Ryan Ahadi grew up around garments. His father owned a suit shop, where a young Ahadi would watch fittings and measurements with interest, while his mother often crafted homemade outfits for any number of cultural events.
“It’s just kind of been around since I was little,” the 24-year-old Aliso Viejo resident recalled of his early exposure to the craft.
By the time he was in high school, Ahadi began learning how to design and make his own clothing. But it wasn’t until he enrolled in Orange Coast College’s fashion program that the pieces of a career started fitting together.
A student of Fashion Design & Merchandising, Ahadi has designed two collections of vintage-inspired streetwear with a small group of friends under the brand rêvasser (the French word for “to daydream.”)
“[This program] has taught me how to get things made, about the design process, presentation skills and how to display merchandise, forecast trends and build a collection,” he said. “I love it.”
Ahadi is one of several students, alumni and instructors of OCC’s fashion program who belong to the Coast Collective, an initiative that allows entrepreneurs who’ve created their own brands to sell merchandise in pop-up retail events on the Costa Mesa campus.
Members of the collective on Wednesday celebrated the grand opening of a new effort — the Coast Collective Co-Lab — a retail space that will serve as a “retail laboratory” where students can not only sell wares, but conduct market research for their brands and gain valuable insights into running a business.
Hundreds of students, teachers and alumni gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Orange Coast’s College Center, where shoppers browsed and purchased items and got to talk directly with the designers themselves.
Lauren Becker, a Fashion Department professor and program coordinator, said while the Co-Lab is extracurricular, it lets students build upon in-class lessons.
“One of our missions in our educational system is we’re introducing our students to practical applications and real-world experiences — this is just an extension of that,” she said. “They get to take all those theories they’re learning in the classroom and apply them.”
Wednesday’s vendors included Rebecca Waldron, an OCC fashion alumna who graduated in 2003 and returned to campus several years later to teach fashion illustration.
In 2014, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for Bodomint, a line of trendy yet serviceable diaper bags and accessories for parents on the go. Since then, the brand has expanded to include multiple size options and decorative, interchangeable straps. Waldron said she would have loved being part of the Coast Collective Co-Lab as a student.
“I think it’s cool they get to learn the whole process of having a brand, from creating it to taking it to market and having people receive it,” she said. “It would have been a great testing ground.”
The grand opening also featured the work of Orange Coast student Alana Poirier, creator of a line of handpainted clothing called Bright-Eyed. Now 20, Poirier created her first work of art as a senior in high school and has been customizing clothing ever since.
“This is hopefully going to inspire me to keep doing this,” she said of her pop-up stall. “It will be here all semester, so I’ll probably keep adding stuff to it. I’d like to include little paintings.”
The Coast Collective Co-Lab will be open to the public Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will feature a slate of brands that rotate each semester.
Becker said the hope is to eventually open the area to other departments, to promote the work of students who may have a passion like Ahadi’s, but in another field.
“I’d love to see ceramics sales in here, or horticulture [students] selling plants,” she said. “It’s meant to be a collaborative space.”
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