Walking into the USC Bookstore, visitors are typically met with a sea of cardinal and gold Trojan apparel from big-name brands like Nike and Heritage Apparel. Now, a new display featuring playful apparel and creative stationery designed by recent USC graduate Macki Alvarez-Mena is taking center stage at the store.
During her time at USC, Alvarez-Mena, a graduate of the Iovine and Young Academy, was approached by fellow Kappa Kappa Gamma member Jenny Nelson after Alvarez-Mena created a line of apparel for the sorority. Her sorority sister, who worked at the bookstore, suggested Alvarez-Mena design clothing for the bookstore.
A year later, that suggestion became a reality. Alvarez-Mena is the first student to have her own clothing and stationery line in the USC Bookstore. The collection will be available at the store and online until Aug. 25.
Alvarez-Mena wants her line to make new and returning students feel the excitement of coming to USC’s campus for the first time whenever they wear and see her clothing designs.
“It was really special to share that [feeling] with everyone who I went to school with, and that for them to understand it, for them to get it,” Alvarez-Mena said. “To be able to give back to [a] school that we love so much and share it with my friends and family is the biggest thing for me.”
Darren James, the director of retail for USC Auxiliary Services, helped Alvarez-Mena throughout the process. From buying the products her designs would be printed on to working on the bookstore’s marketing campaign for the line, James wanted to involve Alavarez-Mena in the process in any way he could.
James said he noticed Alvarez-Mena’s work after seeing social media filters she had created while working as a graphic design intern for USC Athletics.
“The brand has a very specific feel to it, a very traditional feel to it,” James said. “[It] is very unusual to come across artwork that really looks at the brand from a different perspective, and you can see that through the social media filters that she created.”
James hopes more USC students will continue to add creativity to the USC brand — he said the bookstore hopes to begin hosting “Pitch Day” events to give students from across campus the chance to pitch product ideas for the bookstore and receive feedback.
For over a decade, Alvarez-Mena has known that she wanted to work in creative industries, such as design and business. When she was 12 years old, the IYA graduate started a children’s brand in her hometown of Miami, where she sold hand-painted canvas bags with original designs.
Alvarez-Mena put this endeavor, called Macki and Company, on hold during high school but always knew she wanted to return to designing clothing. Being a student in IYA provided her with the resources and time to fully dedicate herself to her company.
“That was the whole point of me going to the Academy … to gain it all, the knowledge and the resources that I didn’t have as a 12-year-old in order to make it a legitimate business,” Alvarez-Mena said.
Alvarez-Mena cites her time at the Iovine and Young Academy as being instrumental not only in the creation of her clothing line, but also in her post-graduation plans with Macki and Company.
“They gave me so much and not in the sense of direct resources,” Alarvarez-Mena said. “Just everything we learned — the passion or mentality, the diligence to get up and do some things and make something out of it was incredible.”
One resource at USC for Alvarez-Mena was Elissa Grossman, a professor of clinical entrepreneurship and the director of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, who first met Alvarez-Mena in a freshman innovation class.
“I’m just thrilled that everyone at USC is beginning to get a glimpse of what Macki is able to accomplish,” Grossman wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan.
Currently, Alvarez-Mena is in the entrepreneurial stage of Macki and Company and continues to market her clothing to 7 to 12-year-old girls. The goal of Alvarez-Mena’s company remains the same as it was over a decade ago: She wants to provide young girls with the products and resources that she didn’t have when she was their age.
“She cares deeply about the world and is tremendously innovative about how she wants to effect positive change,” Grossman wrote.
This article has been updated to reflect the proper name of Macki Alvarez-Mena. A previous version referred to her as Macki Alvarez-Nena.