High-End Designer Answers to Higher Power

Bianca Solorzano Evening News story 11.07.09 on priest who designs clothing.
When the Rev. Andrew O'Connor is not tending to his congregation at Holy Family Church, he's in his makeshift workshop next door designing his clothing line.

"I think God wants this," O'Connor told CBS News Correspondent Bianca Solorzano. "There are a lot of things that conspire to say this is a really good thing to do."

The line is marketed under the label Goods of Conscience. O'Connor uses natural fibers grown in Guatemala and workers in New York City sew each piece by hand, allowing him to charge a premium price.

For example, O'Connor is selling one jacket he designed for $895.

"$895!" Solorzano exclaimed.

"It's a steal!" O'Connor laughingly replied.

His flare for creative design started early in life.

"My mom taught me to sew, so I would make things growing up," O'Connor said.

Now O'Connor's collection is gaining the attention of mainstream fashion magazines and getting rave reviews.

He's remaking one dress for an editor at Harper's Bazaar. In June, Vogue magazine showcased actress Cameron Diaz in a pair of his custom designed shorts. Vogue's Editor Anna Wintour called them "the perfect fit."

"That's huge!" Solorzano exclaimed.

"It's a huge deal, yeah, it was quite a big blessing," O'Connor said.

All this started four years ago. O'Connor participated in a retreat to a Guatemalan village where the Rev. Stanley Rother, a noted missionary, was murdered while working with poor Mayan Indians.

Rother's work inspired O'Connor to sign an exclusive deal with 24 Mayans to produce the materials giving them much needed jobs.

O'Connor also uses his business profits to help rebuild the Mayan community.

"They are a world treasure," O'Connor said.

O'Connor's product line also helps the church's mission in the Bronx, providing $14-an-hour sewing jobs, community development and a valuable lesson.

"This project allows young people to see that this place is good, that they are good and that they belong here," O'Connor said.

O'Connor says the message behind his design enables him to weave his religious and fashion cloths together.

"Do you feel this is your calling?" Solorzano asked.

"Yes, I think this is part of my calling," O'Connor said.

It's a calling that tailors popular fashion and people's fate.

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On the Web:

Goods of Conscience: http://goodsofconscience.com/