Fashion professor Nasheli Ortiz has experienced a literal world of fashion. From Argentina to Japan, she has used her love of travel to develop a teaching style that has left lasting impressions on her students.
Traveling has shaped her into a practical, experience-oriented professor, Ortiz said. Her love for fashion really sparked while she was studying in Italy after spending time in New York.
“When you start traveling, it gets addictive; you want to keep traveling and learning and understanding the world,” she said.
Backpacking through parts of Central and South America, Egypt and Europe for two years, and a trip to Japan has influenced the way she teaches at Lindenwood, she said.
Ortiz’s fashion roots stem from her time studying to be a seamstress at a technical school in her home of Puerto Rico. She said she found herself as a designer while pursuing an associate degree in fashion design on the island. Eventually, she started on the path toward a master’s degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she said teachers and luck helped launch her future in fashion.
She was pregnant when she got her first internship in New York. Initially when she applied, her teacher gave her a particularly harsh critique, but the juror judging her collection decided she was getting the internship.
“I met the right people; they were my angels,” Ortiz said. “One of my professors gave me $2,500 for my senior collection in grad school because I had three kids, and I couldn’t afford [the materials].”
Raven Pulliam was the starring, and only, senior in Lindenwood’s 2016 fall fashion show. She said she never imagined she’d be designing a collection of 12 pieces for a show in just a semester. When she joined the fashion program, she said she didn’t even know how to sew.
At one point she wasn’t sure if fashion was the career path for her.
“I wasn’t even sure if I still wanted to be in school,” Pulliam said. “She [Ortiz] helped me realize that I am talented and that I do have a drive and a knack for this.”
She said she feels comfortable going into her office to ask questions and said Ortiz is open to ideas from her students.
“She is very passionate about teaching students and helping them learn,” Pulliam said. “She is also very talented in the aspect as far as designing.”
Fashion Design Department Chair Chajuana Trawick has been working with Ortiz since 2013, and said that through communication, trust and love, she has made their partnership work.
“When we first met, she came in to teach a class, and she gave a demonstration of apparel draping, and it was beautiful,” Trawick said. “It was like she was making music with her hands.”
The past four years teaching have kept Ortiz busy in the United States. She also has been doing freelance work for companies including Calvin Klein and Under Armour.
Ortiz said her freelance work complements the work she does in the classroom and helps her keep her students up to date with the fashion and unfair working conditions in the industry.
“I think fashion needs to move to be more conscious about not only the people, but about the environment,” she said. “We need to understand that we can’t eat money, and we need the world and we need the environment to survive, so we need to go [down] that road.”
Pulliam and Trawick both said Ortiz has uplifted the fashion program.
“She wants to see us truly succeed in the fashion industry,” Pulliam said. “She’s not just helping us be passionate about fashion; she’s putting her passion in us.”