Ones to Watch – Riza Manalo

April 9, 2014

Our Ones to Watch feature is a weekly interview highlighting an independent fashion designer that is making moves in the fashion industry.

We caught up with American designer Riza Manalo, who recently showed her AW14 collection at Nolcha Fashion Week: New York.  Riza originally headed towards design and technical design at: Ralph Lauren, Betsey Johnson, Isabel Toledo, Yoana Baraschi, Catherine Malandrino, John Varvatos, and others. The respective challenges and insights led her to create her own signature style.  The Riza Manalo collection is simple, modern elegance that brings out the best in the wearer.

Riza ManaloWhy did you decide to become a fashion designer?  So many great creatives in my life influenced me though I didn’t realize there was a voice in fashion for myself.   I studied languages in several countries and the professors integrated histories rich in culture.  I imagined how the phonetics and melodies in the language created the environments….landscapes and cultures created a stage for which wardrobes created the movement within it.  I relate to this fluidity and how it changes over time and within this, I think fashion design is the most fun.  I believe it found me…I’m very grateful for what it offers.

What’s it like being in the fashion industry? Having worked for many years at large houses, behind the scenes can be a typical day in sharing five totally different personalities under the same roof, achieving the same goal and meeting the same production deadlines.   Because we’ve all something great to offer, I want to find a way to incorporate everyone’s energy into theme…Simply it’s a great challenge and a great surprise, somewhat like the weather.  I found my skills developing to attain a rhythm.  As for my brand, its relation regarding creativity in other industries is important and exciting as well.

I write up fashion shows and am enchanted with movements, the models and music that create the theme.  I’m impressed by the talent of producers, photographers and the creative directors in editorial shoots, a world of short stories.   Even two successful images can tell a great story.  I’ve yet to tap fully into social media.  My friends and Nolcha are supporting me in this area.

How would you describe your brand? Sculptural!  The brand is a forefront of new silhouettes, structured to create form that’s seemingly minimalistic, has unconventional drapes, and definite classic undertones.  I believe there’s a new lady around the corner.   Classic or edgy, she has an innate style and ability to create a moment and define an image.  This fits her.  These ladies would enjoy wearing these dresses.

I spent a couple of years creating conceptual pieces to set its foundation and though it’s too early to quantify the brand’s appeal, it was received well in the luxury market level for its sophistication and high-end quality.  Because it’s conceptual, a good setting is awards shows and galas and the collection expands on more accessible pieces with tops and bottoms.

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far? I’m very happy to be a part of the Nolcha family and the positive response I received from my first capsule collection on the runway is exciting.  After having worked with many designers in different categories and capacities, its calibre helped me to find a voice for the launch right here in NYC.

What is the inspiration behind your red structured gown? The jacket usually sets the tone for the collections.  For me, it’s the gown.  From here, I develop the dresses, tops and bottoms.  One of my favorite pieces for this season is the silk red structured gown and the process of finding it. As an emerging designer, there are time and budget limitations to execute it in the way I wish I could have done, but I’ve a distinctive voice.  I made several drapes to see how long they continued before breaking form and then playing with silhouettes from there.  I was delighted to find many of the lines answered themselves into a place.  This is what determined the long and short dresses.  The simplicity of the interesting lines coupled with the vibrancy of the solid red color in a simple 1×1 silk, created the sculptural effect and formed the fundamental shapes of this line’s composition.

Describe your ideal consumer. My ideal customer would enjoy dressing to the occasion. She has a good sense of herself to go with the pace of career and/or with family….works hard, treats herself well, and enjoys life.  This means some pieces that can be transformed stylishly from day to night too.

 What is your favourite piece and why? The little black ball-dress, in wool with laser cut-outs and  a layer of tulle under is still my favourite design.  In its simplicity, it can successfully be defined in different settings, day to night, classic or forward, and its style can hold through several seasons.  It’s an organic wool fabric with progressive laser cut techniques, a terrific combo.  I played with darts on a fitted bodice. I liked the way the light projected through the clean cut-out patterns and so the shade cast different silhouettes on the runway.

 If you could have any celebrity spokesmodel, who would it be and why?  Amanda Seyfried has versatile talent, always challenges herself and I believe has fun doing so. 

What store would you love to have your clothes in?  Saks…it wraps back to my first design job seeing it displayed a year later in a whole corner while casually strolling through with my mother.  I worked especially hard on it had a good feeling about my career start.

Barney’s is important because I’m large on concepts.  Bloomingdales has a great accessibility.  Bergdorf’s…when my production is to par.  I stroll through these floors during lunchtime.  When I have lunchtime.

What does 2014 hold for the brand? Exposure of the concepts through media and shows, creative photo shoots, production, a growing audience and customer.

Just to go with the flow.  As long as a good structure is established, many things that happen unexpectedly… When I have a good team and great creative minds, amazing surprises come of it.

The Nolcha Fashion Week Ones to Watch feature is a weekly interview highlighting an independent fashion designer that is making moves in the fashion industry. Whether from a runway show in New York City or discovered by our globetrotting team we are proud to be a platform of discovery supporting innovative independent fashion.

If you are an independent fashion designer interested to be featured in the Ones to Watch interview series please email with more information about your brand.

Nolcha Fashion Week: New York, founded by Kerry Bannigan and Arthur Mandel, is a leading award winning event held during New York Fashion Week hosting independent fashion designer runway shows.