Spot the Kiwi twist at Rio Fashion Week

Spot the Kiwi twist at Rio Fashion Week
Who would give away their creative designs in exchange for exposure? Mitch Manuel, for one, and it took him all the way to Rio Fashion Week last month.

Who would give away their creative designs in exchange for exposure? Mitch Manuel, for one – and it took him all the way to Rio Fashion Week last month.

Manuel (who's also a screen writer and animation tutor) began designing Maori patterns in March, which Brazilian designer Mariana Razuk turned into menswear for the catwalk.

According to Razuk, the Skin Cuts collection is based around the idea of body modifications like scars and tattoos, manifested here through strategic holes and cuts, or swapping the sleeves of two different garments. Completing the idea of the 'second skin', she used fabrics like cotton and wool in tones of grey, white and black, with dashes of red.

Mariana Razuk + Mitch Manuel collaboration Mariana Razuk + Mitch Manuel collaboration Mariana Razuk + Mitch Manuel collaboration Mariana Razuk + Mitch Manuel collaboration Mariana Razuk + Mitch Manuel collaboration Mariana Razuk + Mitch Manuel collaboration

We asked Manuel for the back story on the collaboration...

On the birth of the idea

I knew I had a talent for creating repeating swatches but I was still developing the craft, creating repeated patterns both for rectangular and also for circular mandala kinda patterns to experiment with a myriad of variations for fabrics. The patterns would be great for quilters, tee shirts and fabrics, also having had small success with an Indian company selling rug designs earlier in 2013.

On reaching out to the likes of Trelise and Cybele

Originally, I was looking for local interest in terms of working with designers in the fashion industry by approaching the likes of Trelise Cooper, Cybele, Rebecca Herring and Jane Henry by simply e-mailing them as a means to working together. They loved my designs but were not committed to working with me since their own designs, future pathways, were already two years ahead ... I went to my next obvious conclusion - overseas.

There were many other New Zealand designers that didn't respond to my suggestion of a collaboration so I turned my attention to an international theme and looked at targeting fringe designers and stayed away from well established houses that most likely would have had their own entrenched graphic designers.

So, I approached fashion designers in the USA, England, as well as India, Pakistan, Korea and Canada and eventually targeted Brazil. The pitch was the same: "Can we work together and you can use my designs? And from our joint efforts you can have the patterns for free." Yes, that's correct, I would give my designs away for free in exchange for images for my portfolio.

Although Brazilians' language is 99 percent Portuguese and are 200 million in all, Mariana Razuk was of Germanic origin, born in Brazil and spoke Portuguese, German - and her English based on our Skype conversation was relatively easy to understand.

Each of the 500 designers around the globe, I vetted, created a  personal profile and then e-mailed.

On finding THE designer

Mariana's designs from 2012 were perfect in terms of a designer who had eclectic tastes, was fastidious, and because of her unique multicultural insights and her world view. I envisaged that if I could convince her to work with me from the other side of the world, she wouldn't have any regrets and that a somewhat joint campaign for an Autumn Winter 2014 range would only enhance and not detract from her designer goals. Like all Brazilian designers at Rio Fashion Week, their aspirations were to become Latino/lusophone household names.

I approached Mariana Razuk on May 17, 2013. From my earlier approach and simple pitch, she was vetting my patterns and their potential for her new range - all the while having Rio Fashion Week 2013 in November in mind.

Mariana selected close to a dozen patterns I had developed and we settled on a reinvented pattern array using Koru, mandala variations and a Gordon Walters rendition I made. This then became the basis of a variety of clothes, shirts, jackets and trousers ... Mariana took the concepts and rearranged the original designs to fit into a coherent, haute couture, pret-a-porter theme for men.

mitch manuel designer

On the leadup to Rio Fashion Week

During the months leading up to November I was privy to her design concepts, fabric samples, photo shoots and all the while Mariana wasn't clear that her new creations, my patterns, would make the Rio Fashion Week a second year in a row.

I found Mariana highly positive, motivated, culturally aware and extremely talented, however, the Maori reinventions and the new patterns we garnered for her new range added, I believe, a unique sample and creativity that set her apart from the other established and other new designers who were also there.

We Skyped a week before November 9 and she was excited and enthralled with the coming show which she was busy with prepping. I mean, it's her passion, her life, living her dream. I was excited for her. This last chat live was a culmination of both of our dreams and hopefully a door into another journey.

On what lies ahead

Is there a future for another collaboration? Perhaps. Back in May 2013 I didn't think I'd have patterns on clothes in Rio Fashion Week.

I've already started designing digital mockups of a clothing range for vetting for a fashion show in New Zealand for 2014. I have 51 designs and creating more to eventually to decide on 12 items. I'm currently looking for a seamstress to be part of a team for next year. If there was anything I learned from my foray with Mariana Razuk, I'm not waiting for the door to open, I'm walking up to it and opening it myself.