing other events within our community.
Additionally we are growing our team and reach. It’s just the beginning of 2020 but we have so much in the works. We can’t wait to meet more people, share more stories and continue to make a positive impact in our community.