Glass speaks to Merve and Beste Manastir, founders of Manu Atelier about their new collection and campaign

DAUGHTERS of one of the oldest and most-skilled leather goods craftsman in Istanbul, sisters Merve and Beste Manastir took their heritage and founded Manu Atelier in 2014. Utilising the knowledge they had acquired and bringing their own stance to this trade, the now-business partners wanted to bring women luxury leather products that would stand the test of time and style.

Now, for their autumn-winter 2021 collection the brand is embracing the unwavering attitude infused in strong women who want to change the narrative within a patriarchal society. Taking inspiration from feminist photographer Marianne Wex’s series Let’s Take Back our Space, the female body, movement and emotion are the three key components to the campaign that is lensed by Harley Weir.

This collection also is the first time in seven years the brand has made clothes exclusively for a campaign – using upcycled surplus crotchet and leather samples the sister partnered with designer Lou de Betoly to execute this vision.

Speaking to Glass, Merve and Beste speak about Manu Atelier, the importance that sustainability plays when designing and their AW21 collection and campaign.

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What made you both decide to start Manu Atelier together?
We grew up in one of Turkey’s most important leather artisan workshop, watching our father design and handcraft bags. We were exposed to the raw talent of our father since we were born, our childhood memories are filled with the smell of leather and the memory of us making miniature handbags with leftover leathers taken from our father’s factory.

We wanted to pursue our father’s legacy and create a brand that fuses artisanship with modern aesthetics.

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Working closely with your father, what is the biggest lesson you have learned from him regarding craftsmanship and creating beautiful pieces?
That the secret to creating an amazing product resides in the passion of what we do but also attention to detail and patience. Craftsmanship is so important; the quality of a product depends on it and it’s what makes the designs more beautiful and unique.

Each bag is carefully handcrafted in our atelier in Istanbul by highly skilled artisans, whom are all trained by our father Adnan Manastır.

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What is your biggest source of inspiration when designing?
We get inspired everyday by the life that surrounds us, by nature, architecture. But most importantly we are inspired by the everyday life of a woman and we have lots of women in our team and in our families. We observe them and ourselves constantly and we make sure to create designs that will suit the life of the modern women.

Manu Atelier AW21

Manu Atelier AW21

Sustainability plays a large role in Manu Atelier, why is it so important to you?
Sustainability has always been part our brand DNA, we focus on a minimum waste policy in our factory since the first day we launched the brand. Our brand name actually symbolises that sense of responsibility and sustainable reflection. ‘Manu’ comes from the Latin word ‘Hand’ as all of our products are made by hand in our in-house Atelier.

We believe in authenticity and transparency and that’s why we pride ourselves in our local manufacturing and our vertical production system. “Producing our bags in our own workshop provides us with a great advantage in the sustainability matter as we have more control at every stages of our production and therefore more control over the quality of our products.

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What made you decide to create your own clothes with Lou de Betoly for this campaign?
We already recycle and use leftovers fabrics from our production to produce bags. This season we wanted to take this up to the next level and create up-cycling garments that are entirely in line with the collection’s inspiration and purpose.

This campaign is about raising key messages on different topics, such as the current female stigma/image in today’s society but also sustainability and the importance of everyone’s actions and how everyone can make a difference.

We felt this campaign would be stronger and have even more meaning if we embraced what we are saying and therefore we decided to create garments by using and recycling surplus fabrics. That’s why working with Lou de Betoly seemed like the perfect fit as she is known for her iconic recycled fashion pieces. We loved working with her, it all happened very naturally as we share common beliefs.

It’s so important to us that we work and partner with people that share similar values and understand us in all aspects both personally and professionally. We’ve always followed her work and admire what she stands for.

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How did you come across Marianne Wex’s work and what made you decide to use her ideas as inspiration for the imagery?
We came across Marianne’s work through Harley Weir. Her and Alex Carl mentioned it to us first. Marianne is a self healer apart from being a feminist photographer as well. It became a great inspiration for us directly since we are also very into self-healing and female body movements since the beginning.

As a female led company it was important for Merve and Beste to raise a voice in this cluttered society by embracing and supporting women to be themselves and free themselves from the diktats of today’s society. Marianne Wex’s work was their inspiration in terms of the postures taken by the models in the campaign. It’s a beautiful statement against the patriarchy.

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What is your favourite piece from the new collection?  

This season stand out is definitely our new Hobo bag, we love this new circular shape as well as the new colours it comes in especially the chocolate suede model. Another favourite is our new crochet raffia fabric, this new fabric is made from leftover raffia and is all hand woven by hand in our atelier, we love the natural feel of it, it’s the perfect summer bag.

What has the past year taught you?

It taught us to finally take some time for ourselves to pause, reflect and re-focus on the important things.

How do you want women to feel when wearing a piece from Manu Atelier?

We want them to feel empowered. We want them to feel at ease and confident whilst wearing our pieces and be empowered. The fact that we ‘the designers’ are women also helps as we can really get in our customer’s shoes – LITERALLY!

by Imogen Clark 

Manu Atelier AW21 is available to buy here

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