India”Dega | Elegant Ethical Apparel “OMWA”

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Tereneh Mosley studied business administration at Drexel University. 

Where she was named Top 10 Graduating Senior by the Board of Trustees.  Before becoming a fashion designer Tereneh worked in marketing for such firms as Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, DDB Chicago and Art.com.    In Pittsburgh her work in marketing, the arts and development as well as active non-profit board membership included being selected for Leadership Pittsburgh’s Leadership Development Institute, LDIX.  She was also named Pittsburgh magazine’s 40 Under 40.  

In 2004 she traveled to Kenya as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar to study fashion design.  As a graduate student she was commissioned by UNESCO Africa Animated! to create an exhibition of fashion designed to educate youth on health issues in Kenya.  It was her experience in Kenya which inspired her to work with Indigenous artisans and to become an eco-fashion designer.  She graduated with a MSc in Fashion Design and Marketing in 2007.


Returning to the United States she taught at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and then in New York City at the prestigious Parsons -The New School for Design where she taught courses in Fashion Marketing.  From 2011-2013 Tereneh lived, taught and designed in South East Asia.  Tereneh was visiting scholar on global fashion at Yale-NUS, Singapore and guest Rector’s Tea speaker, in 2013.  
Tereneh’s design work has been featured in  Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, AFROPUNK,  
Super.seleted. El Pais online, Oreeko, Chaos Fashion Magazine and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Tereneh was a finalist in W magazine’s online Individual Style awards.  She has traveled throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.  Spending 2011-2013 in SE Asia researching Indigenous and traditional design in Asia.
In 2013 Tereneh went to Kenya to begin the Olorgesailie Maasai Women Artisans (OMWA) – Idia’Dega eco-fashion design collaboration.  This project is in partnership with SORALO, a Maasai group committed to environmental and cultural conservation.  After a successful crowdfunding campaign Tereneh secured funding for the first collaboration with OMWA – the Tomon:10 collection premiered in Paris Fashion Week, the show was also presented in Pittsburgh and in New York Fashion Week.   images

Idia’Dega recommends….drape your organic matter in organic material.
Tereneh’s focus is elegant ethical apparel and global eco-design collaboration with Indigenous communities around the world.  In 2015 funding for the global eco-design collaboration between OMWA and Tereneh is provided by the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Program, a partnership of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments.  

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This is a true collaboration.  I went to Olorgesailie and visited the women over several weeks, many times simply sitting in their shop area and observing their work – beading, talking, selling their work to the tourist that come to visit.  Most of the women only speak Maa, the Maasai language so we spent a lot of time communicating and learning about each other non-verbally.  After several weeks and with some translating when an English speaker was present, the women agreed to begin working on a collection with me.  So instead of my 1-3 times a week visits, it meant I had to relocate to Olorgesailie, which also meant living in a hut, with no electricity or running water.  Which may sound like a hardship but it actually was a revelation.

Our first day of design brainstorming began with a brief lecturer by me.  As a former professor at Parsons and visiting scholar at Yale-NUS, creating a presentation and talking is my MO.  I began by showing them the images of designs in Paris, Milan, London and NYC inspired by Africa and the Maasai specifically.  I was amazed as we moved image by image to see the women point at my laptop screen saying, “Maasai!”  They were amazed to see their designs reflected on the runway and glossy magazine page.  At the end of the presentation Elizabeth Kilakoi of OMWA said, “We can do that!”

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We began by laying out paper and colored pencils on the tables of their studio.   At which point most of the members of OMWA began laughing out loud.  As a teacher I was used to being laughed at, especially when I am not trying to be funny.  When I asked why they were laughing Ms. Kilakoi said, “You see most of us did not attend school and have never even held a pencil.”  I stood shocked, I was looking at women ranging in age from 16 to 80, trying to imagine my own life if I had never held a pencil.

After a long pause I said, “Okay ladies, you’re talented, smart and beautiful. Just put the color of the pencil, where you would put a bead.”  They laughed again and began to work, though a dozen would huddle around one piece of paper drawing, discussing all together.  As the day wore on however, the entire studio was filled with women designing, most drawing and writing for their very first times in their lives.  After one week of work, we had so many design ideas, we literally had run out of paper.  After a long pause I said, “Okay ladies, you’re talented, smart and beautiful. Just put the color of the pencil, where you would put a bead.”  They laughed again and began to work, though a dozen would huddle around one piece of paper drawing, discussing all together.  As the day wore on however, the entire studio was filled with women designing, most drawing and writing for their very first times in their lives.  After one week of work, we had so many design ideas, we literally had run out of paper.

 

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