Teens who see upcycling as a driver of change debut at South Coast Plaza

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Part of Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza – a mecca for the conscious brand – celebrated a different kind of awareness on Thursday, as Orange County designer students and upcycling enthusiasts presented their own conscious creations.

Six teenage fashion designers working in three teams were tasked with re-imagining, reconfiguring or reusing materials and items provided by high-end handbag maker Hammitt before showing their work on Thursday in a storefront at the shopping complex.

The haute couture fundraiser was capped off with a parade in which friends turned models took recycled bags to the catwalk for a crowd of potential buyers.

Called “Youth in Fashion,” the project was just a small part of a multi-month fellowship they engaged with 55 other enterprising high school students under the auspices of the County of County nonprofit. ‘Orange. Dragon Kim Foundation. Proceeds from the designs sold went to team members and the foundation’s scholarship fund.

Handbags designed by Team Opia Upcycling are on display at Hammitt – South Coast Plaza on Thursday August 19.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

Now in its fifth year, the scholarship program provides innovative teens with the mentorship, training and funds needed to help their dreams take flight, according to founder Daniel Kim.

“They come to us with an idea of ​​community service,” said the resident of Tustin. “We give them intensive leadership training, business training – we call it ‘MBA in a box’ – then we put the kids in touch with a mentor or professional in their related field and fund them up to 5 years. $ 000. “

Ri Gomez, a 17-year-old Garden Grove resident who attends Samueli Academy, said she heard about the scholarship when her design teacher asked the class to submit projects that would benefit the community and may be subject to program registration.

Gomez teamed up with her classmate and program colleague Gina Buitron, from Santa Ana, who shared her passion for upcycling and her ability to counter the environmental impact of fast fashion. Together, they created a camp where LGBTQ + youth could recycle their clothes and learn about social entrepreneurship.

Wesley Kuria models a bag designed by Team Greenprint at a "Young people in fashion" fundraiser for a fashion show at South Coast Plaza.

Wesley Kuria models a handbag designed by Team Greenprint at a “Youth in Fashion” fashion show in South Coast Plaza.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

“We had our own one-on-one presentation and held upcycling classes for teens and their allies,” she said of the effort, organized under the Opia Upcycling team name. “As our project was based on the LGBTQ + community, for each bag we tried to integrate that as a theme and called [the line] “Go out into Existence. “

Rylen Schmid, an 18-year-old from Newport Beach who attends Orange Lutheran High School, was paired with Rosary Academy student Ayah Mohammed on a project where they taught Girl Scouts to recycle jeans blue.

Working as a STYLED (Sustainably Teaching the Youth a Lifestyle of Ethnic Design) team, they partnered with the Orange County Chapters of Girl Scouts and Girls, Inc. to take the donated Hammitt bags and add painted details that transformed them. in one-of-a-kind pieces.

“They donated bags to our project, and we were able to do whatever we wanted with them as long as it matched the project,” Schmid said. “We went out to find different projects and set up an upcycling program, where we teach the dangers of fast fashion. It has been so amazing.

Cris Tinaeily shows off a handbag designed by Team Opia during a "Young people in fashion" Thursday fashion show at South Coast Plaza.

Cris Tinaeily shows off a handbag designed by Team Opia during a “Youth in Fashion” fashion show Thursday at South Coast Plaza.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

Team Greenprint – a collaboration between Cypress High School seniors George Iyalomhe and Ayden Quichocho – took a slightly different approach to Thursday’s show. After the teams visited Hammitt’s headquarters in Hermosa Beach, they chose to take scraps of leather to create their own bottom-up designer bags.

“We have an auction bag made from scraps of leather – it’s really cool and there’s a little room for your phone,” he said of one of the seven bags created by the pair.

This summer, the friends presented a weeklong camp, where they taught 9-14 year olds how to make tote bags from unwanted jeans and, in the process, learn about the environment. and civil protection.

“The Dragon Kim Foundation was able to fund us and give us everything we needed to make our dreams and ideas come true,” said Iyalomhe.

Tony Drockton, who founded Hammitt in 2008 and loaned his store and gear to Thursday’s Youth in Fashion show, said he was impressed by the inspiring designs of teens and, more broadly, by the principles of the scholarship program. Dragon Kim Foundation.

Young fashion designers from Orange County schools pose with handbags they recycled at a fashion show Thursday.

Gina Buitron, left, and Ri Gomez from Team Opia Upcycling, Rylen Schmid and Ayah Mohammed from Team STYLED, and Ayden Quichocho and George Iyalomhe with Team Greenprint.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

“It was love at first sight for me, because of the entrepreneurship, community service and mentorship,” said Drockton. “We have a lot of bags, either they are returned or they are damaged. [The fellowship] said why not take these bags and recycle them and make them even more beautiful? It’s just awesome.

The scholarship is just an outcrop of the Dragon Kim Foundation, named after Kim’s son, Dragon, who attended the Orange County School of the Arts for Music in 2015, and had just created a music program for disadvantaged young people, when he died in a campsite. trip to Yosemite National Park.

Kim and his wife Grace created the non-profit association so that the music program could continue. In the years that followed, the foundation formed the scholarship program and many other community service efforts, including Delivering with Dignity, a collaboration that provided more than 80,000 restaurant meals to those most at risk for the virus. .

Lillian Le looks at a handbag at an event in Hammitt - South Coast Plaza on Thursday.

Lillian Le looks at a handbag at an event in Hammitt – South Coast Plaza on Thursday.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

The idea is to foster the connections that make the common good grow. It’s the same with the brotherhood, Kim said.

“It’s about understanding what’s going on, and then getting them to see themselves bigger than themselves,” he added.

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