Interview: Mansur Gavriel Explore New Ventures

A joyous and important afternoon for Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel, the pair behind the New York-based (up until today) footwear and accessory brand, Mansur Gavriel. Not only was this their first time showing a collection on the Big Apple’s runway, it was also their ready-to-wear debut.

Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION

The venue of choice – which was, in fact, their store, nestled in Manhattan’s Soho – was all painted in pastel pink, adorned with flowers, and bathed in natural light, giving it a minimal and intimate feel. A fitting vibe for a collection initially mostly comprised of monochromatic looks and soft colors – greys, camels, powder pink, and baby blue – followed up with pieces in slightly richer colors such as deep rouge and canary yellow. A single outfit in chartreuse green was even unexpectedly delivered towards the end of the show, hidden underneath a surprisingly heavy coat. Some long sleeves à la Vetements, ample coats and sweaters, soft turtlenecks, relaxed trousers, flats, and mules; it was all there to convey a sense of comfort and nonchalance. No thrills, bold patterns, printed messages, or risk takes here, which in a way is a novelty these days and, more importantly, seems like a natural evolution for a brand known for its purist designs. Now that is not to say class or originality were missing, even if as an understatement, but it could be spotted in the form of the collection rather than its content. The key pieces – classic knits, ovoid coats, and a few puffer jackets – might have appeared minimal at first glance, but it’s precisely the duo’s statement of simplicity that makes the collection unique and harmonious. When observing the combination of straight forward silhouettes, the room that the colors have to breathe, and the meticulousness of the cuts as well as the placement of certain flairs (like the buttons), it seems safe to assume (or appropriate to imagine) that Rachel and Floriana were searching for the perfect form while having fun with diverse fabrics and colors on the main stage. It is a safer assumption even if one connects the dots between their top-handle bags, for instance, and how they might have gone about envisioning their first womenswear collection.

As models finished getting dressed and ready, production people zoomed by, and last minute touches were made to hair and nails, we quickly caught up Rachel and Floriana as they finalized all the details for their debut runway show.

Robin Torres: With a successful footwear and accessories brand established in NYC, it was pleasantly surprising to learn you were planning a runway show for your debut ready-to-wear collection. What was the drive and inspiration behind diving into this new venture? 
Rachel: From the beginning of the brand, we had always wanted to have many categories. We had always imagined a full world but we were self-funded – by the two of us I mean, with our savings – so we had to build everything step by step. We started with bags because we were really interested in materials, and at that time we were very interested by vegetable-tanned leather, but there were so many materials we wanted to explore – cashmere, wool, silk, suede... It had always been the idea and plan to eventually work with these materials. It was just a matter of time before we could have the ability and the infrastructure to do it.  

RT: What was most exciting about working on this first womenswear collection?
Floriana: We had always wanted to offer a full world, so it's very exciting to introduce ready-to-wear now. We have a very specific idea in mind of the full Mansur Gavriel world and are very excited to expand across more categories.  

RT: You both work collaboratively; how does this process begin with a new creative endeavor as important (and probably challenging, not to mention at times daunting) as this one.
Rachel: We are very in-tune aesthetically so the process is fluid and intuitive.

RT: Where did you draw inspiration for the design? Does the overarching feel of a collection come to you in one sitting or progressively?
Floriana: We are very concept driven. What interests us the most is shape, color, and material, and how we can achieve the perfect balance with these three principles. We want to make beautiful things that people want to wear. Ready-to-wear was a natural extension of this concept.

RT: The music you curated for this occasion was beautiful and unique, especially the emotionally poignant track you chose to open the show with, Caetano Veloso’s “Cucurrucucu Paloma.” [Which was followed by Paolo Conte’s “Sparring Partner” and Lucho Gatica’s “Besame Mucho.”] How did those choices come about?
Rachel: We love all three artists; it was the emotion and drama of the songs.

RT: If you were to choose a piece which defines or encapsulates this collection, which one would it be?
Floriana: We personally love the classic coat. The doubleface is lightweight and clean, the shape is elegant and easy. The color choices allow you to express different emotions.

This might be their first runway, both in New York and as a brand, but given the efficient minimalism, subtle but eye-catching colors, and the attention to the everyday wearability of their collection, it's doubtful it shall be the last, or that it won't be a hit in-store – much like their bucket bag that was seen on every editor’s arm.

See the full Fall Winter 2017 ready-to-wear collection by Mansur Gavriel.