FASHION FOR THE UNTAMED
There are no short cuts to her work, a MANDULA piece is the real deal. Organic, raw and quite minimal yet full of interesting details. Her love for the untamed is strongly present in her clothes. It holds a wildness that speaks to the heart.
She made her first piece at thirteen with her grandfather`s old wool pants. In order not to give her mother a heart attach she snug them out of the house, to wear them at school.
«I changed them by exaggerating the wideness of the legs to the point, where they almost became clown-like. The proportions were unheard of at the time. I remember looking at the beautiful, old wool and the details of this tiny pocket that was hidden inside the waist. I appreciated the way it was made, which is still the main focus of any MANDULA piece. »
I love how social media let people connect all over the world. Through my instagram account I get to know people who inspire me on so many levels. One of those are the Hungarian born, now Canadian designer Hajnalka Mandula.
I was instinctively drawn to her pieces. Knowing nothing about them I just felt they were something special. After getting to know what MANDULA stands for, I love them even more. There are no short cuts to Hajnalka`s work. A MANDULA piece is the for real. Organic, yet raw and quite minimal but full of interesting details. Her love for the untamed is strongly present in her clothes. It holds a wildness that speaks to the heart.
«Dreaming and making things that I’ve never seen, pieces of clothing that you weren’t able to find anywhere was what made me start. Concepts that meant thinking out of the box, yet still easy to wear.«
Mandula combines natural organic materials with vintage elements and what she refers to as old world craftsmanships (like natural dying, boiling, hand stitch and knitting), always with an eye for aesthetics that makes every piece unique in a cool yet unpretentious way.
UNREAL SUCCSESS WITH RESPONSIBILITY OVER TRENDS
«Success was inevitable when I started putting my ideas out there, as there was a need of thinking new, organic, "produced-by-hand"
The success of Hajnalka Mandula is tremendous. Her client list includes celebrities such as Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Jenner, Pink, Scarlet Johansson, Kelly Osbourne, Alanis Morrisette, Lenny Kravitz and Hilary Swank (just to mention a few). She has also been granted big awards and honors like; B.C. Creative Achievement Award 2005; GenArt’s New Garde 2006; Vancouver Museum presentation “Movers and Shapers”: IKEA design challenge; B.C. Apparel Joseph Segal Most Promising Newcomer Award; Matinee Foundation Grant 2003, Ethics in Action Environmental Excellence Award.
As many designers would have done experiencing this kind of success, she did not leave the original idea of a small, personal, handcrafted production, Hajnalka instead refused to stay in the fashion industry as most understand it.
«A couple of years into the beginning of the brand, I started growing and started wholesaling to some of the best high-end boutiques. I saw a shift in myself. My creativity and the quality of the designs all of a sudden were compromised when I started producing and working with local manufacturers. « she tells me.
She realized she didn’t really want to be involved so much in the fashion industry, as much as she always had an inner drive to create.
Although, I find fashion is a great platform for creativity, to me it doesn’t reflect the way I feel about clothes, the way it should relate to people and the way most people think of clothes. Fashion, in my opinion is very superficial, political and disturbing in a sense.
Who wears your creations matters a lot in this business and although I don’t know many other designers who’s clothes have been on so many celebrity’s backs, it is an angle that always bothered me, because it doesn’t feel authentic. The way companies use well known people to gain respect and money seems forced.» she says.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love the fact, when someone who could afford any huge brand prefers buying MANDULA, because they love it, it means a lot to me. It means they feel good about a product that doesn’t need to be induced and advertised for hundreds of thousands of dollars….
Trends never drove me to create and I tend not to follow them, although I am aware of them. Trends are there to change too fast, allowing the fashion industry to be one of the most wasteful one. We need to be much more responsible, and not just the big corporations, but us, designers, boutique owners, and buyers, who work directly with consumers.
Hajnalka stepped back from wholesaling and opened a flagship MANDULA store in Vancouver. She works with European crafts people in her studio. «Very small, extremely talented group» she tells me.
«Opening my own store allowed me to do any crazy thing I could ever think up. The reaction from people was unreal.»
KEEPING THE HANDS DIRTY AND THE HEART WILD
One should think that the prospect of getting rich and famous would tame a wild soul. This is not the case for Hajnalka. She continues with her unconventional creation processes and small scale production. Creating by processing, and exploring the effect different treatments have on different materials.
I create by making. I love to be hands on and get my ideas by working with objects directly. I also like to dig my materials into all sorts of elements, including soot, fire, dirt and food…. production made that almost impossible. Those beautiful mistakes disappeared from the pieces, as they were produced by “machines”. It took me one season to realize I was not interested in doing my work that way.
Her creativity doesn't stop with clothing as she is also into furniture, architecture and «anything to do with working with space and texture». She finds textures important besides creating new shapes and proportions.
«What drives me till this day, is to think up ideas that are new, and have integrity and quality, as well as craftsmanship, which seems to be disappearing fast. I remember a few years ago, when my seamstress watched me twisting an old men’s shirt around my body, ripping it to make a skirt out of it, while she was laughing, telling me that she wouldn’t expect anything less but me create this way.
After eight years of running retail on her own, she partnered up with close friend, artist Janaki Larsen and opened a new concept space in a very old warehouse in Vancouver, six months ago, housing Janaki Larsen`s ceramics, beautiful textiles and art work form around the world, besides her own brand.
The newest branch on the MANDULAS tree is the menswear collection MAAMAN. Although many of the MANDULA pieces are unisex this collection is made mainly for men.
I gave myself a treat for Christmas this year, ordering one of the MANDULA pants in wool. I think you have understood by now that I love them. Wearing them makes me feel both, cool and comfortable, and more than that I love their energy, inspiring me to keep following my own wild spark.
All images are shared with Mandulas kind permission.