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New McDaniel graduate's fashion career inspires by faith, family

New McDaniel graduate's fashion career inspires by faith, family
Maurice Paul is graduating from McDaniel College. (KEN KOONSSTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

When Maurice Paul, who graduated from McDaniel College on Saturday, walked around campus, he could hold claim to being clad in literally one-of-a-kind fashion.

Paul, the first member of his family to attend college, designs his own clothes under the label Godly Apparel. During his four years at McDaniel studying sociology, Paul commuted home to Baltimore every day to his long-term girlfriend, Dedri Chambers, and his 4-year old daughter. In addition to spending time at school and with his family, Paul works with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities through Target Community and Educational Services.

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Despite it all, Paul said he's managed to find time to focus on his passion for fashion. He said he's been interested in clothing ever since he entered high school, when he first noticed people's style.

"You're meeting all these new people, and I got to noticing that all these people dressed the same, and I wanted to be a little different," Paul said. "I wanted to stand out, and I wanted people to know Maurice."

He said he decided to take control of his style by making his own clothes. Initially, he said, he would buy clothes and make custom screen prints or drawings to create his own designs. Soon, Paul said he moved on to producing more and more complicated pieces, eventually coalescing under the name Local Celebrity. He said he sold a few pieces under the Local Celebrity line but was never truly happy with the concept.

In November, Paul lost his father to sickle cell anemia. He said that by talking with him, his mother helped him get through the loss.

"It was really devastating. What my mom told me was if you ever run into a problem, turn to God. So I did exactly that," Paul said. "I started reading the Bible more and focusing on the things that make me happy. The things I love are clothes and art. So I put these passions together with what my mom told me, which was focus on God and this idea of Godly Apparel just came together."

Paul started producing T-shirts, pants, and headbands with his original designs on them and the Godly Apparel logo. While attending an African-American leadership conference in Washington, D.C., this year, he met up with students from LaSalle University. After talking fashion, these students invited Paul to participate in his first fashion show in Philadelphia.

Next to the birth of his daughter, he said, it was the best experience of his life.

More than 100 people attended the show, with six models wearing Godly Apparel items.

"I just could not stop smiling. After the show, they asked the designers to stand up. When they asked everybody from Godly Apparel to stand, it felt great to be recognized," Paul said. "Every other designer there had a team of people with them. For me, it was just me. It boosted my ego because I didn't have a lot of help. I felt like I was going into this as an underdog, and it blew my mind to have people ask me for tips."

Paul said he's planning on taking a year off after graduation to spend time with his daughter before going to graduate school.

"She's 4 years old and I've been in school for four years. I've spent a lot of time away from her. Though I commute back and forth and get to see her, it's not that hands-on time," said Paul. "I'm going to just try and have fun and spend as much time with my family before jumping back into it."

Chambers said Paul has been completely dedicated to all of his interests and responsibilities ever since she met him six years ago.

"He had a hard childhood, and I think he was so used to not being able to do what he wanted. That gave him motivation to work hard," Chambers said. "I've never known someone so dedicated and hardworking as him."

As Godly Apparel takes off, Paul said he hopes to establish a program in which for every shirt he sells, he's able to give one to a person in need.

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"As a child, when I was growing up, I was homeless for a small portion of my life, so I want to be able to give back to that community because I learned so much from them," Paul said. "I plan to go to Baltimore as much as possible and find people, and give out pizzas and sit with and pray with those guys so they know someone is thinking of them."

Paul said the financials of the situation are difficult to figure out, but he feels passionate that it's his duty to do good with his gifts.

"As long as I know I made some kind of breakthrough and I did something different and people like what I do, that's the greatest reward of all," Paul said. "We're trying to break the social barriers of what fashion is supposed to be."

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Twitter.com/Jacob_deNobel

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