French architect Hector Guimard is known for his iconic Art Nouveau designs like the Paris Métro entrances. Since he envisioned his architecture as a totality, Guimard also designed furniture, objects, textiles and graphics, all of them characterised by elegance and sensuality and a return to organic forms, evoked by sensuous curves and intricately elaborate flourishes.
Amanda Manashi moved from Guimard's works for her collection showcased in May at the annual Graduation Fashion Show of the Academy of Art University's School of Fashion in San Francisco. Her designs have an architectural presence and a strong organic form, but do not literally borrow from Guimard's trademark curvilinear elements and arabesques. All these sinous elements were indeed recreated through ample volumes and pleated motifs.
Guimard's designs embodied the architect's own vision of Art Nouveau, a reaction to the mechanized world engendered by the Industrial Revolution and to the historical revivalist style prevalent during the second half of the 19th century. In the same way, Manashi seemed to take a step backwards in time combining techniques that call to mind the constructions of historical costumes and of Haute Couture garments, yet she infused her designs with a wearable modernity.
The young designer seems to have something else in common with Guimard - Paris. While the architect studied at the École des Arts Décoratifs, Manashi was awarded a spot in the 2015 Paris Sister City Scholarship Exchange at L'Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Amanda Manashi: I was born in Houston, Texas and raised in Danville, California. I have sewn since I was a child and pursued Academy of Art University in the Fall of 2011 for formal training. My sources of inspiration are usually specific artist's works and ideals whether they be classical or modern.
How did you feel at showcasing your collection at the Academy of the Arts fashion show?
Amanda Manashi: Being able to showcase a collection gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. I wanted to create a senior collection since I started Academy as a freshman and watching models walk in my clothes was a moment of excitement.
How did the creative process work for you for what regards this collection, did you first develop a story in your mind for example and then you transferred it on the fabric?
Amanda Manashi: My creative process for this collection was heavily rooted in draping on the form. I proposed a line up in December that changed dramatically over the following months. I continued to roughly sketch, but these clothes came from pleating fabric and finding what volume would actually look like on the body as opposed to an illustration. There was a lot of trial and error.
Which was the most difficult aspect of developing your collection?
Amanda Manashi: In my opinion, the most difficult aspect of the collection was functionality and color placement. The pleat detail translated differently in each piece and at times I would find myself draping pieces that would not be the easiest for girls to step in and out of. For what regards color, keeping a balance between light and dark was very important. Using striped fabrics looked overwhelming on certain designs until I found the right combination and worked in solid fabrics.
Can you tell us more about your main inspiration for this collection, Hector Guimard? In which ways did you interpret and integrate his forms and shapes into your designs?
Amanda Manashi: Hector Guimard was a French architect that helped define the Art Nouveau era. I focused on one of his sculptures that is displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I aimed to integrate his balance of softness and structure. The sculpture has small linear elements that carry into larger organic shapes. I began to pleat as a way to mimic the fine lines on the sculpture. The volume that the pleats create loosely refers to the organic volume and silhouette of Guimard’s work.
Do disciplines such as art, architecture or science usually inform the construction of your pieces?
Amanda Manashi: Yes, these disciplines do play a subtle role when it comes to construction. In my case, much like an architect approaches the layers and foundation of a building, I had to consider a foundation or support system for each piece. Incorporating underpinnings and basic dresses to act as a base was the key to each piece. Each look is two to three layers accounting for lining, a basic pencil dress and the pleated design that is actually seen.
What kind of materials did you employ for your collection?
Amanda Manashi: The collection is mostly silk, while the underpinnings are made in duchess satin. Each piece is backed and hand mounted on silk organza. The solid fabrics are silk faille and the striped fabrics are men's tie silks.
What's the most important thing you learnt from your years at AAU?
Amanda Manashi: The most important thing that I learned from AAU was to constantly experiment and solve problems. From entry level classes in textiles, knitwear, and construction, to my last semester I was advised to try and explore all directions for a specific design and remain open minded about different solutions.
In your opinion, where is the real "future of fashion": in the techniques linked to printing, in specific materials such as smart textiles, or will genuine innovations come from new solutions in tailoring/volume design?
Amanda Manashi: In my opinion smart textiles and 3D printing are the future of fashion, but it may take many years before this type of garment construction is mainstreamed. Nike and Adidas are slowly incorporating 3D printings and designers like Iris van Herpen are making interesting garments but, in the meantime, I still find genuine innovations come from new tailoring and volume design solutions.
What plans do you have for the immediate future?
Amanda Manashi: I am currently still looking for a summer internship and plan to continue school in the fall at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
All images in this post courtesy AAU.
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