Manx designs at New York fashion week

Thursday 29th September 2022 4:00 pm
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Manx designer Shannen Maria Samuel displayed her collection on the Emerge stage at New York Fashion Week. Photo: Oxford Fashion Studio

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A fashion designer from the Isle of Man has seen her Manx-themed collection on the runway at New York Fashion Week.

Shannen Maria Samuel’s ‘Noa Nostalgia’ collection was part of Oxford Fashion Studio’s ‘Emerge’ show at the prestigious event and utilised recycled materials including Manx tartan and her dad’s racing T-shirts and leathers.

She said: ‘The studio really loved the story of the Isle of Man and where I was from, they found it quite edgy in its own funny way.’

As a designer, Shannen says she is always drawing on her island upbringing in her work: ‘I think every collection touches upon it, I’ve done about six and basically all of them have got the Manx heritage in there somewhere. For example I did a collection called “Twisted Fairytales” and I used lino cuts of Manx words.’

‘Even the font in my logo was designed with Manx culture in mind, using Archibald Knox and Celtic influences,’ she added.

Now living in London, the designer first began her fashion career at the college in the Isle of Man, now the University College, and praises the institution for providing her the space to explore the skill before her fashion design degree at the University for Creative Arts.

She said: ‘It’s the open mindedness of UCM that makes you be very creative, if it wasn’t for that course, and the way it still is now, it’s created such a breeding ground for creativity that I wouldn’t be where I am today.

‘Every time I go back they welcome me with open arms and I’ve done shows there with the students.’

Whilst some may see the size of the Isle of Man as a barrier to breaking out in the competitive fashion world, Shannen says it has actually been a huge help for her.

She said: ‘Celebrate your roots, I feel like everyone looks at the island as a hinderance but it’s really got me places. Even if it’s not directly about the island, it will be there somewhere within your work.

‘It took me moving to London to really step back and appreciate what I’d missed about the island. You have to throw yourself in it, don’t be scared of it and don’t be scared about being proud of your roots in the Isle of Man.’

As the ‘Noa Nostalgia’ collection heavily used Manx imagery and designs, Shannen says she had many people inquiring about the island after the show, though ‘everyone was asking where the Isle of Man was’.

She said: ‘I think there’s this hunger for the isles, especially one that’s got a weird, mythical culture like ours, from the fact that everyone was asking me where the Isle of Man is and what it’s like.

‘You sort of forget that, oh wow I am actually from quite an amazing island, and I think the future of fashion is edgier and shouting about your roots, the edgier the better and the Isle of Man has it in a weird sort of way.’

Alongside being selected by Oxford Fashion House, Shannen was able to fund her display in New York thanks to a grant from the Isle of Man Arts Council.

Her desire to stay connected to the island also extends beyond just her designs to who she collaborates with, Shannen said: ‘The people that shot my campaign shoot were from the Isle of Man, I met them on the fashion course at UCM and then they came over to London to do uni and I collaborate with them all the time.

‘I just want to get people from back home involved with everything that we’re doing.’

Shannen is also the Creative Director of Bleaq, a community of ‘next gen’ designers and fashion store that hosted its own pop-up shops and showcase event during the fashion week.

Similar to many of her works, this collection used recycled material and some pieces from Shannen’s previous displays and she says this is something she would advise to those wanting to enter the industry.

She said: ‘I would start from recycling because obviously it’s better for the environment but also it’s way cheaper using Hospice and the other charity shops on the island. When I was last over we did a project that was using bits from the Hospice and using local is actually quite cool, even though it can seem a bit cheesy.’

The event, models and photography were organised by Oxford Fashion Studio with the hair pieces being used alongside Shannen’s pieces created by Amy Melbourne. Shannen can be found through social media at @shannenmariasamuel

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