Laughter comes easily and often to Rubab Huq and Naz Saeed as they discuss their apparel company Kopolo California. The two friends, who met taking fashion courses at Cañada, clearly enjoy each other’s company. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find out they also make great business partners, with skill sets that are a perfect complement to one another.
“Rubab had a good background in fashion design and also the maturity that I expected from a partner,” Naz explains. And Rubab recalls, “I was very impressed with Naz’ sewing and pattern-making skills.”
Fashion is a second career for both women, who worked as software engineers for many years. Sharing this background, as well as feelings of burn-out, they had lots to talk about. They also found plenty of time to chat as they traveled from one facility to the next during field trips in the Introduction to the Fashion Industry class with Ronda Chaney, Coordinator of the Fashion Department.
Rubab remembers, “That was the best class for me. You get to see what different people are doing: men’s wear, bridal, …” Naz interjects, “We also learned it doesn’t always have to be fashion; it can also be uniforms, bags or hats! [The class] was great for showing a range of options.”
But, after deciding to try to make a go of a new venture together, the two chose to stick with what they knew best—women’s apparel. Kopolo’s mission is to create sophisticated, stylish, comfortable and affordable clothing for women. Ultimately they would also like to support plus sizes. Naz reflects, “I’ve read a lot of articles over the past year about the fact that the plus size and mature markets are underserved. Usually it’s all baggy, in drab colors. With the knowledge I was getting in school, I understood what makes a line attractive.”
They decided to test this knowledge by participating in Artistry in Fashion last year, the department’s premier event, featuring the work of mostly local designers, all of whom create unique and beautiful things. The two partners agree the event was invaluable to them. Rubab’s assessment: “It was very good to gauge what people really liked about our designs.”
Today Kopolo is poised for Phase II, a gradual ramp-up that will involve larger-scale production. Rubab muses, “We have been looking [for a cut and sew contractor] from South San Francisco all the way up to Vallejo! Even though the cost is much higher than L.A., it gives us a better handle on the quality.”
The future looks bright for the up-and-coming company, whose Instagram feed was recently followed by a fashion reporter for the NY Times! Even more promising is the growing appreciation they have for one another and the synergies they continue to find in working together.
“We don’t always agree with each other,” Rubab observes. “But sometimes when you don’t agree, you come up with something better! It’s like the best of both worlds.”