This month—Sunday, October 15, from 10am-1pm, Shepherdstown’s ‘Up On the Hill’ (107 W. German Street)—a popular destination for quality cloth diapers, natural toys, and children’s clothing—is going to host a “shop-and-sip” event featuring the debut collection of Moesel Clothing line for kids.
The line was founded and developed by Jacqueline Moesel—a third-generation West Virginian, originally from the Swan Pond area of the Eastern Panhandle (between Martinsburg and Shepherdstown). Now living in Austin, Texas, Jacquie and a friend initiated the concept for Moesel about three years ago—high-quality and stylish clothing for kids that would also help support production and economic opportunity for skilled artisans in Lima, Peru.
Three years later, the debut collection is up and running—and Jacquie is excited to debut the collection in the region she called home as a kiddo herself.
We sat down with Jacquie recently to ask her about the new product line, and what this endeavor means to her in form, function, and concept.
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OBSERVER: You’re originally from the Panhandle, but moved around a good bit after high school.
JACQUIE: Yes. My father and paternal grandparents are from the Swan Pond area; a few of the country roads back there are named after family members, which is kind of special to me. I went to Martinsburg High School (like my father), and then left the area to attend college and graduate school in New York. I came back to live in Jefferson County for a short stint in my early twenties, but to date, I’ve lived in New York City, South Korea, South Florida, Atlanta, San Francisco, and now Austin—where I’ve been for five years. I also did one contract living and working on a cruise ship—which is how I met my business partner on this current venture.
OBSERVER: How did your journey(s) lead to this latest endeavor?
JACQUIE: My professional career throughout all of these adventures has primarily focused on social services, teaching, and policy work. A common thread throughout has been an interest in improving the lives of others and the systems we live in/with, which I think carries into my current project as well. With regard to fashion, I spent countless hours as a kid drawing clothing designs and cutting fashion images out of magazines. I have always had a strong desire to work with fashion and clothing in some way, but as an adult, I always thought of that as the parallel life that I didn’t choose early on.
The concept of Moesel started about three years ago with my very good friend of 18 years, Franklin—who I met lifetimes ago during my cruise ship work. At the time of the project inception, Franklin had moved back to his home country of Peru, and on a visit to Austin, brought along some samples of children’s clothing that were being made in Lima—the capital city. Franklin had an interest in getting the clothing distributed in the U.S. as a way to help support more jobs for the manufacturers and artisans in Peru.
OBSERVER: Things happened pretty quickly from there.
JACQUIE: Yes, they did. I could tell that the first samples were very high quality, but I didn’t think the original samples had the right “look” to sell in U.S. markets. On somewhat of a whim, I offered to draw up some designs that I thought would highlight the artistry and techniques coming out of Lima, but might also be a better market fit for the U.S. From there, it has been a wild ride.
There were several sample rounds—figuring out fit, sizing, color choices, textile blends, etc. I also visited Lima in 2016 to meet with the small-batch manufacturing team that made the sweaters for this first collection, as well as a small collective of women who hand-sew the details on the sweaters. I became increasingly more invested in what was being produced, how it was being produced, and who was producing it.
OBSERVER: Can you speak to Moesel’s core values?
JACQUIE: I really think of Moesel as a project with one main goal: to create high-quality, stylish clothing through an ethical production model. From a design perspective, I am striving to create clothes that utilize locally sourced materials (Peruvian cotton) and that feature the hand-crafted artistry of the women’s collective. From a production perspective, my aim is to further develop a model that ensures the manufacturing team and women’s collective are paid living wages and that they work in safe and healthy environments.
OBSERVER: What distinguishes Moesel in the marketplace?
JACQUIE: Moesel is definitely different from the larger “fast fashion” industry of children’s clothes out there, which focuses on cranking out mass-produced styles quickly—often manufacturing clothing with poor labor conditions for the workers. Making clothes, especially when it’s done with thoughtful and ethical production, takes time. The hand-sewn details, for example, are done by a small group of women who meet together at a collective work space in their neighborhood, and individually work on each piece of clothing. I hope buyers will appreciate the real craft behind the products and feel connected to the makers and the process when purchasing clothes from Moesel.
OBSERVER: Aside from the event in Shepherdstown on the 15th, what does the future hold for Moesel?
JACQUIE: In the immediate future, I’m getting ready for lots of pop-up events and markets, which I am hoping to use as an opportunity to connect with customers and learn more about what people want from a product. I also have a trip back to Lima in November. In response to my own kiddo’s requests, I think some dresses and skirts will be added to the mix of options this next go-around. Long-term, I’m invested in continuing to develop a model for the ethical production of small-batch orders and helping to grow the work for the makers I am currently working with.
OBSERVER: Customers can already view and/or purchase the product line, yes?
JACQUIE: Yes, absolutely—online (www.moeselclothing.com). Folks can also follow my activities on Moesel Clothing on Facebook and Instagram—moeselclothing.
OBSERVER: What does it mean to you to kick off the early stage of this journey “back home”?
JACQUIE: I always love to come to Shepherdstown to see the changes and developments, which have been significant over the last twenty-some years! I am really excited to collaborate with a local Shepherdstown business, and hopefully see people I already know and meet others from the community. So many parts of this new venture feel like a combination of interests from my days as a small kid, so the project already feels like this big personal homecoming in a conceptual way. It’s really fitting to share this in the Panhandle, where that kid drawing fashion designs started out.