Gail Gaines ‘89 is a self-proclaimed “Moore girl.” A Fashion Design graduate, Distinguished Alumna and longtime faculty member, Gaines said simply, “Moore is home for me.”
Originally from Wildwood, NJ, Gaines chose to attend Moore because of its small size and the all women’s college environment. Before returning to the College to teach, Gaines ran her own business, Gail Gaines Couturiere, for 13 years, working with luxury fabrics like silk, cotton and cashmere to construct high-end couture and custom garments for clients.
Starting her own business wasn’t easy, but Gaines was determined to be successful. After graduating from Moore, she enrolled in an entrepreneurial program through the Wharton School of Business. “I took any free business workshop I could find because I knew I had a gift for fashion. I just needed to learn how to run a business.”
Gaines began working out of a sewing room in her home to create garments. She did fittings at the homes of clients she met through word of mouth. Her first client was alumna Karen Daroff '70. Today, she continues to design for select clients, including alumna Helen Bershad ’56 and Moore President Cecelia Fitzgibbon.
Gaines, adjunct faculty of Fashion Design, said she was inspired to teach by her high school sewing teacher, Marriane Daughen, who later became her mentor.
“My goal was to connect with students the way she connected with me,” Gaines said. Daughen worked with school administrators to gather resources and funds so that Gaines could pursue her talents. Daughen stayed after school every day to help Gaines with her designs.
Gaines currently teaches Fashion Design classes to second and third-year students. She taught Fashion Drawing for many years in Moore’s Summer Art and Design Institute as well as Introduction to the Fashion Industry in the Continuing Education program. “I didn’t know I would end up teaching at Moore,” Gaines said. “I was asked to come back and I said yes.”
Gaines said she can better relate to students having been through Moore's fashion program herself. “I understand them and what they’re going through, but I also know the standards I want to uphold for them and try to give them as much knowledge and experience as I can.”
Last summer, Gaines received a professional development grant to travel to Paris, France to do an independent study. She studied the history of fashion in Paris chic. She will give a presentation to the Moore community on April 1, 2016.
Gaines is not only a teacher in the classroom, but in the dance studio as well. She is a Zumba fitness instructor at three different gyms in Philadelphia, including FitLife Fitness, the University of Pennsylvania and The Sporting Club at the Bellevue. “Growing up, I had to choose between dance and fashion,” Gaines said. “My passion is dance, but I chose my profession and passion to be fashion. I guess I have two passions.”
When she’s not teaching or dancing, Gaines mentors students in sewing, drawing and design at her atelier near her home. “I always wanted to mentor because of my own mentorship,” she said. “My gift to my mentor is to give back.”
Gaines remains well connected to other Moore alumnae and the Moore community. She served on Moore’s Alumni Council, where she led the “Lids for Kids” community service project, and she was one of only 14 alumnae to decorate a giant boot in honor of Moore’s 160th Anniversary Celebration.
Gaines said she hopes to leave her own legacy as an artist, a woman and a fashion designer. She recently paired with other Moore alumnae to design handbags and she’s currently working on a collection of jewelry called “Conversation Pieces.” She and four other alumnae are involved with the launch of a new fashion boutique app, MyCouture, set for release later this year and featuring Philadelphia designers and artists.
Lauren Spiteri contributed to this story.