Contributor: Harmony Richards
We're closing out AAPI month highlighting our dear friend and business queen Monica Wesley. Our fellow Parsons alumni is ona mission to make comfortable lingerie that includes all body types. We call her the queen of feminist lingerie — undergarments made for real women and not the male gaze.
Read her interview below:
What inspired you to start Uye Surana?
I decided to start my own label Uye Surana while I was still attending Parsons School of Design. After graduation I got a few freelance jobs, but decided to work on Uye Surana seriously. I thought I would be famous as an independent fashion designer in a few months or a year. Now 10 years later, my line is well respected in the lingerie industry. While I'm not famous, Uye Surana is known for making beautiful styles that celebrate the wearer in sizes XS-5XL. We're known for our fun prints like mushrooms and butterflies, which are sustainably printed without the use of water. As well thigh high stockings that don't rip and bras that are ultra-adjustable so you can customize them to your unique size and shape.
In what ways does your brand celebrate your heritage?
My last name was anglicized by my Issei (second generation Japanese American) grandfather after World War II. I never cared much for my last name since it didn't represent my ethnicity or have ties to my ancestry. So when I went to create my own line I wanted to use a name that I felt represented both of my family names. I came up with Uye Surana which was a mix of names from my mother and father's side.
What advice would you give to aspiring AAPI entrepreneurs?
Whether you share your journey as an entrepreneur or the role you play in your business, be sure to include yourself in your brand story. This will allow you to connect with other AAPI individuals or complimentary businesses.
What's one random fact about you that may surprise people?
My mom let me dress myself from a young age. I remember putting on my jumpers backwards, wearing red heart printed tights with my favorite sneakers, and a Betty Boop sweatshirt handed down from my brother. Not getting any guidance from my mom on how to dress inspired my creativity for self-expression through my own style.
What's one thing people could do to support your business right now?
Interact and engage with Uye Surana. A lot of the time, people think that by support you want them to spend money in your shop. While that's definitely a big part of what keeps a business going, subscribing, following, liking, commenting also are a huge part of growing a business and can offer a more personal connection.