Interview with Fashion Designer Oana Manolescu

Oana Manolescu showroomOana Manolescu showroom-1

Oana Manolescu showroom

A fashion designer who doesn’t follow trends, whose creations can be defined as an elevated functionality or beauty made to wear (and are made by hand) and who personally meets her customers. In our world today, and in fashion especially, these values stand higher than ever before. It is my pleasure to introduce you to a designer who stays true to all of the above in her work. Oana Manolescu is also the one who created my beautiful wedding dress and this special detail could rightfully entitle me to be a little biased. But the truth is that I wear with great pleasure every piece by the designer I have in my wardrobe (including my favourite jacket I have ever owned – ivory, with perforated suede insertions that lend it such an edgy look – which garners compliments every time I wear it), some from more than five years ago. An item of clothing that stands the test of time… now, that’s style we’re talking about.

Who do you design for? Who is the Oana Manolescu woman?
She leads a modern life, multitasking, being many women throughout the course of a single day: mother, professional, life partner, a creator of her own life and experiences. I cannot believe she can accomplish all that without a good sense of self, of simplicity and of beauty. I design the skin this woman lives in. My clothes tell her story.

Who and/or what inspires you? What fashion designers (if any) do you look up to?
Life in itself, as it is, is inspiring. Beauty and elegance could speak through anything around me: a book, a journey, a mood, a cup of coffee, a conversation with a friend. So I do not seek inspiration from the work of other designers, but I strive to stay open to life, and create from that. I must confess, though, my unabashed love of the ’50.

What made you go into fashion?
I am a graduate of interior design with a major in screen printing for fashion. I must have always loved surrounding myself with beautiful things I would actually use, and loved transposing architecture into fashion. And since I was such an admirer of Art Nouveau at the time, I created a collection inspired on galle art glass. It was made solely out of naturally printed and serigraphed fabrics and was featured at The New Generation Section of The Fashion Week. It was my first runway show.
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Spring/Summer 2014 collection

I love the streamlined aesthetics and simplicity in your last two collections, Spring/Summer 2014 and Autumn/Winter 2014-2015. What was the inspiration behind them? Do I sense a change of perspective in your design style?
My life has changed so much lately, since I became a mother. The pace is different, I have new responsibilities that ask of me to be more practical and efficient. I guess it shows in my creations. So the lines are more geometrical, simpler, less bohemian, but in the same realm of the feminine. There are fewer colours as well, but the same twist I have always gone for.

Handwork has always played a part in your creations. The attention to details is amazing in all your designs. How hard is it to keep a high standard in an industry challenged by fast fashion?
I truly believe that clothes should be wearable on either side. They are supposed to serve the purpose, but also be things of beauty, of comfort one feels on the skin. I would never dare offer my clients anything less than my own definition of that. One must do as one’s fashion education commands (she smiles).

You personally meet all your customers. How important is the direct contact with them?
My clothes tell a story, but rather than be a story in themselves, they tell the story of the wearer. They must complement and bring out the feminine in my clients, and each one is unique and special. So I take time to meet them, get acquainted with their universe, not just their shapes and sizes. That is probably the secret to the longevity of my designs in my clients’ wardrobes.

How do you feel about trends?
True fashion is timeless.
Interview fashion designer Oana ManolescuOana Manolescu showroom-5

Oana Manolescu showroom

What is the most rewarding thing as a fashion designer?
My work is to create life through the moods and experiences my clothes bring forth. So I am happy and touched to get odd hours messages from my clients letting me know how great that night felt in the dress I made just for them. Or to hear that my works made it through the closet cleanup year after year. One of them told me once that a good deal of her life happens in my creations. I cannot think of a better reward.

Are there any new lines you are working on?
Of course. Wait and see.

If you weren’t a fashion designer, what would you be?
I would probably be drawing all day long. But since my work has always been about making beautiful things of use to another, I would probably find myself designing something in no time. I always felt that a painting would always remind me of what I felt when painting it, while a dress could pass it on to the woman who wears it. And I chose to give it forward.

What does style mean to you? How would you define your personal style?
Style comes from a sense of self, of knowing and understanding who you are, what is you and what is not. I cultivate that in myself and I work to bring that forth in my clients. My designs definitely speak for my style, but if I were to choose just one object as a reference, it would probably be horseback riding pants. I love horses, and the way they complement the feminine. I have always associated them with the Amazons. They were not just women warriors, they were free spirits of great charisma. Only in my story, they dismount and put on a wide skirt and host dinner parties.
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Autumn/Winter 2014-2015 collection

The best piece of advice you’ve been given:
I can’t think of one. Other than not to give advice, perhaps (she smiles).

You wish people appreciated more:
I am tempted to say enjoy life, but isn’t it a bit condescending to offer advice? Let’s all rejoice in what makes us happy. I hope my work contributes to that.

Your favourite moment of the day:
I am happy when I am happy. Morning, evening, coffee time or stories before bed time, with my daughter. The favourite moment is the one you make your favourite.
photos: 1,2,7,8-by me/ 3-6, 10-12: Oana Manolescu

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