Style Fashion

Friday 6 December 2019

Focus on Irish Fashion: Emma Manley

A design from Manley
A design from Manley

Sinead Van Kampen

Dublin born designer Emma Manley rolled together inspirations as common as streetwear and as diverse as Bauhaus into her new label Manley. Mixing everything from wools to pigskin and shifting between block colours and detailed embellishment, the results are fresh, unpredictable and brilliantly wearable.

We caught up with Emma to discuss fabrics, fashion envy, and a one-time obsession for P.E. kit. Here's what she told Independent Woman:

When did you realise that you wanted to be a designer?

My Mum was a designer so fashion was part of my life from day one. There was never a moment when the penny dropped and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. It was just always there. As a kid I’d run home from school because I knew Mum would have a client in being fitted, and all I wanted to do was sit and watch that process. I’m grateful I found my calling at such a young age.

What was the first thing you designed?

Clothes for my beloved Kyle, a doll that never left my side until embarrassingly late in life!

What’s inspiring you at the moment?

As always, it’s what’s going on around me. Right now I’m in the final stages of creating my S/S’12 collection and big influences have been music and film. I never hone in on a particular influence, instead, I collect things that I have seen, heard, read etc. All these things are written down in my notebook or stored in my head, and when it comes to designing they become the foundation for inspiration.

How would you describe your newest collection?

It’s a powerful collection of separates with bold lines and plenty of stud detail that adds a bit of outlandish cool. Rugged leathers and earthy wools are teamed with soft flowing chiffon’s to create a contradictory theme. The colour palette is fairly muted which allows statement slits and sheer fabrics to sit gracefully. It’s demure with provocative peeps.

What has been your biggest challenge to date?

Setting up Manley. There’s a huge amount involved in creating a label and I’m grateful for taking that big step in my early 20's. I think my naivety contributed to the gung ho manner in which I approached the launch. Manley is my biggest challenge but that’s what having your own business is about, constantly pushing yourself to go that bit further and create something even better. The minute it’s not challenging is the minute it’s over.

If you could choose a celebrity endorsement, who would it be and why?

Coco Sumner. For me, she is the epitome of cool.

Whose collection has impressed you this season?

Mary Katrantzou. From time to time someone special comes on the scene, someone who is truly gifted and takes the industry by storm. She’s a few seasons in now and each and every show has left me completely in awe. She’s breaking down boundaries and writing a new rule book for print.

What’s one item every person should have in their closet?

A Manley ‘Boxter Shirt’ … obviously! It’s pretty damn versatile and can get you from day to night.

What was your most tragic fashion moment?

It wasn’t a moment, it was more a period - of two years. Both of my older sisters were in secondary school and I was in envy. All I wanted was to be part of it, hanging out with them and their cool friends. When my Mum would pick them up from school I’d hop in the car having changed into one of their P.E uniforms. The second the car would come to a halt at the school I was out, waving frantically to get their attention and hope that someone thought I was in the school.

Where can we find you on a Sunday afternoon?

Head down, bum up, digging in my veggie patch or else cooking up a storm for the usual family Sunday dinner. Sunday is my therapy day!

Share one insider secret?

Speak to others as you would like to be spoken to.

Who do you most admire and why?

My Mum. For her strength, determination and endless love and support. She is a phenomenal lady.

How would you like your designs to be remembered?

As approachable pieces with an edgy take on elegance.

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