Friday 24th of March 2023

Nairobi, Kenya

African Fashion: Professor Of Social Work Uses Clothes Design To Communicate With His Ancestors

Posted On : February 16, 2023

Ann Mumbi


By collaborating commercially with a Ghanaian family, the Fort Mosé 1738 collection, created by VCU’s Maurice Gattis and displayed at DC Fashion Week, complements Gattis’ social efforts.
At DC Fashion Week last fall, fashion model Diamond Minnetta was introduced to the creations of Fort Mosé 1738 LLC, a clothing brand established in 2021 by Virginia Commonwealth University faculty member Maurice Gattis, Ph.D.

Modeling all around the United States, Minnetta remarked, “I was in wonder over the colors and I loved how the cloth felt on me and how it looked.”

It was simply breathtaking. I felt fantastic after it.
On the occasion, Minnetta wore one outfit by Fort Mosé 1738, but she ultimately bought a jumpsuit and matching headband from the brand that she had seen being worn on the runway.

“I found it to be excellent. She said, “I had to have it. Because they were so genuine, his designs stood out. It feels like a celebration when you wear it. I was very impressed by that. I also enjoyed the cultural component.

Gattis, an associate professor at the VCU School of Social Work who has never taken a fashion or design course, claimed he never dreamed he would launch his own clothing company.

However, around a dozen items from Gattis’ clothing business were displayed on the runway the year before, one of which was modeled by a VCU student.
I’ve always been interested in clothing, particularly bright apparel, the man admitted.

According to Ean Williams, executive director of DC Fashion Week Inc., the panel that evaluates designer applications for DC Fashion Week, which is hosted at the Capitol Hilton Hotel in September, decided Fort Mosé 1738 would be a strong fit for the Emerging Designers Showcase.

Williams stated that the collection “boasts vivid colors, the staple of materials found in Ghana.” The fashion industry will undoubtedly be drawn to Gattis’ use of traditional textiles and a new silhouette.

An accidental encounter turns into a business opportunity
It was accidental for me to go into the apparel business. Gattis didn’t think about beginning a clothing business until he traveled to Ghana and met a couple, Nathaniel and Faustina, who was his driver and manufactured personalized apparel for Gattis while he was there.

He thought he and his wife would make the outfits, and I would design them. That sounds like a fascinating notion, I thought to myself,” Gattis recalled. “The universe was in harmony when I met Nathaniel and his wife.”

In order to help the couple, Gattis established Fort Mosé 1738, which he named after the first free Black town in the United States that was established in 1738 for people who had previously been held as slaves in West Africa. Fashion events in Richmond and Washington, D.C. have showcased his company’s designs, which are also available in-store and online via bespoke orders.

The company, according to Gattis, “helps me and Nathaniel connect with our ancestors.”

Cotton or a silk/cotton combination makes up the handwoven material that is utilized to make the clothes. Contemporary West African clothing is designed by Gattis, and Nathaniel and his wife produce the garments before shipping them to the United States.

“I believe in them and the fabric’s quality, which is why I said yes to Nathaniel. The clothing are extremely wonderfully crafted, added Gattis, who also stated he enjoys creating the clothes.
“It’s a fantastic outlet for creativity. It appears to be beneficial for my employment at VCU. I get to connect with individuals who don’t know me or what I do, which I find to be stimulating, so it strikes a wonderful balance.
where academics and creativity converge
Gattis, a native of Daytona Beach, Florida, has always delighted in pursuing his intellectual and artistic passions. He studied sociology at Emory University and danced for the Emory Dance Company.

He earned a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University and a doctorate in social work from Washington University in St. Louis’ George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

Following three years as a tenured professor at the University of Louisville, Gattis joined VCU.
He works at VCU’s Intersections in the Lives of LGBTQIA+ Communities Core as an iCubed scholar. In the fall of 2021, he received the position of senior adviser at VCU’s Q Collective.
He is also a founding member of the VCU School of Social Work’s Center for Youth-Engaged Research to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness.

His research focuses on homelessness, adolescent risk behaviors, and health disparities among LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) populations in North America, South Africa, and Canada. His primary research focuses on how social environment (family, peers, stigma, and discrimination) affects harmful psychosocial consequences like poor mental health and substance abuse.

Gattis was happy with himself for trying something in fashion and succeeding, he remarked after the D.C. fashion show.

He remarked, “I think it complements my work at VCU with LGBTQ youth and homelessness. Because this was a family trying to improve their financial situation, it complements my field of macrosocial work and community development.

Content courtesy of VUC & NFH


Ann Mumbi

An expert in style and image, Fashion Addict focuses on brands worn by showbiz stars who have large numbers of fans worldwide Member Of #NairobiFashionHub Team


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