Entrepreneurial success, artistic ambition, and full-time enrollment can rarely exist in fruitful harmony. Natalie Manchia is a U2 Management student in her third year, combining her business acumen with a love of fashion. She recently created her own line of handcrafted, streetwear-inspired clothing, Natalie Manchia Designs Inc. Over the past year, Manchia’s brand has steadily gained popularity. Her work has been featured on the runways of SynesthASIA, P[h]assion, and Montreal’s Startup Fashion Week. This weekend, The McGill Tribune sat down with her to discuss what it’s like to be a young businesswoman and artist in Montreal.
One of Manchia’s lifelong dreams is coming to fruition. Growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, Manchia always loved doodling and designing; she was taught by her grandmother how to sew an outfit for her teddy bear in the first grade. Her love of the artform was rekindled when she took a fashion course in high school. Around the same time, Manchia began working at a high-end boutique, and says that this is where she learned the most about the fashion industry. The store took a couple clients a day, and employed a skilled seamstress who worked on tailoring upstairs.
Inspired by working at the boutique, Manchia began making one-of-a-kind pieces for herself and her friends. Besides the high school course, she has never received formal training.
"I’ve never learned how to properly sketch something, or what all the proper seams are,” Manchia said. “If you look at the way I create something, the stitching is pretty straightforward. It’s nothing too fancy, and some of the things that are [fancy] I learned on YouTube. Because of that I feel like my process for making things is really unique.”
While studying at McGill, Natalie has experienced tremendous artistic success. She was first approached to show her designs in the SynesthASIA fashion show, and was then featured in a show for P[h]assion, where she is the clothing coordinator.
After positive feedback from these two events, Manchia decided to apply to participate in Montreal’s Startup Fashion Week. She landed a spot as the Showcase Designer in the organization’s launch party this past summer.
Manchia is now in the process of creating a website for her brand, which is scheduled to be out before the new year.
“Anything I’ve ever made I’ve only sold through friends, and I wanted to get out of that,” Manchia said. “I know I’m making something worth a certain amount. I know how much time I put into it and the quality of the fabric. People said to me ‘why don’t you do an etsy thing?’ and I said no! If I’m starting a website I want it to be legit. I want it to be like Zara, like Nasty Gal, you google my name and that’s what comes up.”
Living as a student and young female entrepreneur can be difficult. For example, Manchia does not shop for fabric in Montreal anymore, because she has found that her questions about fabric quality and pricing were not being taken seriously. She has also experienced being underestimated in the business world.
"People just don’t see me as a serious businesswoman,” Manchia said. “Yeah I can create and design these things, but I have great ideas. I’m smart. I can balance my own books if I want to.”
The young designer’s next move is an internship in Milan this coming summer. Fueled by her ambition, drive, and creativity, Manchia’s line is sure to be a hit when her website is launched.
"This is my dream,” Manchia said. “And if it takes me longer to get there that's ok, because at least I know where I want to go.”