Manuela Dack is a woman on a mission, with a clear vision carrying her label- which she began after graduating from Middlesex in 2010- from the rack of beautifully crafted pieces which represented her SS12 collection towards a brand offering everything from bespoke commissions to jewellery and small leather pieces. Her lady likes classic, beautiful fashion, with a contemporary edge which Manuela seems to be nailing fast.
|Manuela at her studio|
I first met Manuela at the SS12 Vauxhall Fashion Scout, back in September. I was immediately taken with her soft colours and beading details which all seemed very accomplished for a label which was only on its second collection. I wasn’t surprised that The Shop at Bluebird decided to buy up lots of the light as air column dresses in fresh ivory and mint green. Earlier this week, I went to visit the 25 year-old at her East London studio to take a sneak peek at the AW12 collection which went on show today at the VFS exhibition.
Grey sweatshirt and wool skirt from Manuela Dack AW12
Manuela’s designs have always been influenced by her childhood growing up in the Cayman Islands (see the stingray dress, above), as well as her family’s interest in interior design. However, for an Autumn/ Winter collection, incorporating those elements from warmer climes is perhaps not such a straightforward task. One of the stand out pieces is a short suede dress. A panel of suede, laser cut into an intricate pattern and backed by bright cyan blue and orange Batik fabric runs down the front. It’s sexy for sure, but also a clever way to incorporate the more summer-orientated elements of Manuela’s references into an A/W collection.
|The AW12 mood boards|
I also visited Manuela just before Christmas. Then, she showed me lots of images of wood carvings which she’d been looking at. I get the sense that Manuela's obsession with interiors and furniture might eventually lead her to becoming a complete lifestyle brand.
For now, those mood boards have developed into the laser cut effect which appears throughout the collection, mostly on suede skirts and dresses, but also on a grey sweatshirt where the jersey cut out has been backed with chiffon to create a luxe-sport effect. This sits alongside another beautifully cut grey sweatshirt- both are a new foray into a more casual aesthetic.
|One of the collection's two sweatshirts|
Manuela comments that the whole collection has ‘the same elements as Spring’ but it’s ‘stricter, more like a uniform with lots of angles and layering’. Stepped- up hems on skirts and dresses are becoming a signature of Manuela’s work. As well as the Batik, foil effect leather which twinkles through the carved panels makes an appearance.
|Christina Smith shooting the AW12 look book|
When you speak to Manuela, you can’t help but be excited about where her label is going. She already has a store on Avenue 32, but she is also planning to have her own e-commerce store where her fans can pick up jewellery, scarves and leather goods which she is currently developing. She already does belts which she tells me are selling really well. For AW12, there is one crafted from thermocromatic leather so that it changes colour as you touch it.
Like many designers Manuela also notes that “Made in Britain’ is a key appeal of her clothes. After noting that is was the more expensive pieces of her collection which sold best, Manuela began to realise that she was tapping into a market which wanted a unique, keep forever investment piece. To that end, she will begin offering a bespoke service where clients can use the look book as a ‘menu’ for their orders, perhaps changing a colour/ fabric/ length here and there as they like.
There's a lot going for on for Manuela. Ultimately though, she is adamant that anything she does, she must be do ‘really, really well’. This woman is a perfectionist, and nowhere is that more clear than in her beautiful clothes.
If you want to take a closer look at Manuela's AW12 collection, you can visit here at The Vauxhall Fashion Scout venue, on until Wednesday, at Freemasons’ Hall, 60, Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ. Alternatively, she’ll be at the VFS Paris showrooms from Thursday March 1st to Tuesday March 6th at 18, Rue de 4 Fils, 75003.