Making it in America: from bullied, Gay boy to High-flying fashion designer
In the political climate right now a central issue is immigration. Republicans back building a wall while Democrats are committed to keeping the borders open. Regardless of your political inclination is long been said that America needs is immigrants and needs expansion of our culture, economy and thinking that new people bring to this country. In Europe, with all the recent terrorist attacks restriction of immigration seems more imminent especially as Great Britain voted that way. The American dream certainly brings millions with high hopes.
Add to this political/social mix, the hot topics of gay pride, bullying and hate crimes are another problem that America faces.Kiger Hansen is a successful New York City fashion designer with his own clothing website but he wasn't always this way. He wasn't always feeling safe and comfortable in his own skin. He is an example of a triple whammy effect for an immigrant. His race, nationality and sexual orientation played a huge role in his childhood. All three made it very difficult but typically like the American dream, an immigrant who seeks hard work and a better life as nothing ever is impossible. He was born in South Korea to a Korean mother and American father. He never knew his real father as his mom passed unexpectedly. His mom is beautiful, stylish and she fell in love with my stepfather, an American military soldier stationed in Korea. At age 7 he moved to Kansas on an army base to begin a new life. He always knew his different and felt he is kept a secret ever since he was a toddler. He always knew he was homosexual but it was not right to say it to anyone including his parents. Most of the LGBT community has to use this as a survival mechanism. He hardly spoke English and found it difficult to make friends. His schoolmates picked him on. He also struggled with anti-Korean sentiments but it didn't matter, he was ready for America.
He remembers a group of boys asking him if he was gay. He just smiled and shrugged and was just happy they came and talked to him and wanted to be friends. After recess he looked up the word and the definitions said to be happy. He promptly ran back to the group to tell them he was happy to make friends with them and said yes I'm gay. He was dirt bombed immediately in his eyes and could not see. At this time they push and hit me to the ground and kicked me. No one bothered to come and get him as he lay there so we walked home. All of this meant he had to create his own world. This was his life in Kansas and he hated it. His only response could be to check in and check out in his own mind and he loved to draw and that brought him peace and happiness. At the age of eight he began watching TV to learn the American way. He fell in love with the show" Charlie's Angels". Watching TV helped him learn the language and culture. Farrah Fawcett was his idol and he began to sketch the Angels girls and made up scenes for the show like a sketch comic book.
One night, he was watching Brooke Shields Calvin Klein jeans commercial and he was mesmerized. A simple pair of jeans and a TV ad opened up a new channel of obsession for a young boy desperately in search of relief. He started to collect fashion magazine covers and began to engross himself in them. His young mind found solace in women's media portrayals. He found these same Calvin Klein jeans for $50 and new we had to save to get them. He obtained a paper route and it took them eight months to save for those jeans. He found the right size and felt amazing and then found a new surge of confidence. He wore them almost every day and felt the bullying was beginning to be less painful when he wore the genes. A pair of jeans that had worked hard for that made him feel good that he obtained with a little hard work and a goal. Ultimately this is the key ingredient of successful American immigration that one can accomplish anything.
His sketches became fashion centric and one of his junior high art teachers saw his sketches and told him he should become a fashion designer. This was a huge thing to hear from a respected art teacher. He loved fashion and photography. He decided to become a fashion designer to help people feel the way he did when he first tried on a pair of Calvin Klein jeans. It is typical primal instinct to not like something of your own kind. Hansen uses his passion and talent of creativity to help everyone feel good about themselves and look fantastic. That same art teacher gave him a college catalog to the art school in New York Parsons. There were two locations in New York and Los Angeles. He'd always loved Los Angeles but his dad couldn't afford the tuition. He found the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. He left his mom cry and started his freedom as a Gay artist. The weeks of school were intense and no one believed he was a boy from Kansas. He made lots of friends and could finally talk about the subjects he wanted. The" Korean redneck" as Hansen often refers to himself was beginning to learn the ways of a big city sophisticate. He got small retail jobs at the Beverly Center. He got A's in most of his classes and dreaded going back to Kansas to visit. He started to intern at various design companies. He befriended a girl who worked at Guess Jeans who was just exploding on the American cultural scene at that time. He met with Georges Marciano the owner of Guess and interviewed for a job. I got the job and for a young man so enraptured by genes since a small boy, Guess Jeans must have been heavenly. He remembers his first paycheck and was there for five years from design assistant to designer. Georges asked him even to design a men's line for him.
Eventually Kiger Hansen found his own line of jeans and used all of the savings, credit card and borrowed 10,000 from his parents and launched “Kiger denim”. Many top jeans boutiques in LA and New York bought the denim line. Ultimately he did not take any backing and ended up moving to New York and tried to work for Calvin Klein. He ultimately didn't get hired but landed a job with DKNY as a woman's jeans designer. He ended up meeting Donna Karan and rose rapidly inside the company. Saks Fifth Avenue carries lots of his items and with saks coupons this clothes can be really affordable.
He continued with his own dream to launch his own line and use Kickstarter campaign to raise capital. The central launch product is a high-tech jacket by Kiger. One of his inspirations was a hoodie with utilitarian pockets to store mobile devices and headphone wires in place. He ended up sketching different possibilities and use Velcro to hold the headphone wires in place. The jacket is ageless and classic and will never go out of style. He now has his own website. He has experienced hate crimes but carries on. He is hoping that by telling his story he might help others being bullied. Parents need to teach their children responsibility as a send them off to school of how to act and treat other friends. His contribution to society that he can be a fashion designer and he hopes to give that same sense of confidence and comfort to everybody else. As Kiger Hansen looks back over his incredible journey he has a new sense of confidence and happiness. He thinks that all the sorrow, pain and agony of growing up gay and a foreigner in America was worth it in the end.