Orange Coast College student Brigitte Butler poses in a Home Blake dress from The Letterman Company during the opening of Coast Collective at the school on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 in Costa Mesa, California. The store allows students, faculty and alumni to enter. OCC Fashion Program to display and sell their wares. Butler started The Letterman Co. as a former student. He is an intern. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Archives/SCNG)
One day, Christian Hernandez wants to open his own store to sell the clothes he designs.
For now, customers can browse—and buy—his pieces from a pop-up shop that recently opened at Orange Coast College.
Realizing that there was no substitute for applying his textbook knowledge to the real world, Hernandez created a brand plan that he presented to his classmates in his college’s fashion design program, and then chose a high school to display and sell the items, he said. The new Seaside Common Labs on the first floor of the campus’s College Center.
He finds inspiration for his designs by observing and interpreting everyday life around him, and says he wants his clothes to prompt “people to stop and think about life.”
He is selling his clothes under his CH label.
“I’m looking to see what my classmates like, see how my designs work and how they sell,” Hernandez said. “Like a little crash course before I go on and do my own thing.”
In the process, the students are developing their entrepreneurial skills by selling their own products, said Lauren Baker, program coordinator for the fashion department.
“(The students) understand how their brands fit into the retail environment,” Baker said. “It allows them to connect directly with the consumer and talk to them. It allows them to actually troubleshoot and solve problems and get feedback. It allows them to see their product in a residential environment, which they probably haven’t had that opportunity to do yet.”
Students can pick up valuable information, such as how their products look on the sales floor and whether they should change the display or merchandise line offered, she says.
Student entrepreneurs keep 100% of the money from sales.
“I really appreciate the opportunity to sell in this space and I’m really looking forward to the next opportunity,” said Jean-Victor Lairmore, whose merchandise brand Stream & Grounds combines influences from European and Southern California subcultures. . “This will help me hone my customer service skills and gain a better understanding of the customer.”
Along with the six student entrepreneurs, a current faculty member in the fashion design program and two former students of the program were given initial placements in the shared lab.
Another pop-up area features student-designed merchandise with proceeds donated by the students to support the college’s campus food pantry, Pirates Cove.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to be able to sell their stuff and as a buyer to find something that’s unique and that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Madeleine Litz, a high school fashion student who bought it. The hoodie costs $25 and is sold by the brand Bebe Rouge, designed by student Maryam Abdelrehim. “You can’t go to any other store and get one of these.”
The current displays will last until the end of the semester and then a new group of student entrepreneurs will be selected to display their wares in the fall.
Baker said she would like to see other programs expand beyond the fashion department, such as art, culinary or horticulture, to give students experience selling their creations.
“Our dynamic and flexible space can host a variety of events, including talks from industry experts, opportunities for students to showcase their skills and talents, and collaborations with brands,” she said.
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