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Student Ranen Chang combines food and fashion to connect creative community

Donning a black-and-white outfit, Ranen Chang presents a dish. The fourth-year physiological science student creates fashion and food content on social media. (Michael Gallagher/Daily Bruin)

By Eric Sican

Feb. 17, 2024 11:42 a.m.

This post was updated Feb. 20 at 8:20 p.m.

Ranen Chang is fusing together fashion and food into a recipe for a creative community.

The fourth-year physiological science student said documenting cooking videos on his Instagram and TikTok has been a way to share his life experiences and present his creative expression to the people he cares about. With a desire to not be boxed into just a single realm of creativity, Chang said he wanted to blend and express his two passions. For Chang, there are direct connections between food, fashion and self-expression.

“I had a mentor tell me, ‘Hey, you’re all over the place. You got to choose one and stick with it,’” Chang said. “I’m like, ‘No, these are two things I am very passionate about, and I am going to find a way to mix it together.’”

[Related: Ingrid Teng finds community, makes memories by documenting culinary adventures]

After a trip to Hong Kong in the seventh grade, Chang said his fashion sense shifted as a result of embracing the culture with open arms. However, Chang’s peers bullied him for the fashion choices he made once he was back in the United States, Chang said. Because of this, Chang said he decided to switch the way he presented himself fashion-wise and began to wear clothing considered trendy at the time. Nonetheless, this new transition to a fashion-identity that was not a representation of himself led him to explore more unconventional clothing choices, he added.

“For our basketball games, you all had to dress up,” Chang said. “For me, I was going all out with trench coats, sweater vests, button-ups – while everyone else was just doing regular button-up and tie.”

In the culinary realm, Chang said he sees thematic and aesthetic overlaps when pairing food with fashion. He said clothing and culinary dishes share similar textures and colors, and his goal is to figure out what those textures and colors would taste like if they were to be edible. Chang added that one of his favorite fashion-food pairings is with Issey Miyake’s “Pleats Please” collection and a mirugai dish. The pleats are a representation of the very fine cutting it takes in making the sashimi dish, he said.

When it comes to creating content for his social media accounts, Chang is always open to criticism and asks the people around him for a second opinion, said fourth-year political science student and Chang’s close friend Noah Park. Chang is adamant about finding new ways to improve his content for his audience, Park said. He added that Chang is constantly developing and sophisticating his content, even with a busy schedule. Park said Chang’s online viewers only see the final product of the work, but not the hectic process happening off screen.

“People don’t really see that because they see what’s on his social media page,” said Park. “They see the outcome, but not a lot of people see the process like we do.”

Another close friend of Chang’s, fifth-year mechanical engineering student Marcus Vidaurri, said Chang puts in a lot of effort to form creative-friendly spaces that other artists can express themselves in. Chang said one of the main reasons behind his calling to become a chef was to restore the energy and give nourishment to creators through food. Vidaurri said Chang has been a glue in the creative community by encouraging other creators to tackle new ideas and projects outside of people’s comfort zones. Vidaurri added that Chang’s work ethic keeps him committed to various projects.

(Michael Gallagher/Daily Bruin)
Chopsticks in hand, Chang places food on a white plate. He is currently training to become a private chef. (Michael Gallagher/Daily Bruin)

[Related: REACH at UCLA creates hub for student content creators to connect, grow together]

Currently trying to put together a new way to bring the creative community together, Chang said he is working on opening up a pop-up shop that will run at his apartment. The shop structure will be “family-style” and have a lot of collaboration from other artists including models, photographers, designers and musicians. In addition to this project, Chang said he is currently completing his training to become a private chef. Because of the economic status of Los Angeles, specifically the Beverly Hills area, Chang said he plans to stick around after graduation to continue serving a community of creatives.

“The main thing is that being a creative myself, I really understand how important your own time and energy is, and being able to nourish your creativity.” Chang said. “Being a private chef to be able to restore and help people reclaim their creativity to put back into their work … was kind of my calling as a chef.”

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Eric Sican
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