Q & A with Maureen Mortel
Maureen Mortel started out with the Wearing Fiji project as model and applied to be a designer in our second year.
Last year she placed second in our Student Designer awards, she was mentored by Andrew Powell and continues to pursue her career as a dancer and dance teacher.
What is the inspiration behind your debut collection?
The overall theme for Wearing Fiji, 2022 is “Celebrating the Women of Fiji”. The show also ties in the legend of Burotukula which in summation entails a story about a disappearing island that consists of extremely beautiful women.
I wanted to make my debut collection as personal as possible. With this in mind, I drew my inspiration from women who have greatly impacted my life here in Fiji. Despite being born and raised here in the country, due to my foreign ethnicity I sometimes have my doubts whether or not I am fully accepted or truly belong. The women that this collection’s print is based on have helped tremendously in clearing my doubts and make me feel as though Fiji really is my home.
What is the story behind your label name?
The label name “MAAM” are actually my full initials- Maureen Angelee Almazan Mortel.
From childhood it has always been a dream of mine to make it as a successful fashion designer. As a young girl, I convinced myself into the mindset that my name would be made known one day and hold a great amount of respect and awe when mentioned.
In this way, fashion and designing has always played a big role in shaping the woman that I am today and because of that, I decided to name my label after myself.
How has the WFJ mentorship program helped you develop your brand?
In just 2 years, the WFJ mentorship program has already helped so much in further developing my brand as it has assisted me in building the different aspects that all contribute towards a successful fashion line.
From online and offline marketing, customer analysis , fabric selection, pattern making and so much more, the WFJ mentorship program has further enhanced my knowledge on what it takes to be called a fashion designer.
Overall, the WFJ mentorship program has basically taught me everything from A-Z about the fashion industry.
You were mentored by Andrew Powell, can you tell me 3 key things you've learnt from him as a designer?
Being mentored by Andrew Powell in the previous WFJ show was such a blessing. His extensive knowledge on the technical side of fashion definitely did wonders for my student designer capsule collection. Not only that, Powell is just a natural at being a great mentor and teacher.
The 3 key lessons that I learnt from him would have to be
1). The importance of patterns
2). The role that colours and textures play in a garment
3). Being able to effectively communicate your ideas to your seamstresses and tailors
How are you juggling your dancing career and your budding fashion career?
Juggling my time as a full time university student, part time dancer and dance teacher and a budding fashion career has definitely been quite the challenge.
In complete honesty, I would be lying if I said that I was not struggling to meet deadlines and to make ends meet.
However, I do find beauty in the challenge and I am absolutely grateful for all those who have been supporting me emotionally, physically or even financially.
Chasing my childhood dream has proven to be very much difficult with the current resources that I have available, but I would say that I am coping by having a good support system, an acceptable level of time management and of course, the graciousness of the Almighty.
What is your personal style?
My personal style is definitely more towards the feminine side. I absolutely love wearing crop tops, mini skirts, tight fitting clothing and dresses. Growing up in a household that is predominantly male, I like to view myself as a rose among the thorns.
However, due to my work as a part time dancer I tend to incorporate certain elements of versatility into my outfits where the clothes I’m wearing will be suitable for school, running errands, teaching and dancing. In this case, I like to opt for a crop top, sweatpants and sneakers; this has been my go to outfit for a while now.
Who are some of your fashion influences?
As a hopeful fashion designer, some may find it weird that I do not have any particular fashion influences.
I’m sure that the trends that have come and gone have definitely played pivotal roles in shaping my personal style and fashion taste but at the moment I would not say that I have any major fashion influence.