Nasheli Ortiz

Born in Caguas, Puerto Rico. With twenty years in the fashion industry, Nasheli’s design experience includes working as a technical designer, draper, tailor, and seamstress in couture sewing techniques for designers based in New York, Dominican Republic, Italy, and Puerto Rico. She currently performs as Chair and Associate Professor in the Fashion Design Department at Moore College of Art & Design. Beyond academia, Nasheli is part of the collective of women Taller Malaquita in Puerto Rico, a founding member of the Philadelphia Fashion & Garment Industry Task Force in which she is the Chair in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and member of the Education Committees. Co-founder and principal of 22 studio, women-lead transdisciplinary design practice, and as the owner of the fashion label Nasheli Juliana.

Tell us about the type of work you do.  

Interdisciplinary work is the best form to describe my practice. I am a professor, fashion designer, producer, sometimes artist, activist, mom, and many more. 

My two main work-related projects are 22 studio, a platform from which we address relevant socio-cultural issues specializing in fashion design, public art, scenic design, architectural, scenic, and social lighting design. And Nasheli Juliana works with the research of human rights from an apparel point of view. Looking at social justice from a wearable perspective, I work with upcycling, organic, and recycled fabrics. NJ has presented in some of the top fashion design platforms, featured in Next in Fashion 2020, Netflix, and magazines such as Vogue and Forbes, among others.

Walk us through a typical day for you. What does your studio/workspace look like?

Mornings are usually a bit crazy! I send my kids to school early and around 10 am I concentrate on doing all the work related to the Fashion Design and Textile Department at Moore College of Art & Design. Coordinating a group of professors and students is a challenge I take seriously and demands a great amount of my time and attention. 

At least one day per week I try to touch base with the 22 studio’s projects either by designing a wardrobe to lighting, to exhibitions, there’s always something different and fun to do in great platforms and organizations we admire.

What are your biggest obstacles in being creative every day, and how do you overcome them?

I do not have the luxury of having only one practice and focus on my design career. 

I am a Professor! Ha! I LOVE MY JOB, but it is what I need to do to sustain my fashion career and my family, time is the big compromise.

How does Philadelphia influence your creativity?

Philadelphia has given me many opportunities, starting with Moore College of Art and Design and the possibility of becoming a leader in the Fashion Design and Textile Department. I have received professional development support at Moore and I am grateful for the space they have given me in the past 4 years. Philadelphia is a very rough and real vision of life. Philly is art, poetry, music, textures, and color, Philly is diversity, I am in love with Philly!

I am also part of the Philadelphia Fashion & Garment Industry Task Force, which gave me unconditional support when I moved to Philadelphia. They are also a key component in creating a fashion design community.

The project “Arte pal’ Barrio” with Norris Square Community Alliance has impacted my career. With the sponsorship of Pew Discovery Grant 2021 we are connecting with the Puerto Rican community in Philadelphia, which helps to break the gap between academia and real-world problems, and perhaps impact both.

What woman/women are you most influenced by?

-Luisa Capetillo turned politics into her lifestyle: in clothing, she was the 1st woman to wear pants in a public space/activity for which she was arrested. And that is part of the base of my work and the resistance statements that we have made for the action of dressing ourselves.

-Harriet Tubman her disinterest in helping others even putting her own life at risk. 

By aigaphiladelphia
Published April 1, 2021