She’s working on a new collection for Paris Fashion Week, Fall 2018, but the latter part of 2017 was a whirlwind for Moore’s Fashion Design Chair Nasheli Juliana Ortiz-González – it included a move from St. Louis for a new position at Moore, a hurricane that hit her hometown in Puerto Rico, and an invitation to participate in London Fashion Week.
“This is my perfect venue,” she said. “My garments are more avant-garde. London is more progressive and open to out-of-the-box ideas.”
She somehow found time to re-work eight garments for the show in London while re-envisioning Moore’s Fashion Design program and raising her three young children along with her husband, artist Emilio Maldonado. Her collection, made of sustainable organic cotton twill, is titled Suora, Italian for ‘nun.’ The pieces were inspired by the Loretto Community of nuns in St. Louis who are known for their activism.
The collection’s debut in London was included in Forbes magazine among bold looks from new designers. One of the designs, a black-and-white habit-inspired garment worn by stylist Lily Gatins in the Commes des Garçons fashion show in Paris, was featured in the July 2017 issue of Vogue.
EIGHT MINUTES OF FAME
It took eight minutes from the time her brand, Nasheli Juliana, was introduced in the final slot at Oxford Fashion Studio’s Emerging Designers Show at Devonshire Square in London, to when she followed her models down the runway carrying a Puerto Rican flag.
“All that preparation for eight minutes,” she said with a sigh. “It was an amazing experience.”
A highlight of her trip was meeting Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Ortiz-González was talking with a reporter as the cool and iconic Wintour walked by in her trademark dark sunglasses. The reporter said to Wintour, ‘Hi, Anna, this is Nasheli Ortiz.’
“She gave me her hand, and she said ‘Nasheli,’ and she walked away,” she said excitedly. “I’m never going to wash my hand!”
Ortiz-González moved to Philadelphia from St. Louis with her family in August. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, destroying her mother’s home in Caguas. As Ortiz-González waited a harrowing several days to hear from her family, she worked on one of Moore’s big fashion shows. She later learned that her brother, a doctor, performed surgeries by the light of nurses’ cell phones.
“It has been very difficult,” but things are improving, she said. Her mother had to wait in long lines for food and gasoline. She couldn’t sleep because of the noise and pollution of running generators.
Her mother has since moved to Río Piedras, and has electricity and food. “She is a warrior!” Ortiz-González said.
A gift from a former student sits on a shelf in her office. It’s a framed quote, one Ortiz-González often says – “Do all things with love.”
“I always say that, because love is patience, and when you do something from love, it’s something good,” she said. “I know my students are tired. They’re not eating, not sleeping. But when you do it with love, you can make it better.”
At Moore, Ortiz-González is working to update technology, machinery and classes to be more in line with industry standards and trends.
“I want to create more thinkers and makers,” she said, adding that she wants students to be more technical and do more facings, linings and hand-stitching. “It used to be that everybody had sewing machines in their houses, and everyone got to know how to do a hem and button holes, and now they don’t know. That’s one thing we are missing, the technicality.”
Prescription glasses are Ortiz-González’s personal fashion statement – she owns 30 pairs that she coordinates with her outfits. She began collecting them after a temporary loss of her eyebrow hair.
“I started using glasses to cover my eyebrows, so I make it part of my style,” she said. A favorite pair is red and heart-shaped.
Showing off her collection in London was a dream come true, and she made connections. The British magazine ASBO, which showcases young talent, plans to feature collections by Moore Fashion Design seniors in an upcoming issue.
Photo of Nasheli Juliana by Anexis Morales