Interview conducted by Iliana Felix
Photography courtesy of Clarissa Monique Gastelum
While attending Cal Poly Pomona, Clarissa worked for a foster agency and observed the hardships and rejection foster kids endured. Through the foster agency, she then learned about foster twin brothers who wanted to join the military but did not have the finances to do so. In response, Clarissa decided to create handmade blue ribbons for the twins and sold them on campus, at her mom’s work and to whoever else wanted to purchase the ribbon for a dollar. Little did she know this simple action would result in something greater and alter her life for a better purpose – but, obviously, God knew.
IF: How did you become interested in fashion, and what is it about fashion that continues to intrigue you?
CMG: For me, fashion was not an interest. It is and has always been a passion. As a child, clothes fascinated me. I was always in my mom’s closet playing dress up. To this day, I am in love with fashion, style, design, textures and colors.
IF: Did you ever consider attending an arts institute to focus on a career in fashion?
CMG: I did consider attending a fashion school after high school, but fear held me back from doing so.
IF: What made you take the risk to pursue your passion for fashion? When did you have that aha! moment that made you think, “you know what, I can do this!”?
CMG: A few years ago, I was at the lowest point of my life. I lost a part of me that I truly cared about and was scared of losing. When you lose the thing that you fear the most of losing, then the risk of losing something else isn't that terrifying...Risks no longer become a barrier. That made me realize, I can either feel sorry for myself or get up and do something.
IF: Can you explain the step by step process on how to create a vision and put it into action?
CMG: For me, it first begins with inspiration. A dream, a desire, a thought. From there, I go to paper - usually a journal. From a journal, I go to a board and either create a vision board with pictures or a written out vision. I write each goal and vision on a sticky post-it note and then remove each post-it as the goal is accomplished.
IF: What sets New Palm apart from other brands?
CMG: New Palm is a fashion brand with purpose that gives back to foster youth in the Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. We directly give back to foster children/youth based on referrals from social workers or personal acknowledgment of the foster child in need. We also collaborate with foster agencies on events such as prom pop-ups by providing fashion items for the girls.
IF: Why the name, New Palm? What’s the story behind it?
CMG: New Palm represents my roots in El Centro, California. El Centro is a desert town, so there are palm trees planted sporadically throughout the city. California is a sunny state that is often known for the beaches and surrounding palm trees. But, from a faith stance, the name New Palm represents my praise back to God in reference to Palm Sunday when Jesus came into town riding on a donkey and the crowds waved palm trees in recognition of Him. There are a few other personal reasons as to why I chose that name for my brand. If I am to sum up my awe of palm trees in one word, it is resilience.
IF: As of right now, New Palm focuses on women’s clothing. Have you thought of expanding the collection and creating clothes for everyone?
CMG: We focus on and will continue to create women’s clothing. I thought about kids’ clothes - particularly for girls. But, it remains in the thought process.
IF: Now, I know you don’t want to give too many details away, but what are your plans for New Palm’s future?
CMG: My current goal is to make the company successful in order to expand and do more good. Success for the company is the success for foster youth. My end goal would be to provide foster youth with employment and internships. Whereas, my visions for the brand are to speak languages of freedom to Christians, empowerment to women and to simply have a platform for fosters’ voices to be heard.
IF: What advice can you give millennials like ourselves who are trying to figure out this “adult-ing thing” and balance a realistic job with their side passion?
CMG: One, take the pressure off. Enjoy yourself. Two, none of us will probably ever figure this “adult-ing” lifestyle out perfectly. We’re living in a generation of people dealing with a side hustle. So, do your professional job well, while working on your side hustle until it becomes your main hustle. Always be mindful of what your end goal is. Say “YES” to things that scare you.
Like Clarissa, if you become aware of a situation or issue that needs addressing, do not bypass it and do nothing about it. How many times have we done this and kept our dreams, goals, passions and voices quiet? If we don’t speak up for something we are (com)passionate about, then we’ll never know the influence we can have on people, or at least one person. Sometimes our life passions can intertwine with our careers and lead us to pursue a profession we would’ve only imagined. But, it starts with you taking a risk to know if that vision can become a reality.