In February, when the Veneto and Lombardy regions of Italy recorded the first cases of Covid-19 in Italy, both areas entered a strict lockdown period. Venice – located in the former region – became a ghost town, devoid of the hustle and bustle of tourists and its usually teeming gondoliers empty. The Veneto region is also synonymous with leathermaking, and around Venice, factories and workshops closed and luxury production ground to a halt.
One of the multitude of labels affected was Manu Atelier, the Istanbul-based accessories brand founded by sisters Beste and Merve Manastır in 2014. The label produces its handbags in its home city and its footwear in Veneto. Both boast a graphic and sculptural sensibility, from the undulating heel Chae boots to the supple Cylinder bag, a long circular style with eye-catching gold hardware. ‘Creativity arises from slowing down and taking time to reflect,’ the duo say of the impact global lockdown had on their aesthetic approach. ‘We've focused on pieces that will stay in our wardrobes for years.’ Here, we present a photographic journal of Manu Atelier's factory production, which has now resumed, as Beste and Merve muse further on creative evolution during a time of unprecedented crisis.
Wallpaper*: Where have you both been based for the last six months, and what has your experience of lockdown taught you on professional and personal levels?
Beste and Merve Manastir: We stayed in our homes in Istanbul for months. Even though we are not as free as before, we're try to continue living our everyday lives, adapting to the new normal with precautions. As human beings we need to keep learning whatever the circumstances are. We are all the same and need each other during chaos.
What business difficulties did you encounter when the world went into lockdown?
We work with a very wide network, from producers to retailers. From our side, we have production in Turkey and Italy, and of course production slowed down and stopped for months. Our challenges arose from this first link in our chain. However, the period allowed us the chance to offer long standing products. Our customers prefer pieces for long term use, not just for a season. This allowed us to overcome the spring/summer season without major losses.
Your shoe production takes place in the Veneto region of Italy. How was your factory affected?
Our production both in Turkey and Italy stopped for months. Of course, the most valuable thing for us during this period was the health of our employees and business partners. Although our production is not progressing as quickly as before, it has now resumed.
Have you had any chance to return to Italy?
Unfortunately not. We have not had any opportunity to travel to the country or anywhere else.
What new styles have you launched for A/W 2020, and what are your favourite pieces in the collection?
We’ve reimagined our Cylinder bag in exciting new colours and in a mini size. Our Duck boots have new tones and material options, and their lace up and multi panel versions have been created in our first high knee styles.
Has the impact of Covid-19 had any affect on the design of your upcoming S/S 2021 collection?
As designers we used this period to reflect and find some headspace, researching out future collections and rethinking our business models. We combined our Pre/spring 2021 collection with our S/S 2021 offering and created new models using materials we already had. The collection was inspired by freedom and calmness - feelings we missed during the pandemic.
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