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On a Mission

October 15, 2018

Haile Verville wanted a career in which she could apply her passion and skills in fashion design while making a difference and helping people. Mission accomplished: she works as a clothing designer for the United States Army.

Verville works at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), where she develops patterns, sews prototypes, and works with other departments on her current assignment, or "mission." The design process is far removed from the production schedule that mainstream fashion follows. In fact, it can take up to ten years for a design to make its way from conception to selection and then production.

"To paint a picture, I started my work in Natick in September 2017, and since then have been developing a new design for a coverall," she said. "We are just now in the user evaluation stage, which is when soldiers try on our designs while performing their daily tasks, and provide feedback."

From there, she said, one design will be selected to move forward while the Army phases out the current garment in use.

"The process evolves over years of preparation, samples, testing, trips to manufacturers, and human evaluations of every prototype," she said.

Once she has completed this mission, she will move onto other products, which could include ballistic vests, boot inserts, carriers, gear items, and more. Verville is rewarded every day with the knowledge that her designs for soldier garments and gear help protect them in the field.

"I love working with the soldiers and having focus groups to find out what they want to see from our designs. Their feedback is essential to our success."

Verville graduated from Lasell in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in fashion design and production, and returned to the college for her master's degree in management shortly after. Her training has proved helpful during her time with NSRDEC, where she tackles a rather difficult challenge no matter what she is designing: creating garments that fit all body types in a limited number of sizes.

"Try designing a unisex garment for all body shapes in just six sizes! Men and women are very different in stature and shape," she said.

Though she cannot speak in depth about it, Verville shared that a recent design of hers is in the process of getting patented. The personal win, to her, is also a win for her clients and, most importantly, her country.

"The best part of it all was showing the soldiers the feature that I created on their uniforms, and seeing their reaction of surprise and gratification for the new addition."