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Meet Michelle K. Hanabusa of We Are Uprisers

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle K. Hanabusa.

Michelle, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I knew early on that whatever I was going to do, it would be in the creative and/or entertainment space. My first passion and something I took extremely seriously was figure skating. I told myself that I wanted to be the next Michelle Kwan and over the course of 14 years, I was convinced that this sport was my calling. I enjoyed designing my figure skating dresses (plus, it was cheaper for my parents than finding an actual designer, lol) so I spent many hours designing 30+ outfits over the course of 14 years. At 16, I had hip surgery and was no longer able to keep up with the competitive side of skating. That led me to look into other passions outside of the sport.

Graphic design quickly emerged as a new interest. In college, I started designing graphics and fulfilling merch orders for sororities and fraternities throughout different universities across the US. I saw it as a way to perfect my graphic design skills.

Post college — I started working in the creative department under BCBGeneration’s Creative Director, Joyce Azria. That’s where I really learned the ins and outs of the fashion industry. I then transitioned to work at AEG, executing on different campaigns for their music, sports, and entertainment sectors. I always worked on side projects after hours… I guess looking back, it was because I wasn’t 100% happy at my full-time jobs. I ran an ecommerce site selling Japanese-inspired goods and clothing, which eventually gave me a platform to meet my first investor. He gave me the opportunity to quit my corporate job and take a risk in trying my hand at entrepreneurship. That was back in 2016.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Definitely not! There has been countless ups and downs throughout the two years of this venture. Something I’ve learned is that people will try to pull you in all different directions and it is your job to determine which avenue to pursue and their true intentions. My biggest struggles have been dealing with investors who may or may not have had the best intentions for the brand and my vision. I am officially on my own now, funding everything myself and taking small steps towards the direction I really want to take UPRISERS.

Please tell us about We Are Uprisers.
Based in Los Angeles, CA., we’re a community-driven fashion brand. We’re a diverse group of individuals who use fashion as a form of expression to empower and unite the community of creatives and leaders..

UPRISERS was inspired by my Japanese culture with a Los Angeles lifestyle. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, with a mom who immigrated from Japan and a dad who is third generation Japanese-American and a grandma who lived with us under the same room. Growing up, I tried to assimilate as much as possible to look, act, and blend in with my peers. It took me 24 years to fully embrace who I am and be proud of where I came from. UPRISERS is a platform to share my history, culture, pride of being Japanese-American; and to ultimately give voice to what we feel is underrepresented. 

My goal for my team is to constantly engage with local and international organizations and individuals to share a story.  Every drop is created with a cause in mind and a percentage will go back to an organization we truly believe in.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
There are two main things we are planning for that I am really excited about.

We will be launching our first major campaign called with a non-profit organization scheduled to drop in the fall of this year. The story behind our campaign is a connection to our community where individuals share what represents their truest form. It’s to empower the next generation and give them a platform and voice to share their background, culture, and who they are at its core.

UPRISERS will also have a two-week or month-long pop-up in Tokyo. We’ve had two small pop-up opportunities in Tokyo so far to see if there was a market for us overseas. It was successful, so we are super excited for this opportunity! Stay tuned.

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