Mosley, a Pittsburgh-based fashion designer, helps
a model into a dress she designed during a fashion
presentation at Heidi Optics in 2014.
the past couple of years, Pittsburgh native and designer
Tereneh Mosley has launched a fashion line, traveled to
Kenya to work and live with the Olorgesailie Maasai
women’s artisan group, and showcased their
collaboration of eco-friendly clothes and accessories in
Paris and New York.
she’s just getting started.
week, she headed back to the Big Apple to premiere a
fall 2016 solo collection at New York Fashion Week.
this month, Pittsburgh will get to see designs from her
Idia’Dega line, plus the latest from her collaboration
with the OMWA group of Kenya.
be on display at The Mattress Factory on the North Side
as part of a new small series of curatorial residences
and programming under the direction of cultural producer
and artist Casey Droege. The exhibition also will
feature video and photos from Mosley’s travels.
very excited to just celebrate Tereneh’s work,"
says Droege, whose background is in fiber and textile.
"I think what she’s building is really
early trips to Kenya were about trust building; Mosley
watched the local artisans at work in hopes that they
would embrace her and her idea to create a collection
together that someday could help support their families.
She returned to Kenya for a couple of months last
summer, thanks to funding from the Pittsburgh Foundation
and the Heinz Endowments’ Advancing Black Arts in
Pittsburgh program, to design with them pieces for a
back and showing the pictures from the show we did in
New York and Paris, they started to see that this was
something that could really grow," Mosley says.
artisans earn a consultancy fee for their designs, plus
money made from sales.
it’s building, and that’s really great," Mosley
the journey hasn’t been without its challenges. Her
makeshift home in Kenya is a hut or tent; two were
destroyed by dust devils during her latest trip. Out of
the 36 women Ms. Mosley routinely works with, only one
speaks English. Recently, she began learning their
language to ease the communication barrier.
still kind of a work in progress," she says with a
she wants to expand the collaborative process to include
artisans from other cultures. She spent a month last
fall traveling across the Northeast exploring Native
American communities to partner with. Her goal is to
come up with some sort of "virtual studio"
where the OMWA group in Kenya could remotely collaborate
with artisans from the Oneida Indian Nation in New York.
still trying to figure out the logistics," Mosley
far, the response to these collaborative collections has
been wide-ranging, from surprised to impressed.
when you hear Africa or Maasai, you think bright colors
and beads everywhere, almost like an ethnic costume.
When they see a long hemp silk gown or pantsuit and a
beautiful cotton shirt, they go, ‘Oh, wow. I didn’t
expect that,’" Mosley says. "I’m trying to
educate people that this isn’t a charity case. It’s
really about collaboration."
also hopes her adventures and events back home, like the
exhibition at the Mattress Factory, inspire people to
want young people across the board, especially young
African Americans, to see my passport with extra
pages," she says. "You can do whatever you
want. You can broaden the scope of what life can be if
you just build it yourself."
she’ll keep thinking big.
have this dream where we have a full runway show and all
the (OMWA) women come out after the show at New York
Fashion Week," Ms. Mosley says. "Just to have
them all there and to have (Vogue’s) Anna Wintour and
the editor-in-chief of Essence magazine in the audience
— that’s my hope that can happen."