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The Joy of Six: Mariel Manuel

This 22-year-old Antwerp student of Walter van Beirendonck has already worked for Jeremy Scott and produced her own line for Swedish brand Weekday

Selected by the designer, artist, curator and tutor at Antwerp's infamous Royal Academy of Art, Walter van Beirendonck, Swiss born 22-year-old Mariel Manuel is already on her way to becoming fully recognized for her designs. Starting the course in Antwerp at the tender age of 19, Manuel graduated earlier this year after having interned with the LA based favourite of Rihanna and M.I.A, Jeremy Scott, and being chosen to produce her own capsule collection for Swedish brand Weekday. Not just a designer, Mariel is also a talented illustrator, having been published in various international magazines including Vice, Kinki and D-Mode. Inspired by traveling and discovering new cultures and people, Manuel was awarded the Momu (Mode Museum) prize this year, which resulted in her first solo exhibition of both illustration and design at the Antwerp Fashion Museum.

Dazed Digital: How have you found being taught by somebody as forward thinking as Walter Van Beirendonck?

Mariel Manuel: I spent most of the time in my second year figuring out what I was actually doing, and what I actually wanted to go for. Being taught by Walter put a green light on all my projects and he made me want to go for it, all in a very sensitive way.

DD: What has Walter been like on a personal level?
Mariel Manuel: I think he knew all of us better than we thought. He respected his status as a teacher and somehow the personal distance that came with it. It's definitely not about getting away with it just by being cool.

DD: Where do you take your inspiration from?
Mariel Manuel: It often starts with a sentence that sticks in my head. My graduation collection's idea began with a 'magnetic poetry' sentence on my fridge. It's pretty vague in the beginning, but eventually becomes a whole story.

DD: Your designs often have elements of animals, both in prints and in the use of stoles. Where does that come from?
Mariel Manuel: When I was 13 and I went to Africa for the first time, I think it probably marked me forever. It's like a whole world of imagination and fairytales opened up out there.

DD: Which other designers are you intrigued by?
Mariel Manuel: I am always intrigued by Japanese brands such as Undercover or Tsumori Chisato; above all the mystery of a Japanese fashion house.

DD: What story do you want your clothes to tell?
Mariel Manuel: As much as I respect the more conceptual and commercial fashion brands, I do think that a bit of fun and irony is not all that bad an idea.

DD: What is your creative process behind designing a collection?
Mariel Manuel: I love to let myself be inspired by fabrics, combinations of natural and artificial. I don't see the point of having a cardboard mold of a body you trace over and dress up. Whether it's men with beards painted in watercolors or powerful women with malicious eyes, each collection tells its own story and has its own character.

DD: Do you have a type of person in mind when you are designing?
Mariel Manuel: I love the women from David Lynch's movies and they always inspire me. I like to work with his feeling of displacement, of people that are not in the exact right setting.

Check out the rest of our series in Walter van Beirendonck's The Joy of Six