In the run up to International Women's Day, we will be sharing a series of profiles on women we admire that are making waves in the industry. First is Manon Planche, sustainable designer and Daisie NYE Challenge winner.

French designer, Manon Planche graduated from the University of Westminster in 2018. Her graduate collection was shown during LFW AW18.

Since graduation, Manon has launched her eponymous label, creating one of a kind pieces that were shown during London Fashion Week AW19 and SS20 and worn by many inspiring women, including Rita Ora and Kate Nash.

Positive fashion is at the heart of her multifaceted collections. Manon focuses on up-cycled materials and ethical manufacture whilst creating bold, printed and textured pieces meant to empower women and encourage them to dare it all.

Manon was the winner of our NYE Challenge, and has received funding to create a lookbook showcasing her latest collection. We caught up with Manon to delve deeper into her work and her experience as a woman in fashion.

How did you get started?

I graduated in July 2018 from the University of Westminster with a BA in Fashion Design and I have worked as a design assistant at a few brands (including Oliver Spencer and Louis Vuitton) which were incredible experiences and gave me the confidence to start out on my own. Since graduation I have done some freelance work as a Print and Accessories Designer (for Anya Hindmarch for example), I have done some teaching in Fashion Computer Skills and I have launched my own brand. I love doing many different things which is the reason why I chose to go down that route rather than start a job within a company, it keeps me excited!

How does it feel being a young female in the industry?

I think being a woman in the fashion industry is not as difficult as it could be in other industries where there aren’t as many women yet. But being young can certainly be challenging! It means I don’t always have the necessary experience, but it’s manageable, I like to learn as I go and both good and bad experiences have great learning outcomes.

Do you have any influential female forces in your life, or women that you’re inspired by?

Yes, of course ! This may sound cliché but it is nonetheless very true, the two closest women to me, my mother and my grandmother, are both incredibly strong women who have had to fight for what they have in life. My mom is the president of a tech company and I know that comes with many challenges.

Could you talk us through your creative process?

I have always been inspired by all sorts of vehicles, racing cars, aerobatic planes, motorcycles, space rockets and so on. I love the graphic and colourful paint jobs, the speed and the eclectic group of people involved in operating all of these engines - I find it fascinating!

The vehicles inform my work in a purely aesthetic way and influence the colours I choose and the prints I design. The people operating the vehicles inform my work through their clothing,  which have evolved through time and change from one activity to the other.

For my latest collection, I looked at the history of travelling and worked a bit more instinctively and metaphorically, as I tried to depict time travelling. I did this in an effort to highlight the fact that every piece of clothing deserves more than one wear, more than one life and eternal love — clothing can definitely travel through time. This is why the collection showcases new designs alongside revisited looks from past collections that will be forever cherished.

Clothing allows you to reinvent yourself over and over but it can also reinvent its own self. My designs are in constant evolution, past pieces feed into future ones, references are borrowed from many different eras and style becomes a time travelling machine - by far the most retro futuristic way to transport oneself.

Your collections are very eco-friendly, how does sustainability affect your work as a young, up and coming fashion designer?

I always wanted to try and have a positive impact with my brand and I have always been interested in up-cycling and reducing waste within the fashion industry because I know there is so much of it. For me and my brand, having a positive impact is achieved by empowering women with fearless clothes and up-cycling materials to reduce waste as much as possible, with the will to always improve and do better.

I started with only partially up-cycled designs, I would use dead-stock fabrics wherever possible, leftovers from the upholstery industry, recycled plastic bottles fillings etc. and I would always invent ways to use leftover fabrics to have a minimal impact on the planet. But that didn’t feel quite good enough and as I kept evolving with my designs I started using more and more upcycled materials.

The AW20 collection is entirely up-cycled from post consumer and industrial waste, with the main materials being second hand denim and discarded chandeliers. The denim is reworked by hand, it is frayed, patch-worked and sometimes laminated (where it isn’t in a condition to be re-used as is). During the fraying process, threads are removed one by one and reused elsewhere to create some fury textures. The fringed pieces are draped and sewn back together in a unique way, creating only one-of-a-kind pieces. Chandeliers are dismantled and reimagined into body jewellery and more.

Using up-cycled materials doesn’t come without any challenges. It is quite manageable for showpieces, one offs and custom pieces but as soon as you want to commercialise the clothing it becomes a lot more complex and this is what I am currently working on and developing. The first step was to get a regular stream of used denim, which is why I have partnered with a local charity shop just around the corner from my studio. They let me buy some of the denim that they cannot sell as second hand in the store and would otherwise send to recycling. This is absolutely fantastic for me because it means I get a regular denim supply and give to charity all at once. I also encourage people who are interested in my brand, and my friends and family, to donate their denim so I can up-cycle it, of course! It’s a cool way of being part of the story and quite fun to see how your jeans can become something entirely different. So if you’ve got any old pair of jeans, you know what to do ;-)