By Elizabeth Gracen:
With the holidays upon us and a myriad of gift-giving options to choose from, Flapper Press is proud to highlight a handful of eclectic offerings with a focus on small businesses with eclectic ideas for very special gifts this year.
The fashionable, socially conscious designs by actress Kelly Hu for her company 33 Edge make a perfect gift. The eye-catching graphic T-shirts promote equality and justice and are designed to encourage unity and respect for fellow human beings. We like the sound of that!
Please meet Kelly Hu and 33 Edge!
EG: Kelly, I’m not quite sure, but I think we share a special mutual friend in Adrian Paul. Did you work with him on Arrow, or do you know him from somewhere else?
KH: Unfortunately, I’ve never had the pleasure of working with Adrian. We were on Arrow at the same time, but we didn’t have any scenes together. We met back in about 2002 when we shared the same manager and quickly discovered we both had a love for martial arts and poker. We played in one another’s charity poker tournaments over the years, and we kept bumping into each other at Comic-cons where we’re able to hang out and catch up. I’m so happy we’ve been able to keep in touch. I adore Adrian. He’s such a great guy and has such a huge heart. EG: Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you came to create 33 Edge.
KH: Growing up in Hawaii and being raised by a struggling single mother, we didn’t have money for clothes and luxuries, so I wore a lot of hand-me-downs. Luckily my mother, who was great at sewing and made a lot of my clothes, taught me how to sew at a young age. By the 5th grade, I was designing, sewing, and selling swimsuits at school. I also made skirts for competitive roller skating and sold outfits to the other girls on the team. At thirteen, I lied about my age and got my first job at a clothing store, where I got paid under the table and was able to use the money I earned to buy clothes at a discount for school. Eventually I was scouted to model for Japan, and when I was 16 I entered a pageant at the request of my agents so they could use the title to promote me. My bosses at the clothing store sponsored half of my $250 entry fee and my agent sponsored the other half. Only hoping to win the local title of the Miss Hawaii Teen USA pageant, to everyone’s surprise (including my own), I won the national Miss Teen USA pageant and changed the trajectory of my life. After graduating from high school, I moved to Los Angeles and began my career in modeling and acting.
The modeling career eventually faded while the acting took off. Although I’ve been fortunate to have a successful career in acting, I always loved the idea of making clothes and starting my own line. The idea of 33 Edge was originally an athleisure/yoga line that I tried starting over 10 years ago that never really developed but it’s always been in the back of my mind. When the quarantine happened and all of the protests were going on, I saw just how much the world was growing even more divided and polarized, so I wanted to create something to help bridge the gap promoting unity and equality. I figured there had to be a lot of people around the world who felt the same and wanted to bring back more respect and kindness for their fellow man. Since I had already had a bit of experience with the athleisure line and I now had a lot more time on my hands due to quarantine, it was easier for me to jumpstart.
EG: How did you choose the slogans and designs for your merchandise? Did you design the artwork, or do you have an artist you collaborate with?
KH: I learned photoshop and illustrator when I originally wanted to do the athlesisure line 10 years ago, so I’m able to create my own graphic designs. I try to use words and ideas that both sides of the aisle could connect with and help people come together. The graphics are simple words and symbols of unity, equality, and kindness, but each is written in a gradient of skintones that represent diversity. I purposefully use the symbol for equal instead of the spelled out word because I like the power in its simplicity. It’s a subtle but powerful message. I’m a one-woman show start to finish. It’s been a lot to take on, but I enjoy the work and am thankful for the creative outlet. EG: Tell me about the different category collections on your site.
KH: I started with just four graphics in the Equality Collection during the height of the BLM protests to help promote the idea of equality, love, and unity of all ethnicities, something I’m hoping everyone can get behind.
The “American” T-shirt was driven by the anti-Asian sentiment that my fellow Asian Americans are experiencing during COVID-19, where Asian Americans are being told to go back to China. It’s written in bold font with skintones to symbolize the fact that America is made of people of all colors and that anyone of any race or ethnicity can be American. This country belongs to all of us.
The Humanity Collection is just made up of three words: humanity, kindness, and respect. Again written in bold fonts with a gradient of skintones, but this time I chose fonts that look more like they were deteriorating to represent the deterioration of kindness and humanity.
EG: Please tell our readers about the Mushu's Rescue Collection.
KH: The Mushu Rescue Collection was created when I lost my beloved dog during quarantine in September. I rescued Mushu 17 1/2 years before from Much Love Animal Rescue. It was love at fist sight. Grateful for their help in connecting me with my 12-pound soul mate, I designed a shirt for them with the simple word “Rescue” that they sold at their adoption site. I had completely forgotten about the shirt, but when I went rummaging through my drawer for a T-shirt to wear when it was time to let Mushu go, I stumbled across the shirt and wore it for her last day. Proceeds from Mushu’s Rescue Collection will be donated to Much Love and other animal rescues in Mushu’s honor.
EG: With the holiday season upon us, what would you like our readers to know about why your products make the perfect unique gift this year?
KH: The COVID-19 crisis had forced so many of us face our own mortality and made us aware of what’s really important and less materialistic. There will be less parties for a while and a lot more people working from home. T-shirts and sweatshirts from 33 Edge are not just a practical gift for the times, but the messages reflect the social consciousness and values that so many of us are striving for in ourselves and in what we want to see in our world.
EG: It’s been such a rough year for just about everyone. As an actor and performer . . . and human being (!) what has been your biggest challenge since the initial lockdown last spring?
KH: It certainly has been tough for everyone, especially those of us who still can’t work. Having lived with asthma for my entire life, I’m very careful about my exposure, but I’ve managed to adapt and stay busy with 33 Edge. I think the biggest challenge that so many of us face, whether we know it or not, is staying positive and not getting caught up in the division and negativity being spewed on television and on social media. I’m very much a people person, and I thrive on human connection. Without the luxury of being able to go out and be with friends, I tend to fill that extra time with the computer and get sucked up in the negativity and division. I realize it’s important to stay informed, but with so much going on these days it could take up all of my free time and more. So I try to limit my computer time and step back into the real, physical world and create a more positive space.
EG: As 2020 finally comes to a close, what are you most thankful for despite the difficult days? What are you most looking forward to for 2021?
KH: Of course I am so thankful for my health first and foremost at this time. The importance of good health has never been a higher priority. Hearing the daily death toll has made me contemplate my own mortality, and I want to live life even more fully than I have pre-COVID. So next year, when there’s a vaccine, I’m looking forward to traveling and making more memories and human connections. I still have a very long bucket list to get through.
Visit 33edge.com to browse the collections and pick out the perfect holiday gift!