Some people really can do it all, and senior Arika Matoba proves every day she is one of them.
You may have seen her around in one of the many roles she plays on campus. Working two jobs — at Lute Locker and Ordal’s front desk — is busy enough, but she also sings in Chapel Choir and dedicates hours to learning lines for theatre performances like the role she recently played in “Death and the Maiden.”
On top of all that, Matoba finds activities to fill up her time even when she’s away from campus. On any given day, she could be working her third job at the Lakewood Playhouse box office, filming videos for her YouTube channel or hanging out with her girlfriend, Stephanie. Most recently, Matoba carves out time to nurture Mat Avenue, her own fashion brand.
“This is my fourth job, technically,” Matoba says with a laugh. “It’s something I’ve always fantasized about, creating a brand that’s mine, having a business and being able to sell a product that I really love.”
The “Mat” part of Mat Avenue comes from the first three letters of her last name, Matoba. She said she wanted something she could see herself in. “Mat Avenue had a good feel to me: it’s the chic, classy, creative vibe I wanted from a name.”
Mat Avenue lives online as a minimalist fashion line of graphic t-shirts, each selling for $28. The options presented on the brand’s website are diverse, ranging from sayings like “Real Piece of Artwork” to “Coffee. Create. Repeat.” — which Matoba admits is her favorite. A darling pink tee merges a Shakespearean line with blush-colored wine to say, “That which we call a Rosé by any other name would taste as sweet.”
No matter what the design, an overall theme of creativity and artistry gives Mat Avenue its identity. As a singer, dancer, painter and writer, Matoba finds a strong footing in creative expression. She says “it was like two worlds collided” when she joined both fashion and art together to create Mat Avenue, adding entrepreneurship to her list of creative ventures.
“I’ve always been interested in the fashion industry, [and] I’m also super passionate about the arts,” says the self-proclaimed quadruple threat.
Matoba read fashion magazines and followed fashion bloggers for a long time before deciding to launch her own brand. The definitive moment came one early summer night in a stroke of inspiration. Matoba remembers lying awake, trying to fall asleep, “thinking about ice cream” when the title “Mat Avenue” hit her and her mind immediately ran wild with possibilities.
“I began daydreaming about what it would be like to start my own company,” she recalls, “how cute it would be, what I would do to advertise, how my brand would look.”
In the midst of fantasizing about a future endeavor, Matoba realized there’s no time like the present to accomplish a dream. She remembers asking herself why she was waiting, realizing that she’d convinced herself she was too young to run a business.
“I always had these ideas, but I had put them off thinking ‘I’ll wait until I’m older, I’ll wait until I graduate, I’ll wait until it’s the right time, [or] I’ll wait until I’m a ‘real adult… whatever that means.’”
In waiting for “real life” to begin, Matoba says she was just perpetuating fear.
“Going out of my way to create something that could possibly be an epic fail scared the daylights out of me. But I’ve gotten to the point in life where if something scares me I push myself to do it.
“Okay, not by jumping in front of a train or getting up close and personal with a tarantula — but by finding things I want to do with my life and demolishing the petty excuses I give myself to keep my ego safe.”
Determined to push boundaries, Matoba took the leap and paid out-of-pocket to receive samples of clothing and create a website for the brand. Now, at nearly three months old, Mat Avenue thrives as a self-sufficient business solely operated by Matoba. She creates all the designs, maintains the site and still manages to be a full-time student and a part-time employee. Her Google Calendar, as you can imagine, is one of her best friends.
Although she runs Mat Avenue alone, Matoba relies on a strong support system of friends, family and her significant other. Matoba’s friends modeled for the photos featured on the site. Her mother and brothers all bought shirts in tandem with Matoba’s girlfriend, senior Stephanie Compton, who owns each tee the line offers.
Matoba praises Compton in particular for giving her the confidence to accomplish her dream.
“She’s the one who told me to go for it,” Matoba says. “[Stephanie’s] been a huge support in my life with everything, but especially Mat Avenue.”
As much as Matoba receives support, she also uses her work to give support back to the community — specifically the arts community. Each shirt on her website is linked to a different organization, and for each sale 10 percent of the profit is donated toward the support of arts institutions like the Tacoma Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle City of Literature and the Seattle Shakespeare Company.
Matoba says giving back to the community that has inspired her for so long stands as the cornerstone of Mat Avenue. “Just knowing something I love and something I’ve created is helping foster creative people and artists in my community is my goal.”
Overall, Matoba aspires to develop a brand she loves and that others love to wear, while also helping the local creative community.
The best part about Mat Avenue, Matoba says, is that it doesn’t feel like work. What appears to be burdensome — yet another commitment on top of an already busy schedule — is actually a dream come true.
“I’m super excited and passionate to work on creating new logos, new designs, finding who to showcase and who to work with,” Matoba says. “It’s hard but I love it. And because it’s benefiting the community that I love so much, it feels so easy to fit into my life.”
Visit Arika’s store online at matavenue.com