CURRENT: The New Fashion Label On Campus

Last year, Raymond Lee '23 founded CURRENT, a non-profit fashion label taking inspiration from current events and supporting organizations advocating for various social issues. Recently, Lee launched his first project: "NINETEEN," a Covid-19-themed clothing collection from which all revenue will be donated to the Global Coronavirus Relief Fund by Save the Children. The designs for "NINETEEN" revolve around Covid-19, featuring hoodies, t-shirts, and sweatpants inspired by virtual learning and the virus itself. Amid the pandemic, Lee is finding new ways to amalgamate art, business, and community service through his fashion brand.

Last year, Raymond Lee '23 founded CURRENT, a non-profit fashion label taking inspiration from current events and supporting organizations advocating for various social issues. Recently, Lee launched his first project: "NINETEEN," a Covid-19-themed clothing collection from which all revenue will be donated to the Global Coronavirus Relief Fund by Save the Children. The designs for "NINETEEN" revolve around Covid-19, featuring hoodies, t-shirts, and sweatpants inspired by virtual learning and the virus itself. Amid the pandemic, Lee is finding new ways to amalgamate art, business, and community service through his fashion brand.

Lee started CURRENT in hopes of further pursuing his love for the arts and fashion. "Fashion is important because the first thing you see [on other people] is what [they] are wearing. What someone wears can [inform us of his or her] identity. In a way, fashion is a wearable form of ideas; I really like how I am able to walk around in my art and communicate my creativity," said Lee. In addition to his passion for the arts, Lee has also taken an interest in business since the beginning of high school, constantly looking for ways to combine the two fields. "[CURRENT] is meant to be interdisciplinary; it helps me understand both art and business and use them together."

As the founder, Lee is in charge of managing communications, finances, and other business components of CURRENT. Nevertheless, he works alongside people who are skilled in digital drawing during the design process. Lee picks a theme for his product, brainstorms design ideas, and sketches them out on paper. "[Since] I am not trained in the field of drawing digitally, I have a friend [who] takes my ideas on paper and transfers them on to the digital realm," Lee said.

While Lee has experienced immense success with CURRENT thus far, starting the organization was not easy. "I definitely went way over budget [during] the prototyping process," Lee commented. He struggled with miscommunication with manufacturers regarding the online files containing the designs for printing, costing him to invest more money and time than he intended. Moreover, Lee noted that he constantly had to make changes to his initial plans and designs. "I remember that there was a "19" sign that was slightly tilted, and I didn't want to go along with it. So, I had to reprint everything. Not only the prototypes, but everything in general took longer than I [had] anticipated."

However, Lee found that these mistakes and obstacles served as vital experiences to help him improve as an entrepreneur. "There was a lack of organization and planning on my part, but next time, I knew the exact steps to take and when to take them," Lee reflected. In terms of managing his business, Lee initially struggled with marketing but eventually learned how to run advertisements on social media platforms, find manufacturers, and effectively communicate with brand partners. Most importantly, he recognized the importance of the trial-and-error process in running a business. "You make mistakes, you learn from them, and eventually, the business works out."

Despite facing challenges, Lee sees value in experimenting and learning from past errors. "I'm going to be involved in fashion and will continue to look for business opportunities regardless. If I'm going to do business in the future, why not have some actual experience? I know that real-world mistakes are more valuable, and [the experience] motivates me to continue."

Another factor that motivated Lee to run CURRENT was his willingness to make a genuine impact in society. Before creating CURRENT, he led an organization that raised awareness about underage drinking after one of his close friends was expelled from school for drinking. "People were bashing [the student], who made a mistake. People make mistakes, but...one mistake doesn’t define a person," Lee said. Through CURRENT, Lee hopes to continue his passion for fashion and entrepreneurship as well as his desire to seek creative solutions to community issues.

Reflecting on the future of CURRENT, Lee wants to release three more collections by the end of this year and raise $10,000 to donate to various organizations by the end of his senior year. Throughout the Winter Term, Lee also organized multiple workshop sessions for the School community to reflect upon the process of starting and promoting a fashion brand. He plans on holding more workshops in the upcoming Spring Term to share his experiences and knowledge about the intersection between art and business with those around him.

"While I'm not sure where CURRENT will be in the next few years, this is definitely not just a high school project. Even if CURRENT doesn't work out for some reason, social entrepreneurship will be with me for the rest of my life and will always be my end goal," Lee said.

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