By Jami Monte
With fiery gold patterns and studded jackets, Natalie Manchia finds a way to create pieces that are edgy but simultaneously feminine. She knew early on that she was destined for a career in fashion and has come a long way from her childhood days of playing dress up. Born and raised in Hamilton, Natalie shares her story of making the move to Montreal to study business and how she has turned her passion for fashion into a thriving business.
Design school had always been dream of Natalie’s, but when it came time for her first move after high school she made the difficult choice to study business instead. She was confident that fashion would always be a part of her life and felt that a business degree was a strategic move that would propel her forward in any path she chose.
After one visit to the McGill campus she was convinced this was the place to study, inspired by the surrounding beauty of Montreal and the unique style of the students on campus. It was bursting with opportunities for her to express herself and she dove right in.
Impressed by her design work, which embodied her personality – unique, with a cool girl-gang kind of vibe, she quickly got picked up as a student designer by SynesthASIA – an annual philanthropic fashion show at McGill.
SynesthASIA was both the first fashion show Natalie had ever attended and the first show she worked on. It was different from traditional fashion shows in that it combines elements of dance and art, using dancers to model the pieces. She made five pieces for the show. Her mother, grandmothers, aunt and cousin made the trip from Hamilton to support her. This is an ongoing theme that shines through in all her stories – she is constantly expressing how grateful she is for her family’s ongoing love and support.
Natalie grew up in a tight knit family, her parents are both first generation Italian and she is a triplet with one brother and one sister. Acknowledging the challenges that come with raising triplets, her parents were conscious in ensuring all three children cultivated their own creativity and individuality. She remembers that her mother would never dress them in matching colours, and jokes “even when we played sports, when someone was good at something we would let them have that sport for themselves.” All three siblings have grown up to have a creative edge, each expressing it in their own way from culinary arts to videography.
Natalie was also selected for the role of Clothing Coordinator for P[h]assion, a local non-profit promoting HIV/AIDS awareness to McGill students, where she was able to hire herself as one of the designers for the show. Coordinating the show and creating her next collection while keeping up with school was challenging, a true test of her dedication and passion. She says “when I was tired of studying economics, I would take a break and pull out the sewing machine.”
P[h]assion was a huge success, and she received multiple inquiries about purchasing her clothes, which was completely unexpected for her at the time. “I didn’t even have prices for the pieces, I never thought anyone would want to buy them, I was shocked” explained Natalie.
After working with her on the show, one of the models from P[h]assion became a fan of Natalie’s work and suggested that she apply to Start Up Fashion Week Montreal. She ended up landing a gig as a designer for their first ever launch party to take place at Bord’elle, known for its roaring 20’s Gatsby-like decor. She thought she was only going to be one of a number of designers participating, but was surprised to learn she was the showcase designer for the event. “There were other designers, they walked the runway one at a time with one model beside them. When it was time for Natalie Manchia Design, each individual model came out with music, one after another and then I walked at the end, everyone was clapping, I was crying – it was insane.”
When asked about her inspiration for her most recent lines she draws from everything around her. Soaking in the beauty of Montreal’s architecture and local street style has particularly helped to shape them. She notices that with a contrast in lifestyle comes a contrast in style – two people in different cities could purchase the same items of clothing and wear them completely differently. Growing up in Hamilton for her meant she was inspired by nature with scenic waterfalls and hiking trails. In Montreal she has found she is moved by the beauty of walk up houses, terraces and tiny shops. Having the opportunity to travel to new cities has helped Natalie come into her own style, taking bits and pieces from her travels and mixing it with her own personal flair.
In terms of future plans, Natalie is ecstatic to say that she will be spending summer 2018 in Milan completing a fashion internship program. She continues to work on building Natalie Manchia Designs Inc. and is currently making one of a kind items – revamping vintage pieces and creating t-shirts with hand painted designs. After completing her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend design school and is always up for a new adventure!