The body-positivity movement has been slow to gain ground in Europe – at least on the narrow platform that high fashion provides. But here came Ester Manas with her voluptuously gorgeous crew of women friends and models to demonstrate – from every angle – how it’s done in the middle of Paris Fashion Week. Manas used a brilliant phrase for her design mission: “I am making clothes to welcome everyone.” This was during a euphoric post-show backstage scene, in which all the young women who had worn Manas’ vivid, ruched, asymmetric, knitted, curve-and-skin celebrating clothes were crowding around to thank the designer. Autumn-winter 2022 was Manas’s second physical season. She’s French, her partner Balthazar Delepierre is Belgian, and they live and work in Brussels. Two years ago, she made it her mission to pursue the issues around designing inclusively size-wise. “I’m big, and always I fit on myself first,” she said. “A lot of brands have a curvy girl on the catwalk now – but the reality is, you cannot find a good size in the store afterwards. I mean – just an image, nothing more. But with us, I try to give the dream a reality.” The key to making everyone feel confident and secure is Manas’s research process – spending time with women of many shapes, understanding what works both technically and emotionally. “It’s like we became a family,” she exclaimed. “And they looked so fierce!” She has evolved ruching techniques which add in extra fabric, producing spiraling effects, and cutouts which hold securely and flow elegantly and sexily where they should. The other facet is her knitwear. Vibrant and subtle by turns, her color palette, ranging from orange and violet to moss-green, is entirely chosen from what is available, avoiding the use of virgin materials as much as she can. “We search warehouses and factories where you can find them. Eighty percent of the collection is deadstock or upcycled.” She was brimming with optimism after the show. Watching Manas, the model industry is finally beginning to wake up to what it’s missing. “I mean, we have a pretty good casting director, and last time we had twenty percent of my own friends, mixed with some girls we met who were new faces, but there were really no girls on agencies,” said Manas. “But this season when we went back, we had choice!”
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.