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Ester Manas: One Size Fits All!

26 May 2021

Exclusively in North America at Édito 

Ester Manas, the emerging and ingenious Belgian brand, offers inclusive, sustainable, and refreshing fashion! How? By revolutionizing the one-size-fits-all concept: a single garment can fit as many sizes as possible thanks to design elements that allow it to adapt to all silhouettes according to morphology, the passage of time, and changing bodies. It's a completely new concept for dressing women of all shapes and sizes!

Ester, being plus size herself, used to find clothes shopping challenging. Since there were few high-quality fashion options for her size, she decided to create an inclusive fashion collection that celebrated the bodies and women who don't fit the industry's standards. Inspiration for the one-size-fits-all concept struck when she was looking through an IKEA catalogue—specifically, when she saw a picture of an extendable table. That was the answer: an extension! That's all it took for the designer and her acolyte, Balthazar, to take the first step on this great adventure that would transform how we look at clothing. With a focus on solutions, the duo explored, studied, designed, and literally built a completely revamped ready-to-wear clothing line. 
 

I'm convinced that you need a smart product to make a difference today! – Ester Manas

Go BIG or go home!

Ester Manas and Balthazar Delepierre first crossed paths at La Cambre, a French-speaking art school in Belgium. She was studying fashion, and he was studying typography and graphic communication. Balthazar quickly started collaborating on Ester’s work and never stopped! 

At the time, inclusiveness wasn’t such a trendy subject in the fashion industry, so the pair had to fight to get Ester’s final project—named Big—off the ground. Highlighting plus sizes on the runway had never been done before, and it was a risky bet that the faculty wasn’t entirely certain it should take. In June of 2017, the day of the fashion show, the first notes of Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” kicked off the show. The girls sprang onto the runway and, contrary to expectations, were greeted with a standing ovation of 1,500 people. “It’s like we were in a soccer stadium!” recalled Ester, via video call. “I still watch that video when I’m feeling down,” the designer says. It was a resounding success that confirmed the team was on the right track. 

A series of big and small victories followed, including a spot among the H&M Design Award finalists, a great showing at the Hyères Festival, where Ester and Balthazar won the Galeries Lafayette Award, and a semi-finalist nomination for the prestigious LVMH Award. It was a very promising start for an emerging brand that defied beauty standards! 

Research and development

The industry’s support of and enthusiasm for Ester and Balthazar’s approach to inclusiveness encouraged them to broaden their concept. The designers are obsessed with the “solution” aspect of their creations and approach adaptive clothing design in two ways. 

First, they make use of existing features. In this approach, the designers are guided by clothing's typology. For example, they judiciously use buttons and buttonholes—a shirt's iconic details—by positioning them strategically to allow the garment to change and adapt to different silhouettes. If the shirt is more fluid and feminine, they'll play with drawcords on the collar, sleeves, waist, and under the chest to enlarge or shrink the garment. As for jeans, the pair moves the button and even adds more so that the waistline can be folded and easily adjusted.

However, they use a very different approach for their line of ruched clothing. Customers don't need to change anything up, since the designers already thought of everything in their initial construction!

Once they’ve created their samples, Ester and Balthazar study the result by putting them on some 15 mannequins in their workshop, all designed by Ester with very different measurements and shapes. “We look at how it sits—where it’s too tight, where more room is needed—and if there’s extra room somewhere, we wonder if it’d look as good on a smaller frame,” explains the designer. These tests can sometimes take several weeks. With knitted garments, for example, the challenge was finding the perfect combination of thread and stitching so that the knit could stretch and then relax without losing its shape.

This trial-and-error process allows them to perfect and optimize each garment to fit a wide range of silhouettes. “We’re well aware that a given garment will never look exactly the same on all sizes. The one-size-fits-all approach is also about accepting that,” says Ester. “We try out and redesign our garments so many times to make sure it’ll look great on everyone!”

Sustainability and responsibility

While the brand creates an inclusive and innovative fashion line, it’s also crucial to talk about its desire to create responsible fashion: an issue that’s just as current and important to the creators.

The brand’s one-size-fits-all concept is a great place to start: it results in less production (the brand doesn’t need to make clothing in a wide range of sizes), while also increasing the garment’s lifespan. Since Ester Manas' clothing adapts to body changes and weight fluctuations over the years and during pregnancy, they will see you through all of life’s moments. They can even be handed down from generation to generation, regardless of their new wearer’s body shape. It’s an idea that greatly appeals to the designer!

Beyond this concept, the brand takes practical steps to produce the most sustainable and responsible fashion possible, and it achieves this in large part through the fabrics it uses. More than 80% of the materials used in making the Ester Manas line come from excess fabrics produced by the industry, significantly reducing the brand's environmental footprint. The remaining 20% of materials—used for jeans or making fabrics bearing the prints developed by the brand—contain only recycled fibres.

Finally, all the Belgian brand's clothing is made locally, in Brussels, in a vocational rehabilitation workshop where citizens on extended unemployment and newly arrived immigrants can learn how to sew, and thereby learn a new trade! 

The essentials

Since the official launch of the Ester Manas brand in February 2019, it’s become so popular that some of its creations are already becoming signature pieces! 

The knit dress

“This is a truly magical piece,” said Ester. This bold dress that shows some skin has been a real hit not only with the media, but also with the many women who wear it with pride and confidence. 

Ruched pieces

The popularity of these formfitting and colourful ruched pieces debunks the belief that shapelier women want to hide their curves. And Ester loves that! “I think there's a true desire to love and show off our bodies, which is why our ruched pieces are so popular.” 

The message T-shirt 

For the more low-key women who don’t want to show their bellies, or for those who can’t afford more expensive garments, this T-shirt is a more accessible and equally committed way to say that they’re a part of this sisterhood and that they stand for the same ideas! 

Superhuman

At a time when major fashion brands sail through dark and dystopian waters, Ester Manas’ Spring/Summer 2021 collection is moving against the current, conveying a message of hope and optimism! Superhuman is for super women who, through their humour and social positions, embody the brand’s solution of caring and absolute positivity to address many of our society’s challenges. 

“I believe that inclusiveness is also a superhero solution. In a way, it’s a magical power,” said Ester. “Balthazar and I strive to create clothing that never constrains the body, so these women have a wide range of solutions and ways to dress. They can choose the designs that’ll accompany them through life, in which they’ll feel good and know they’re absolutely desirable!”

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