This much I know: Emma Manley, fashion designer

Emma Manley grew up eating and breathing fashion.

Mum was a fashion designer. Dad was a highly regarded business consultant who worked with a lot of small businesses.

I’ve always been completely determined. I think having two parents who worked for themselves had a big influence on me. They worked hard to achieve what they wanted to achieve. I think their work ethic rubbed off on me.

One of my earliest memories is watching my mum drawing and creating pieces. Drawing seemed completely normal to me.

After school, I wanted to go to art college but got refused by NCAD and Limerick, three years in a row. The funny thing was that they said it was because I was too formed, that I might not be open to other elements.

The best advice I ever got was from my mother, to be the best you can be. It is simple advice which I try to apply to every situation.

So I didn’t let the rejection stop me. I got a job as a stylist in Top Shop - anything to keep in fashion - and went to study at The Grafton Academy instead.

Growing up, I got lots of attention. I was the youngest of three girls with two sisters who worshiped me.

Although I was outgoing, I also always loved time on my own.

After college, I worked in New York for a while with the luxury sportswear brand VPL and then in London, at Alexander McQueen. That was incredible. Part of me wishes I’d appreciated it more at the time - I was also managing a bar and restaurant to fund myself.

Working at Alexander McQueen gave me a love for embellishment. In 2011 I set up my own brand, Manley.

We started as women’s wear, last year we added jewellery and we’ve just added bags. We produce more than 50% of our clothing and 100% of our jewellery in Ireland.

My biggest fault is that I can be obsessive. When I hone in on something, it’s hard for me to get my mind off it.

I’m highly organised in my working life. Maybe overly so.

Time is so precious when you run your own business. Every little thing has to be tightly scheduled. I use calenders on both my computer and my phone.

The technical side of things probably wasn’t my strong point. But my fiance Eoin is a digital and tech head.

We were set up on a blind date by an old school friend. They worked in Bord Gais together. On our second date I said I’d met the man I wanted to marry. We have set a date. I will make my own dress.

Eoin opened my eyes to the potential of online - our retail business is crucial. I have grown to love both the design and business end of what I do. You can’t build a brand without doing both.

If I won the Lotto tomorrow I’d probably just put it in the bank and continue to do what I do. I am very much fuelled by my work. 

Actuallly, Eoin now works for the Lotto and it’s taken away any dreams I might have had of winning!

I ran my first marathon in 2015. I was obsessive about running for a while. I also do yoga and go to the gym.

I wish I meditated, but right now I don’t have time to start.

I do believe in an afterlife. I have often felt that someone is looking over me — not in a cold hand on my shoulder way — but I get the sense that someone is out there giving me a helping hand. I think that someone is my father. He passed away after suffering a brain tumour.

The trait I most admire in others is loyalty.

So far I’ve learnt that life is short and that we have to make the most of it.

If I could design for anyone in the world, I’d defintitely choose actor Saoirse Ronan.

Manley just launched their first bag collection www.manley.ie 


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