(Published in The Caymanian Compass, Monday, 2 April, 2012)
Described by Italian Vogue as ‘one of the most interesting English designers of the moment’, Manuela Dack was in Grand Cayman recently to give a talk at the National Gallery.
Miss Dack grew up in the Cayman Islands, studying at Cayman Prep then Faulkner Academy. She moved to the United Kingdom to study art and fashion design at Middlesex University as well as pattern cutting at Central St. Martins, before going on to cut her teeth in the fashion industry.
After completing internships at notable fashion houses such as Alexander Wang in New York and Hussein Chalayan in London, Miss Dack went on to launch her own namesake fashion label, starting off with a capsule collection of jackets, which quickly evolved into a fully formed collection.
“I’ve always had an interest in art, but it wasn’t until I was at university that I really became interested in fashion. From then on, I have always had it in mind that I wanted to have my own label. For me, it’s the perfect balance of fine art and product design.” Miss Dack said.
She added: “I have had to really push myself to get where I am. In the fashion industry you can’t afford to sit back and wait for people to hand it to you because it’s not going to happen. You have to put yourself out there and make it happen.”
Indeed, her hard work and determination has paid off. At age 25, the fashion designer has already completed four successful seasons, with press mentions spanning Japanese Elle, Italian Vogue, Grazia and W magazine.
Describing herself as a perfectionist by nature, her innovative yet luxurious designs feature high levels of craftsmanship and layered fabrics and textures such as silk, sheer chiffon and leather, which are now seen as a cornerstone of her collections.
Working out of her London studio, her 2012 spring/summer collection is in select shops and with online retailers and is inspired by her time growing up in the Cayman Islands.
“I had wanted to do a collection inspired by Cayman for a while. You can’t be from Cayman and not be inspired by its colours, its environment, flora and fauna,” she said.
The collection features light flowing pieces made from silk and leather, which showcases her creative juxtaposition of textiles, while reflecting her love of luxury and the feminine figure.
Dresses, sheer blouses, skirts and belts have been made using traditional techniques such as dying, beading, embroidery and print. One stand out piece includes a dress made from cowhide leather, which has been printed to look like the skin of a stingray. Others include delicate pieces of embroidery, inspired by Cayman’s marine life.
With the fashion industry always working a season ahead, Miss Dack has just returned from Paris and London Fashion Week, where she showcased her 2012 Autumn/Winter collection, which is set to hit stores later this year.
Her advice to those who desire a career in the world of fashion? Hard work and determination.
“It can be tough to break into the fashion industry,” she said. “Support is limited and it is challenging to get it, which can be frustrating, but if you are determined enough you will find a way.
“I absolutely love what I do, so all the challenges have been worth it.”