When students at Orange Coast College walk past a random shipping container in the middle of campus, they might raise a few questions about why something looks like it doesn’t belong. What students might not know is that during the semester that shipping container becomes a source of income, business, networking and community for several Fashion Club members and Fashion Department students.
The Box, the name created for the container by students, is a pop-up shop hosted by the students of the fashion department several times a semester. Students plan events, create products, market their products, decorate the store, meet with brands and then volunteer their time to sell products to anybody on the OCC campus willing to stop and take a look. The Box gives students an opportunity to experience what it’s like running their own storefront.
The Box has been around for four years and has organized several different events including The Fabric Shop, The Jewelry Box and Coast Collective this past semester. Students helped to pitch ideas and bring to life these collaborative events where they seek out ways to engage with others on campus, while also creating a venue to meet with brands and create potential relationships with them. With past brands such as Volcom, Crossroads and Vans all contributing to events, The Box is used as a branch to interact with other individuals on campus, speak with different brand recruiters and share more information about the fashion industry.
All of the money that is made from sales at The Box go back to students and is used to award student scholarships to help kick start their next chapter. The money can be used to start their own brand, help with housing, to further their education or for business transactions.
“Students have been through so much this past year, a lot of them weren’t able to work, or a lot of them were working when it was scary to work and so it was really nice to be able to give them something more,” Michelle Craner, OCC fashion club advisor, said.
During the first year of the launch of The Box, students landed 40-50 internships and jobs. This year students Carmen Arguello and Felina Fontaeus were awarded scholarships of up to $1500.
Craner said that the success of The Box is made largely in part by the students. “The Box really brought a sense of community and everyone loved the fact that all the money was going back to students. Students were running it all and doing it all. They were all working and putting in extra effort outside of class to make it great. It was really pretty special,” Craner said.
Second-year fashion student Jocelyn Nieves said that during the school year she has helped out at The Box by volunteering to help process sales. Her reason is simple: “I’ve been in college for two years but networking was really hard for me because of the online format. Just by being involved with The Box, I have created long lasting friendships and it has made me come out of my shell and opened up opportunities for new jobs.”
After volunteering with The Box this year through her fashion classes, Nieves plans on becoming a member of the fashion club in the future. “I wouldn’t have imagined it two years ago where I am today,” Nieves said. “Being a part of The Box and just being a part of the fashion program in general made me create opportunities for myself I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.”
Students gain insight from The Box about retail management, how to plan events, marketing, public relations and more about the business side of the fashion industry. Tien Nguyen, current intern for The Box, shared how having this experience proves to be beneficial for landing jobs and internships. “Recruiters are coming here and scouting for the students who are willing to put themselves out there,” Nguyen said. “They are looking for students to get a relationship out of them, give them their resume, get their email, and form a relationship from there, that’s how internships and jobs are created.”
Since many students who are working at The Box are fashion majors, there is a sense of confidence for these students that they have experience and are qualified to seek out these opportunities. “You think it’s just a regular container but so many relationships have flourished out of that. So many connections have been made through that box with people from the industry so we can network, and so many jobs have been created out there because we got connections and internships that were able to come out of it,” Nguyen said.
The Box continues to have big plans for its future at OCC. Craner shared that they are already in the works of brainstorming what events will take place in Fall 2022 and what OCC students would like to see. Craner assured they will also be introducing new scholarship opportunities and advertising opportunities for fashion students. New students are encouraged to join the fashion club for the upcoming Fall semester by reaching out to the club advisors.
“To anybody who is interested even a little bit about the fashion industry, just try it out,” Nguyen said. “I never knew that I would love it so much.”