As you sew, so shall you reap! The twelve year old
boy-on-the-block has come a long way-from making dresses for the
girls in the neighborhood, Lester Manuel graduated to become a
designer of distinction. His meteoric rise in the world of fashion
evidences his talent.
The one very significant
difference between Lester Manuel and other fashion designers is so
glaringly obvious that it is hard to overlook it. For no other
designer can claim that he/she actually cuts, tailors and finishes
every single garment that is in the collection. Manuels
designing and tailoring skills are even more laudable when one
considers that he has no formal training in either.
Long before the haute
couture upheaval took place in India, Manuel was quietly creating
exclusive custom tailored clothes for a select clientele. It was his
childhood ambition to turn into a designer of ladies wear. By the
time I was 12 years old I was making dresses for all the
neighbourhood girls, reflects Manuel, making him one of the most
popular boys on the block! There was that in-born something in him
that did not require any formal training. He could design, cut and
tailor a classic western garment quite effortlessly.
Through college where he
worked for his arts degree and also met his future wife Lana, Manuel
designed for various fashion shows which were greatly appreciated.
When Lana took to modelling Manuels connections with the
advertising world improved.
In 1989 when Glitterati
opened in Bombay, Manuel was one of the designers on their roster.
Not many in the fashion business had heard of him then, for he
specialized in western bridal wear. His premiere collection for
Glitterati was the romance of lace in black and white. Long slinky
gowns, short, frothy dresses recreated the era of the past. But at
times the look was stark and simple. For me designing does not mean
an over-embellished garment. I believe in classic lines that have a
perennial appeal. They are usually outfits sans unnecessary details.
My clothes are so practical and wearable that they are ideal for the
From lace and ruffles in
the 80s, Manuel evolved into a designer with a more casual look. In
1990 her brought in the pallazo and top. The following year there
was fire-red for formal suits. Soon to follow was the oriental
influence from China and he worked on the Suzy Wong line. Romantic
long chiffon gowns followed and for 92 he played with the little
black dress giving it both a casual and formal look.
Although Manuel had been
in the designing business for nearly a decade before he joined
Glitterati, he wasnt too perturbed. Creating an outlet for his
clothes wasnt important for him as it was for most designers.
There had been many offer
from boutiques in the past but at every step one had to compromise on
style and quality to meet the demands of the customers. I was not
willing to work within such confines, he revealed. For Glitterati
however, Manuel works at his own pace, creating his own distinctive
The characteristic Manuel
touch comprises slim line skirts, jackets that are either cropped or
long line and flowing dresses that vary from mini, midi, to maxi. His
fabric choice is vast. Cotton, lace, linen, blended wool, or sheef
chiffons and glittering brocades.
collections a year Manuels look has revolved around themes. But
I am very particular about the structuring and cuts as slightly old
fashioned but that is an important aspect of the garment.
have just basic detailing and embellishments. His simple black dress
could be a mini with just a round neck and a flared skirt but when
worn with a striking belt or a scarf it could turn into a beautiful
creation. Very often he believes in the mix-and-match look. So he
creates a collection of black skirts, white blouses, checked jackets
and then allows the customer to create her own combinations. This way
the woman is not restricted to my look, but can get adventurous and
try her hand at creating her own individual style. My styles are so
fundamental that they can never go out of vogue. They can be worn
for decades, he emphasizes.
From haute couture,
Manuel turned his attention to Pret-a-porter or ready-to-wear for
Eternia in 1992. Florals and whites wear the choice. Having designed
always for the Western fashion conscious in the country, it was a
major step for Manuel when he attempted ethnic wear. It was a
hesitant step at first for him. Would he be able to adapt to the
demands of the ethnic-wear market and at the same time keep up in the
race? His first collection of white linen salwar-kameezes embellished
with lace and sprinkled with pearls as a sell-out. While the kameez
had the classic western cut of the dress moving on to the gypsy lines
of the garment the embellishments gave it a touch of the traditional.
Dupattas too played an important part with the embellishments. Manuel
was happy he had managed to finally score on the Indian front.
If one praises Manuel for
his tailoring skills, one must not forget that the man is also as
good at embroidery. It is therefore not rare to see Manuel carry his
work wherever he goes. While traveling by bus or train it isnt
surprising to see him hemming a dress or finishing a seam. He is as
comfortable doing that as a student is reading a book while
Manuel is happy that he
has been able to branch into two different fields of fashion so
effortlessly. It gives me a chance to evaluate myself and brush up on
points where I am strong.
If Manuel is put to the
test, he can make a dress a day or under real pressure, even five a
day. Manuel is not only very particular about how well his garment is
made but also concerned about who wears them and stresses the point.
One must know how to sit and move in a mini or a western garment. If
the basic knowledge of carrying a garment is lacking within a person
then an outfit can look terrible.
Very often wife Lana also
assists Manuel in his designing work. She has a very good sense of
style and she is very creative. When it comes to designing bridal
trousseaux then the husband and wife team often work together. Or if
there is a garment to be embroidered, then Manuel can rely on Lana to
do the job perfectly.
garments for his two fashion outlets, Manuel has coordinated many
advertising campaigns and styled the clothes for them. He makes it a
point to go abroad at least once a year, when he is able to keep up
with the trends in the West and maybe bright the lines to India.
For Manuel, fashion in
India is far more exciting than it was when he started. There is an
awakening, but we have a long way to go as far as fashion is
concerned. Now fashion catalogues are coming into the market as well
as many more designers, but they have to set a trend instead of being