Transitions student Hadi El Shabazz is managing the program on behalf of the Fashion Merchandising and Design academic program.

SAN MARCOS — In a classroom on the north end of campus, Hadi El Shabazz is giving away clothes.

As the student manager of Comet Closet, El Shabazz keeps the racks of blouses and dress pants as tidy as any department store’s. He says he thinks of it like a clothing boutique without a cash register.

“We have some people who are in a bad situation and don’t have any money, and it’s a really good feeling to offer them a place to come and get some clothes,” he said. “Even if I’m here for all these hours and just one person comes by and picks up some clothes, it’s worth it.”

Closed for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, Comet Closet—which is stocked by donations and available to students on Tuesday and Wednesday or by appointment—is now open again and providing students with clothing just in time for the holidays.

Comet Closet at Palomar College

Fall 2022 Hours:

  • Tuesday, 12:30-2:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, 10-11 a.m.
  • By appointment

Currently acting as the “store manager,” El Shabazz came to Palomar in the summer of 2022 as a new student in the college’s Transitions program, which helps previously incarcerated individuals adjust to a college campus and successfully begin or resume their education.

He says that he fell in love with fashion as a boy and has always been known as a sharp dresser, but didn’t consider pursuing fashion as a career until he came to Palomar and found a program that teaches students how to design, produce, and sell clothing.

Even during his incarceration in Northern California, El Shabazz said, he made a point of dressing well: “I’m one of those guys who would iron my state clothing. I kind of created a style just with the state clothes—always having a crease, having a new jacket. I guess clothes can make you feel a lot better about yourself when you’re interacting with other people.”

How a person dresses is about confidence, he added: “That’s one thing that a little bit of fashion can do for somebody. Small things go a long way in life.”

Comet Closet is located in FD-4, a large classroom where Fashion Design and Merchandising students work on projects together. It was originally launched in 2018 and offers a selection of daytime and business wear for men and women—all free to students, said Rita Campo Griggs, Associate Professor of Fashion Merchandising and Design.

“We love seeing students come into Comet Closet and leave with some free outfits or holiday gifts,” said Campo Griggs. “And it’s entirely a student-led effort, as our Visual Merchandising students create the shop and the displays.”