Social work associate professor Gattis’ fashion line mixes business with creativity
A business partnership formed after a chance meeting with a couple in Ghana, and now Maurice Gattis, Ph.D., associate professor at the VCU School of Social Work, has a fashion line called Fort Mosé 1738 that carries a line of contemporary West African fashions.
Fort Mosé 1738 refers to the first free Black community in the U.S., founded in 1738 for formerly enslaved people from West Africa. The company’s designs are sold in-store and online via custom order and have been featured in fashion shows in Richmond and Washington, D.C.
The idea for the business venture came after Gattis met a Ghanaian couple, Nathanial and Faustina. Nathaniel was Gattis’ driver, and Faustina made custom clothes for him while he was in the country.
“He had the idea that I would design the clothes, and he and his wife would make them. I thought to myself, ‘That sounds like an interesting idea,’” Gattis says. “When I met Nathaniel and his wife, the stars aligned. … This company helps connect me and Nathaniel with our ancestors.”
Gattis says he was interested in clothing, especially colorful clothing, since he was a child. He sees the fashion line as a nice creative outlet that keeps him balanced with his academic work.
“I think it complements working at VCU with LGBTQ youth and homelessness,” he says. “It complements my discipline of macro social work and community development because this was a family (in Ghana) looking to expand their financial abilities.”