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The Fashion Designer

Colleen Moretz with dresses in background

Qs by Diana Mazzella
Photographed by Raymond Thompson Jr.

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When Colleen Moretz was 8 or 9, she used to glue fabric to make clothes for Barbie dolls decorated with rickrack and would open a “store” for her sisters, who quickly chose the garments before taking Barbie swimming in the pool where the outfits came unglued. Moretz is associate professor of fashion, dress and merchandising in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. She became a buyer after college, selecting clothes, hosiery and jewelry for a department store and learning what sold and what didn’t before working as a fashion designer for Dupont, Redken and others. She has won design competition awards from the International Textile Apparel Association and the Indianapolis Museum of Art, to name a few.

Who is fashion for?

Everybody partakes in fashion whether you think you do or not. You’re wearing jeans or wearing an evening dress. I don’t know about you, but I do not know any nudists. We all buy in.

How has clothing changed?

People used to cherish their clothes because of the garment’s and textile’s quality, workmanship and costs. So we’re looking into the past and asking, ‘How can we design and deliver a garment that is more prized, more valued?’ There has been a change in consumers’ fashion attitudes. People are encouraged to buy quantity at low prices while not making the investment in higher quality garments that also might come at higher prices and longer wear. This type of consumerism is difficult to sustain. What’s happening is that people are buying fashion apparel inexpensively, wearing it only a few times and then tossing it. And when you think of donating clothes to charity, even that can be problematic. The garment may end up in a developing country where it is bought cheaply and this can hurt their own economy because they are not supporting their own country’s struggling fashion industry. This is why our FDM department’s mission is to bring awareness to our students on global sustainable issues.

What inspired you to research sustainability?

While teaching at the University of Delaware, the fashion staff and I realized there was a need for more ethical and responsible practices. We brought together different professionals from Under Armour and other industries to focus on sustainability. We developed a sustainability initiative to examine concerns and offer options. Addressing sustainability issues is complex and multi-layered within the fashion industry. Challenging questions include: Where and how are textiles manufactured, packaged, transported and recycled? Are workers’ human rights being supported? Are our natural resources being protected? How can we increase consumer awareness?

What are your students’ dreams?

Anyone that says, ‘Oh you’re a fashion designer, that’s so easy’ — they have no idea. Designers put so many hours in and have to think on so many different levels, especially now in this day and age. Some of them would like to have their own company, but I always give them the advice that they need to work for another company — learn on somebody else’s dime before they ever go out on their own. And I’ve had some students be very successful on their own. I want them to find a job in fashion that they’re really interested in and feel like they’re making a difference.