Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

The Hornet

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From the Roller Derby to the Classroom: a Q & A with Rachel Nevarez

Written by: Marianna Frias

The door opens and the first thing you notice is her wearing a tied up pastel pink top that says “Madre Por Vida” and a fedora hat that gives her outfit a finishing touch. This is all part of Rachel Nevarez’s unique style. It’s what makes her, her.

Rachel Nevarez in the middle of a lecture (Logan Martinez)

Nevarez is a new fashion professor at Fullerton College. This new job marks her journey from playing roller derby and creating designs for teams, creating clothes for toddlers and their mothers, to now becoming the newest face in the fashion department at Fullerton College.

How have your first couple of weeks as a first-time teacher been?

I have never taught in a classroom before. For almost a decade I coached roller derby, and it was basically teaching women ages 8 through 50. I would have to teach them how to skate, teach them the rules of the game, strategies, formulate drills that we would execute in practice and then come game time I was running the line ups on the bench. I brought all of that to the table here. It has all been going well because it is something that I’m so passionate about—not just runways and glamour, but how fashion influences society and how society influences fashion. 

Tell me about your roller derby days.

I’ve sewn my entire life. My mom taught me when I was 7 years old. My first job was in a fabric store, and my second job was in a bridal shop right after high school. 

I was kind of afraid to only have that fashion degree. I was like, “What if I ended up with only this fashion degree? What do I have to fall back on?” So I went to the University of Pittsburgh and got my Bachelor in Fine Arts. 

While I was there, I really longed for sewing so I joined that theater department, and I did a lot of the costumes for the productions. It was probably halfway through when I realized I really wanted to do fashion. So, after I graduated I moved to California in 2004 to go to fashion school. At FIDM, everyone was straight out of high school, and I feel like a lot of them weren’t taking it seriously. I was really struggling to make friends and I didn’t fit in. I met a girl who played roller derby, and she was talking it up about how much she loved it. I was like, I don’t know how to skate and I don’t have a car. She said, girl I got you, and she drove me to practice in the Valley. My first practice I actually put on my wrist guards backwards, and I could not skate, so I ate shit, and I thought I broke my wrist. I was totally hooked. 

I skated for eight years, then I had my first daughter in 2012 and switched to coaching. I’ve been coaching on and off for the last seven years.

How did you start designing for the team?

“I’ve sewn my entire life” – Rachel Nevarez (Logan Martinez)

I met up with the designer to go over designs, and she was just talking about how overwhelmed she was and busy. She hired me right away. Uniforms were catered to high school students, so it was a very different fit for everyone else. A high school student is going to wear a different fit than a 30-year-old woman who has maybe had kids already. So people started to ask me to make uniforms, and that resulted in me launching my own business. I ran Iron Doll Roller Derby for almost eight years while I was skating. I ended up outfitting over 800 teams in over eight countries. 

I never went to business school, so this all happened by accident. There wasn’t something catered especially towards these skaters, and the community itself was growing. By this time there were three leagues when I joined and now there’s thousands all over the world. So that’s where all the roller derby fits in, and that’s the tremendous impact it’s had on me.

There were a lot of things that I had to learn the hard way. For example, selling, marketing, promoting and websites was sort of self-taught. This was the start for Facebook and Instagram, so trying to figure out how to navigate these platforms was hard since nobody knew how to use them back then. 

Why did you close Iron Doll?

I had a family, two daughters, and my husband was working. It was just all too much. I wasn’t skating anymore. My heart wasn’t really in it anymore, and competition had started. I kind of wanted to go back to being handed a paycheck instead of wondering where my next paycheck was coming from. 

I got a part-time job designing while I was closing down Iron Doll. I was kinda trying to figure out who I was now because I had this identity with roller derby. My skate name was Iron Maiven for so long and I was just trying to figure out who I was.

In 2019, my whole goal was finding a new job and I did. I found this teaching position. I was just Googling fashion jobs near Chino and fashion instructor at Fullerton came up. I said, well, I don’t have a master’s degree, I can’t teach and that was my immediate reaction. I looked at the job and the minimal requirement was a bachelor’s. At my first interview I talked about everything that I did and when I got called back for that second interview, I almost fell over. And now I’m  here.

Rachel and her colleagues discussing new trends (Logan Martinez)