Coast Collective Co-Lab promotes emerging student brands

OCC's Coast Collective enabled students to sell their very own fashion brands, such as Chris Martinez's Amberbysoul. 

Orange Coast College’s fashion program designed a unique opportunity to promote student entrepreneurship by selling their products to the local audience at The Box, a pop-up retail shop located at the center of campus. With seven winners chosen and planning complete, the Coast Collective Co-Lab was abruptly postponed this fall due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

These creators, many of whom entered campus with already-established brands and others with just an idea in mind, were able to learn how to run a business effectively. Coast Collective, OCC’s very own fashion brand, wished to lend a hand to these design students through their Co-Lab event, a concept that originated in Michelle Craner’s fashion merchandising course, FASH A177. The event is a year-long immersive experience where the program helps the winners build their brand and get it ready for success in the world beyond OCC by selling at The Box.

“We have so many students who come in and already have a small brand,” Craner said. “Maybe it’s a little Etsy store. Maybe they have their website. Maybe they don’t have anything and are trying to learn how to [create a brand].”

The selection process was a collaborative effort with input from both students and faculty, as its namesake suggests. Among the winning brands are High Hills, Akari Thrifts, Bad Art, Amberbysoul, Bebe Rouge, Camilleleon and The Oranges Bag.

Michael Lawer’s High Hills is an apparel brand inspired by his appreciation for North Tustin and high society. He seeks to create a collective of individuals that share his outlook on living life in the fast lane, care-free and with a great view.

Akari Kosaka’s Akari Thrifts is a vintage and thrifted marketplace. She browses stores, hand-selecting pieces that revolve around her personal taste as well as incorporating in-style trends that customers are familiar with.

Bad Art is Caitlyn Hick’s take on the daring woman. She combines vintage garments with original graphics, making her creations all the more unique. Bad Art is an all-inclusive brand with available sizing suited to all body-types.

Chris Martinez’s Amberbysoul was a mere concept before the Coast Collective Co-Lab helped him bring his streetwear brand to fruition. Amberbysoul originated as he grew tiresome of wearing other people’s clothes. His creations are equally comfortable and casual, inspired by pop-culture, and aimed at the everyman.

“OCC has helped me way more than I ever thought it would. They really care about their students and want to see them succeed,” Martinez said. “They opened doors for me that I didn’t know was achievable.”

Bebe Rouge is Mariam Abdelrehim’s sustainable jewelry brand that combines vintage finds with low-waste materials. Most of her pieces are hand-made and inspired by her love of travel, featuring classic and feminine designs that any woman can rock.

Pronounced chameleon, Camille Leon’s Camilleleon unites her fondness for fashion and fine arts. She designs custom panels that adorn outerwear, clutch purses and block-print patches, giving a distinctive look and feel to otherwise average accessories.

Lastly, Susan Deering’s The Oranges Bag transforms unused, surplus orange produce bags into tote bags for daily use. Inspired by local farmers’ markets, The Oranges Bags lines mesh with felt or burlap, reinforces the mouth for sturdiness and sews on a stylish handle. Her brand embodies Coast Collective Co-Lab’s mission to create ethically friendly and environmentally conscious products.

In the midst of preparing to sell at The Box, COVID-19 hit and these students were forced to discover first-hand the difficulties that come with running a business. The Coast Collective Co-Lab is rescheduled for the coming spring, but for the time being the student entrepreneurs have gone contactless, selling their creations online. Some have even taken advantage of the free time allotted to construct better products, create more designs, or rebrand their websites.

“Ever since quarantine, I have had a lot more free time to think and design,” Amberbysoul creator Martinez said. “I managed to create my whole collection during this pandemic, so quarantine feels like a blessing to me.”

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