Could you tell us a little bit about where you come from?
My story begins in Gondar. I come from a prominent family of warriors from the regions of Gondar. During the Italian invasion, my father and grandfather were among the brave warriors who fought the fascist regime. My mother played a major role by joining the military expedition to feed the army. She was captured by the Italians because of her relations at the age of 16, but later managed to escape and join her family. My father later served his country as a governor and a senator before he succumbed to his death leaving behind a 30-year-old wife with children.
“Creating and passing on my passion to others became my way of life.”
Could you tell us a little more about the highly recognized Manalè label?
I spent my time traveling around the world in pursuit of beauty and love. This incredible journey has been a great tool in guiding me to redefine and shape my work as an artist and a designer. Creating and passing on my passion to others became my way of life. As an internationally recognized designer, pulling in 4.7 million dollars, producing, and making high end bridal and evening wear in the US, I felt the need to give back to the present generation of Ethiopia.
What is your earliest design memory for Manalè?
My path as a fashion designer was ignited the day I cut my first long dress into a skirt.
How important is fashion for philanthropy for you?
Who I am and what I do are one and the same. Fashion as what I do, and philanthropy is what I am.
Could you tell us a little bit about the foundations/initiatives that Manale International supports as a brand?
My first memory of helping others started, when I was in boarding school in Ethiopia. We were about 7 girls who lost our fathers and were in boarding school together. We share losses. I believe that gave us a feeling of compaction. So, our 1st kind of project of helping others started in our girl's boarding school.
At dinner, we would share 4 meals and leave 2 sometimes 3. We would take the extra dinners with us, hiding them from the adults and feed the 2 wonderful blind men who always come expecting. From then on, when I go back home for the holidays’, homeless people come to our home to ask for a portion of food which was a normal thing to do for the homeless back then. I always make sure the cooks and our home give these people food to eat. When I’m around there is no compromise.
I then grow with the feeling of compaction as well as responsibly on a small scale and sharing what I have with others became my joy.
At age 16, I came to the U.S and I had to put myself through school and find my interest and then succeed in what I do. Deep down, a commitment to philanthropy will be part of my life. For over 25 years on a small scale, I’ve made an impact with my work in Ethiopia. In 2017, I have made a move to make it official, because the time was right.
To do so, I have created a specific brand as a stable ground inspired by Ethiopia and that proceeded to be the water that will flow into education for young people in Ethiopia.
What was your previous work experience before launching your brand, and how did it help you in your journey?
My first, my middle and my now has always been in design. It’s more like an expression love affair that I do the same way as I sleep, as I eat, I express.
What do you envision for the future of your brand?
I have been designing for over 25 years always in the present tense, so that is what I envision to keep. The present tense alive, joyful, happy, and truthful.
How would you define authenticity?
Authenticity… I find it’s not a word that is in the core of my being, for me, being true to truth; that’s connected within myself.
What does your design process for each piece/product look like?
The process for love, as we all know, is different for each of us. My love affair of 30 years has been my design process. Starting from the moment it begins, I just know it’s happening, a harmony between the eye and the heart, between color and shape, between music and silence. Then, it’s a matter of paper and pencil or finger and computer. After that, picking the fabric and printing our designs to turning it into shape. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes it take a week, and sometimes, it just takes whatever it takes for each design.
“Manale strives to create beauty, and balance it with quality, to embody grace and recognize the elegant truth in all things beautiful.”
What is the most important thing you would like your brand to be recognized for?
Manale strives to create beauty, and balance it with quality, to embody grace and recognize the elegant truth in all things beautiful. To simply be grateful for being able to represent all the above and show gratitude while striving to make impact with it all.