La Colina Junior High student creates sustainable clothing line
Reese Large, a Santa Barbara preteen, missed pieces of her real life before the pandemic: scuba diving, surfing, softball and going to the movie theater.
So she created “Real Life,” a clothing brand celebrating those experiences and supporting associated nonprofits.
Her current designs, “Let’s Scuba” and “Surf’s Up,” benefit Project Aware, a nonprofit that seeks to clean up the ocean and protect marine life.
Alongside her philanthropic focus, she sourced the blank T-shirts and hoodies from an eco-friendly wholesaler.
Originally, she wanted to manufacture the hoodies, and her grandmother helped her find a pattern and sew a hoodie in a day. But it was too costly long-term.
The expenses were Reese’s biggest obstacle. The initial set-up costs and the price of a limited run are a lot for a new business.
She’s starting to see it pay off, though, as friends and strangers purchase her designs online.
Her friends helped her choose which designs to print. Reese drew up options and sent them to her peers to vote on.
She sent their favorites to a graphic designer to produce a printer-ready file.
The process was new and exciting for Reese, who had never imagined she would create a fashion label.
She saw a hole in the market when her favorite store closed.
“There wasn’t really a place for me to shop anymore,” she said. “So I decided to make this business so that I could give clothes to people that also don’t have a lot of options.”
“I liked fashion, but I never really thought about creating my own business or anything,” she said. “But I’m learning.”
She had multiple calls with John Paul Beltran, co-founder of JohnPaulRichard, and Gordon Seabury, CEO of Toad & Co. They helped her learn about the industry and gave her advice.
“It was super cool to talk to some of the people that have these big companies,” Reese said. “And they were very generous with their time and helping me.”
In addition to her lessons in fashion, she learned to market her brand from her mom, Marjorie Large, a partner at WitMark Marketing & Branding Group.
Reese wrote all the copy on Real Life’s website, wearreallife.com, and runs the brand’s Instagram account alongside her mom.
When making the website, she learned about web design and even coded a few elements.
She accomplished all this while graduating sixth grade and starting junior high school at La Colina in Santa Barbara.
She intends to continue the label well into the future. Although it was created during the pandemic, it’s much more than a pandemic project.
“The goal of this is to make an impact,” her mom said. “I think that she likes clothing a lot, so I think it’s been fun for her to explore different ways of expressing herself as a kind of sporty teenager.
“But the other important part is the nonprofit element, like she spent a lot of time looking at what nonprofits to connect with.”
Reese looks forward to making her first donations at the end of the first quarter.