Kent State fashion student forms platform connecting creative students

Zahra Najafi, a junior fashion design and fashion merchandising major. Photo courtesy of Zahra Najafi.

Catie Pusateri Reporter

While scrolling through the extensive list of Kent State’s student organizations, Zahra Najafi searched for the perfect fit but felt lost when she did not find a match. After struggling to find a place within the fashion organizations, Najafi created her own space for students to express their creativity and push their limits. 

Najafi, a junior fashion design and fashion merchandising major, launched SOKAB, or Social Kollaboration, in August 2020. SOKAB is a platform for students to learn, grow and expand their skills before entering the real world, Najafi said.  

“Instead of feeling like I have to beg everyone for a place in their company, for example, I can create my own place in a sense,” Najafi said. “When I realized that was a possibility, it at least gave me a way bigger sense of personal freedom; maybe it was like mental freedom more than anything.”

SOKAB helps students build their portfolios and network with others. For example, if a photographer needs models or a fashion designer needs a computer programmer’s advice on creating and maintaining a website, SOKAB can help connect them, Najafi said.

SOKAB welcomes all majors and emphasizes collaboration among various skill sets. The organization values creativity and encourages members to try new things, Najafi said. 

“It’s a place, at least for me, where you can try out things without it having repercussions,” Najafi said. “It’s not costing you any large amount of money, you’re not going to get fired from a job, nothing is going to happen, but you are still given the space to be able to produce work.”

In November 2020, SOKAB released SOKAB Radio, a fashion-oriented podcast hosted by Najafi and Olivia Meyer, a sophomore fashion merchandising major. SOKAB Radio’s first episode entitled “Fashion Starts a Podcast” is available now on Spotify. SOKAB Radio personifies the fashion industry and allows fashion to “laugh, scream and cry,” Meyer said. 

Meyer and Najafi created SOKAB Radio to document their conversations and to discuss the fashion industry through a personal and relatable lens, Meyer said. 

“I feel like a lot of times we cover different topics that we feel like people aren’t talking about, so we’re trying to fill that gap in the industry,” Meyer said. “We’re trying to give a voice to the industry in a fresh, new way.”

Sophomore fashion design major Tamy Marono models for SOKAB and experienced the organization’s growth firsthand. Marono said Meyer introduced her to Najafi, and the three bonded over their mutual love of fashion. Marono said she thinks Najafi located a hole in the fashion industry and created SOKAB to give students a space to explore their talents.  

“It’s not an exclusivity club or a popularity contest,” Marono said. “For some reason … I feel like sometimes fashion can feel that way, that it’s very classist or only based on appearance, which part of it is, but there’s more to it. I want everybody to know that SOKAB is the place for creative people in general.”

As SOKAB continues to grow, Najafi and Meyer want to expect more SOKAB Radio episodes and more content on their Instagram page. They said they plan to delve deeper into the fashion industry on their podcast and they are building their online community through social media and their upcoming website. 

“You can only do so much alone,” Meyer said. “Let’s find out what we can do together.”

Catie Pusateri is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].