Manley – An essence of opulence

I like people who inspire me and one person who never seizes to do this is the incredible Irish fashion designer, Emma Manley.  Passion, determination, belief and sheer talent are a few words that encapsulate Emma and what she is about.  She is one fiesty fashionista that is making her distinctive stamp on the fashion industry at home and abroad.  

From interning with the late Alexander McQueen and jetting all around the world at such a young age, Emma demonstrates how hard work and positivity really pays offf.  However, Emma didn’t pick her love for fashion up off the ground as her mum was also a creative fashion designer.  Now living back in the Emerald Isle, Emma is taking the Irish fashion industry by storm.  So I decided it was time to get up close and personal with the beautiful Miss. Manley…..…..

Where did it all begin for you?

My Mum was a designer so I was born straight into it and brought up around patterns, fittings and all the best fashion mags. I grew up, C.A.O time rolled around and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. A year in a fashion and textile design foundation was my test to see if I was really cut out for the world of fashion. I walked away with the ‘Achiever of the Year’ award and I haven’t looked back since.

You don’t do things by halves! You jetted off to the Big Apple at 21. How did that happen?

I had just graduated and interning was what I wanted to gain more experience – it’s the greatest way to work for top brands. I set my sights on VPL, a label I adored. It’s a burgeoning brand, with a small team so I knew I would get far more opportunities to design. So off I went to New York. Before I knew it I was designing and sewing garments that walked in the VPL A/W 2009 show. I remember dressing models backstage and Fashion TV was there. They were interviewing a model and she signed off with the habitual “I love you Fashion TV” – too funny, so corny, so fashion. All I could think of was “jeez I used to watch that, now I’m part of it.”

Then there was London….You completed an internship with the late Alexander McQueen during your time in London. That must have been a pretty phenomenal yet tough experience.   Is it possible choose one highlight?

That’s a big ask! You know, when you work in a company like that you’re on the other side. Your not part of the glitz and glamour- you help create it. It’s tough, the days were long but walking out those big glass doors every day and seeing garments you created walk down the runway is something I was immensely proud of. What happened throughout the day really only gets processed when you leave and think … Yikes, I’ve just made a dress for Selma Hayek!

Not only did you work with many a great, you have also dressed an Oscar nominee…?

Indeed and one of our own too! It was Juanita Wilson for the Oscar Nominee’s luncheon. She was nominated for her short film, ‘The Door’. I had been a fan of her work before we were put in touch about the Oscar’s so it was a real honour dressing Juanita.

Congratulations on the growing success of Manley. I know how hard you have worked to get where you are today. Your pieces are really stunning and unique. What inspires your designs?

Its so many things brought together. From long before I begin sketching or even thinking about a new collection, I’m collecting ideas subconsciously. It’s art, its things I see in the street, it’s the way a song makes me feel. All of these things make a story that becomes my inspiration. It’s all in my head!

How would you describe the Manley aesthetic?

Manley is play on words- Manley being my surname and not a masculine aesthetic. It’s romantic femininity contrasted with urban modernity, representing frivolity and strength at once.

You have recently moved back to Ireland to concentrate more on Manley.  How has the transition been for you and how has Manley been received?

My time away was hugely inspirational. I had this great blank canvas to fill – everything was an unknown and that’s a great experience for the soul. I had two great honeymoon periods in two of the greatest cities in the world. Now it’s about making Manley work. Ireland’s wonderful and I think I’m only beginning to scratch at its surface. Since the early days of selling in Cow’s Lane Market and The Loft, Irish consumers have been very supportive. That’s our culture, we support our own wholeheartedly. Returning home just verified my desire to remain here. I want to be an Irish designer and proud of it. I also want to be able to bring Irish design to the rest of the world. Being based here was just another building block in the Manley story.

What item of clothing will you not live without this Winter?

The Manley cape. I’m in love with it and wear it almost everywhere. It’s not too dressy and equally not too casual. Being comfortable, cosy and stylish is what our winters demand.

From your priceless experiences and travelling all around the world, NY, London and Dublin. Which city tops the fashion stakes and why?

London. Londoners take risks, they’re edgy, and I truly love that. New Yorkers are more groomed and that’s cool too but I rather a little more makeshift and mismatch. Dublin is defiantly climbing the fashion ranks. I think as a nation we are learning how to be creative with our closets. I do feel we can be slaves to our climate and that is something that we need to steer clear of. We can make kicking through puddles glamorous by doing it in Kurt Geiger boots.

Is there any designer out there at the moment that fascinates or inspires you?

Too many to list, but more then anything its the emerging designers that inspire. Take Alexander Wang, only 26 and look at all he’s done… he won’t have a short career.

If you could design a dress for any celeb out there?

Roll-up, roll-up Mary-Kate Olsen.

You are going from strength to strength and it’s so inspiring to see somebody so talented doing what they love.  What should we expect from Manley in 2011?

Great things. New designs. Nothing less.

If you want to see anymore of the beautiful Manley designs, please log onto

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