Mariel Manuel is studying at the best fashion academy in Europe and the Universe, The Royal Fashion Academy of Antwerp. I went to see the show a while ago, which, by the way, is apparently the longest fashion show in the world--four hours of talent in your face. And now, a month later, I'm still dreaming of Mariel's little creatures. They looked like this:
I like her because she's not one of those fashion bitches who doesn't talk but just waves her hands around and pretend she's all fashion and the rest of the world is boring. Mariel is a really nice and talented girl (maybe that is because she's Swiss) who loves to ride little colored bikes around foreign cities and would never ever hurt an animal or a person or anything else. She's already in LA now but before we lose her to the big bad fashion world, we thought we'd have a talk.
Vice: Hi Mariel, you finished the third year now at the prestigious Antwerp Fashion Academy. I think your collection was by far my favorite. How did you do that?
Mariel: Work work work! Ha ha! Yes, pretty much actually... And loving, and dreaming. Definitely.
Your collection was titled: "What happens in The Grotto... stays in The Grotto." So the single question rising in my head is: What the fuck happened in the grotto?
I always have these funny sentences that inspire a story in my head. I heard this one a long time ago, from this MTV Cribs Playboy mansion show. I don't know if it stilll exists, I haven't watched TV for ages, but I remember some bunny saying this sentence. Somehow, it popped up in my head a few days before the show and I thought, "This is it." I love storytelling in my work. I can build everything up. But to be honest, I still don't know what happened in the grotto.
You should definitely find out! While I was watching the show I was wondering...I mean it's very nice and all, but how did you get the idea of putting high heels and furry tails on men?
It already seems so far away! I think I was on the plane, coming back from China, when I started drawing weird men walking in a hurried way, with furry tails and wooden diamond heels!
Really off the top of your head then! Fair enough. You only used fake fur, why?
Fake fake fake! I would never be able to use real fur. I like to pet animals! Actually this fake fur blast came from the incredible samples I took back from my trip to Hong Kong last fall. I left with one suitcase and came back with three. It was great! And really low prices as well.
Do you get all your material from that far away?
Yes, a bit from everywhere, from my travels around the world. To buy fabrics is my first love. I get so excited, it's better than shopping for clothes. This year I also designed a lot of prints myself. It was quite a lot of work, but it's so exciting once you get a roll with all your own fabrics.
Yes, your drawings are for sure some of the most colorful, lively, maybe even naive ones around. Are you creating a new world or just painting what you see?
I just do it. From my heart, through my hands. I feel so free when I'm in that place where nobody can reach me.
Cute! You almost sound too sweet to go through the cruelness of a fashion school. How come you left everything behind to devote every second of your life to sewing machines and screaming teachers?
Antwerp was on everyone's lips. I went to see the graduation show and left with stars in my eyes. I was in absolute awe with what I had seen.
How do you manage to be so different from other students when you're working in the same classroom with such a small group of people every day?
Every single student brings his story, his past life, and his dreams into his work and into the classroom. It's great to see all this creativity and talent around. I still believe that we somehow inspire and influence each other by being around.
How is life in Belgium? And what do you miss most about Switzerland?
I like life in Belgium. Wait, not life! Work! No, I love to ride my little green Pantera bike and go to bars late at night for a sewing break. In a way, I don't really have time to miss anything about Switzerland. Though sometimes I feel trapped and I wish there was an actual landscape to gaze at.
I'm really glad you didn't say that you miss cheese fondue! But no worries, you're in LA now. Why on earth would you go to that God-forsaken wasteland?
I love LA! I am interning at Jeremy Scott. It's really interesting to see how a big fashion brand works. There is a lot to do, basically building up everything. I also ride my new little pink bike to work every day. There is a great music scene here. The only annoying thing is that they don't serve alcohol after 2 AM and the bars and clubs close at that time too...
Ah yeah, that would certainly make one miss Belgium. So are you going back to do your masters next year or are you hoping to be launched by a big designer and earn a pile of money?
If I am ready for the masters, yes, then masters. Sounds good just saying the word. I just hope I'll have enough energy for the last crazy year.
So what do you do with your old school collections from the past years? Just hanging around in your house? Do you wear them? Sell them? Donate them to a museum?
I have an attic that I use as an atelier too. The bags are hanging everywhere, among the brushes and the books. Last year I sold some pieces, it was kind of hard at first. But I really don't want my pieces to be sitting in bags in a lonely attic either!
Your very own grotto, that's nice.