For womenswear designer Isabel Manns, sustainability is paramount. Her AW20 presentation included a sculpture created from textile scraps; the only fabric waste from the production of her latest collection. The think piece was a powerful visual representation of how young designers are working towards creating a more environmentally responsible fashion industry.
The eponymous brand’s ethos is focused on a move towards sustainable sartorialism, and Manns works closely with seamstresses to minimize fabric waste. This season’s feminine aesthetic saw a rich color palette of earthy and jewel tones alongside bold pops of color in ruby red satin graphic print halter-neck top paired with shimmering sapphire palazzo pants, painterly emerald green jumpsuits in luminous silk satin, and a statement wrap dress in royal blue velvet.
AW20 was inspired by the rocky coasts of the Costa Brava in Northern Catalonia. Manns utilized her own paintings in textile prints on vibrant silk satins, recycled wools, and ethically produced viscose; her unique take on luxury womenswear plays on the concept of “two outfits for the price of one”, with fully reversible pieces created in bold block hues on one side, and digitally sublimated prints on the other. We saw graceful silhouettes, impeccable tailoring, and intriguingly wearable looks in the designer’s latest capsule collection.
Words and Photography by Lucie Dhog
Image gallery by Getty Images
• Who inspires you?
I’ve always looked up to womenswear designer Emilia Wickstead as I think her collections have progressed in such a great way since she started.
• What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion to you?
It is about knowing your supply chain and buying items of clothing that you know you will wear for years to come, not throw away after one season. That is also why I design reversible clothing as it means that you can wear it twice as often. It is also very important for me not to waste fabric, which is why I calculate each item to fit perfectly on the fabric rolls and reuse leftover fabric to make scarfs.
• Can you teach the readers four things about fashion through your eyes?
Some people think it is inaccessible because they may not see themselves as “fashionable” but that is untrue. Fashion is also about function and comfort. Fashion should be about making you feel beautiful and confident.
Fashion is also an art form.
• Who is your dream collaborator and why?
I love Charlotte Olympia’s shoes. They are stylish but also very wearable and I would love to collaborate one day using my prints on her shoes.
• What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was really young, I wanted to be a racehorse trainer as I was obsessed with horses!
• How do you seize upon and incorporate ever-evolving campaigns, causes and developments of the day into your brand?
With a lot of talk about the waste fabric in fashion, I have been making an art sculpture for each collection showing ALL the waste fabric that went into creating each collection. I’m officially OBSESSED with this! These are stunning!
• What do you think are the strongest trends right now and what do you predict for the seasons ahead?
The wide sleeves with cuffs and I love it! I have a feeling that this will continue into the next season.
• How do you stay relevant?
Constantly coming up with new ideas and keeping the prints fresh as well as always listening to the customers.
• I’m a largely monochrome/Dickensian street urchin being, how would you style me?
As my brand is all about print and color I would say I would first style you in a more muted color tone like blue or a dark green and if you were to wear a print it would be something very subtle, layered with a plain navy or black color. I might need you to hold my hand…
• Is fashion and style nature or nurture?
• The importance of fashion? What is it to you?
To me, it is about feeling confident, beautiful and comfortable.
• Is the current trend of ethical fashion and sustainability creating change or merely a buzzword bandwagon for today’s fashion community to jump on?
I think it is both. It is really good that people are becoming so much more aware of it but I do also think that some people are taking it as a “trend” rather than actually doing something about it. Only time will tell!
• What other projects are you involved in at the moment?
I recently showcased at Tranoi Tradeshow which was exciting! Next week I will be starting on the print design for the next collection.
• Not that I’m stalking you, but I saw your collection at LFW. Now that LFW has opened itself to the public, is there a difference in how you put a collection together for fashion insiders and the public?
I’ve always preferred doing presentations rather than catwalk shows because I find it more personal and engaging. It means that people can actually go up to clothes and see them in detail and feel them. As my clothes are reversible it also means that people can see that better. I think it is great that fashion week has been opened up to the public and presentations mean that there is more space for the public to see it, rather than having a limitation with seats at a catwalk show.
• The price tag on sustainable fashion is, let’s face it, out of reach from everyday fashion followers, how can the high street move to become more sustainable without punishing the shoppers who look up to them?
Brands such as H & M are encouraging people to give them unwanted clothes that they re-use or recycle, even if they aren’t from their brand. Other shops should also encourage this. Also, simple things like t-shirts, in my opinion, should all be made from sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton or fabrics like bamboo.
• What would you do and be if you weren’t in fashion?
I would probably be a print designer for interior design.
• What independent projects are you backing to raise awareness and educate people on the importance of embracing change and defending sustainable practices?
I read an article a few days ago in The Daily Mail about how shops such as Levi, Whistles, and Uniqlo are offering free repairs or alterations, which I think is great and more shops should do.
TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp has also said that she wants schools to teach pupils how to replace a button and use a sewing machine as so many people throw away clothing just because a button came off but don’t know how to sew one on. I am completely in support of this because if children learn how to fix clothing from the very beginning there would be less thrown away fashion.
• What’s next?
Continuing to design future collections and expand my business!
Thank you for not taking out a restraining order! I’ll see you in London AND Paris next Fashion Month!
Interview by Contributing editor, Daisy Sells