Daryl Collins stood in front of a panel of top fashion designers in Cochabamba, Bolivia this January, nervously presenting her first line of clothing. Not only was she speaking completely in Spanish, but also her line of clothing was decidedly punk: black dresses with long chains, red plaid collars, and jagged skirts.
“Punk is not something they do here,” said Daryl, recalling the experience. One judge—a top-tier fashion designer who worked in the global fashion industry, told Daryl: “You have a very distinct style. You’re very creative.”
“Designing to me is very spiritual. When I design clothes, I feel like I’m praising God.”
Daryl’s successful fashion show followed a series of events over the past eight years that have given her confidence in pursuing the art of fashion. One event was a chance connection with a Portland Fashion Week organizer, asking Daryl to make a skirt for her line in the Portland Fashion Show. Another was the continual stream of people—both in the U.S. and Bolivia—buying her products and asking for more.
But it didn’t start this way.
Finding God in the seams and stitches
Two years after moving to Bolivia as a missionary with her husband, Dan, Daryl found herself distraught and devastated. As she prayed, crying out to God, she heard God tell her, “I want you to make purses.”
“But I don’t know how!”
“Has that ever stopped you from learning before?”
Daryl began to look up purse patterns on the Internet. She bought and collected used clothing, establishing her own line of purses from old pajama pants and other recyclable materials. She sold her unique purses at a friend’s boutique. Her passion for sewing and design had begun.
“I would say I started from nothing,” said Daryl. “The last class on sewing I’d taken was home economics my freshman year of high school.”
Gradually, Daryl started investing more of her time and energy in fashion, finishing a fashion degree from a university in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She expanded her design from purses to clothing and started her own line, Darli Moda (her new design line is called LIVIA). A mother of three, Daryl designs, sews, and sells out of the upstairs room of her house.
“It’s not like I go stand on the runway and share Christ.”
Daryl’s pursuit of fashion as an art and a ministry has been rewarding in multiple ways. She’s built relationships with the people who sell her fabric and those who buy her products. They are not used to the kindness Daryl intentionally shows them. Although Bolivians claim Catholicism as their religion, they usually will express interest when Daryl explains why she lives in Bolivia.
“It’s not like I go stand on the runway and share Christ,” she said. Daryl is more interested in forming a community around fashion that she can use as an outreach.
Creating beauty in clothing
Daryl finds inspiration in her design across a wide spectrum of genres. From the old, recyclable material in her purses, to the quirky Oregon haunts where she calls home in the U.S., to the edgier expressions of punk, Daryl expresses her love of beauty in unique ways. Some clothes, like her hooded sweatshirts, feature native Bolivian textiles. While one benefit of designing in Bolivia is the cheap cost of materials.
“Though Bolivian fashion has a strong traditional bent, emerging Latin designers are bringing in new inspiration. LIVIA designs is part of this emerging fashion movement,” said Daryl.
In addition, Daryl hopes to start a deeper conversation about beauty. While some people try to misconstrue fashion to be a materialistic pursuit, Daryl is convinced beauty and fashion relate to each other in unique ways.
“A lot of times, how you feel on the inside comes out on the outside,” she says. “God has gifted all of us in different ways, and we get our fulfillment from Him.”
For Daryl, it’s been a journey to discover the ways these pursuits are fulfilled. Her interest in fashion has encouraged other missionaries around the world that God can use their art in unique ways.
“I had no idea when I moved to Bolivia that this is where I would go. Designing to me is very spiritual. When I design clothes, I feel like I’m praising God.”
To learn more about Daryl Collins and her ministry, please view WorldVenture’s 360° Missions video featuring Daryl, or visit her family’s blog about life in Bolivia. WorldVenture has also created an infographic explaining how the arts fits into our 360° strategy for missions, as well as a list of other missionaries engaging in the arts around the world.