Designers come and go, not surprising, but what is eternal is talent. It’s not very easy to spot but when you do, you know you have and that’s what I felt when I came across Christina Mannino. Growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona, Christina always wanted to be a Fashion designer (or a sex symbol like Marilyn Monroe)! Focusing on artistic growth rather than just ambition, she studied drawing and painting at college, then majored in Studio Art at University, complimenting these with fashion summer programs at Parsons School of Design in New York City. A mentor once said to her to “first be an artist, then a designer”.
She went on to intern for the likes of Anna Sui, Zac Posen, and Loeffler Randall, which led to her launching her own label, DEIVIE. Although her friends would describe her as ‘amusing, energetic and perhaps a little bit “crazy”‘, I sense that she might be more fun and unpredictable than she thinks. Something about Christina Mannino’s personality is reflected in her designs (which of course is always a good thing) but there is something a little more about it that makes you stop and admire which is why she is definitely one designer to watch.
So it was exciting to get to know more about Christina Mannino and what makes her tick…
How did you and ‘Fashion’ first meet?
I have always adored fashion! Growing up in Scottsdale, AZ, I took after my stylish mother and spent my birthday money (from my 8th bday) on a special new outfit instead of toys! When I was gifted “fashion plates” that same year and later saw “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead,” a film in which Christina Appelgate portrays a high schooler who lies and becomes a fashion exec, I knew I was hooked! When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up for a school assignment I wrote that I wanted to be the next “Calvin Klein, Marilyn Monroe, and Cindy Crawford” (what a trifecta!). A girly girl no doubt, playing dress up, drawing fashion sketches, and making up dances with my sister were my absolute favorite things to do!
Tell us a little about the journey from there to here……
Throughout my childhood all the way through college I focused on my artistic growth and studied drawing and painting. I worked with a local watercolorist during high school and during my studies at the University of Virginia (where I majored in studio art) I also took fashion summer programs at Parsons School of Design and F.I.T in New York City! The real learning, though, came from my various apprenticeships with top designers –Anna Sui, Zac Posen, and Loeffler Randall. It was so exhilarating to see an inside look at how some of the most famous pieces to walk down the runway were made — from initial concept to final creation — and I took in depth notes on everything! Some of my own practices — how I organize my fabrics and how I cost each collection — are based on methods I learned while interning. After graduating college I moved to NYC and began working in fashion buying & marketing for a department store to learn the business side of the industry! four years later I was ready to launch DEIVIE!
Tell us a little about the journey to launching DEIVIE…..
After interning for many successful and amazing designers, I knew I wanted to set out on my own rather than work under a big design house, mostly for the creative freedom. I started with smaller capsule collections that I promoted with trunk shows and private sales to help gain a customer base. My AW12 collection was the first I pushed for retail accounts and we landed in our first three stores and have been growing ever since. Over the past two years it’s been great to follow the DEIVIE woman and really understand even moreso who she is and how she identifies with the brand. Presently we are not in any UK stores and that is definitely a region we hope to expand to for the ss14 season!
What kind of ‘girl’ is Christina Mannino?
I would love to say unpredictable, but at the same time I am extremely structured which is a direct effect of my extremely mathematical side. I suppose most people who know me way would describe me as “amusing, energetic,” and perhaps a little bit “crazy,” although that description I’ve never quite agreed with! I have an extremely strong work ethic and throw myself into things I truly care about. Music drives my inspirations and I live life slightly on a path divergent from the norm… a nine to five schedule didn’t quite work for me, so the schedule of a creative entrepreneur has been much more fitting. I am definitely a night owl and barely go to bed before 3am! I live for excitement and beauty and I am so happy to be designing lovely fashion for my own label!
Tell us the idea behind your bang bang/gun designs and what inspired it?
Spring/Summer 2013 was widely inspired by the Youthquake era, in which fashion first met rock n’ roll, and I was highly influenced by Edie Sedgwick & Andy Warhol. The guns I drew for the collection, which are custom embroidered onto the collars & vests, were specifically derived from Warhol’s “Guns” painting. In addition, though, I was very inspired by Sienna Miller’s character, Nikki, from the feature film “ALFIE.” In the film Sienna’s character has an explosively irresistible essence and is called a “showstopper” with the highest of highs and manic lows. I took the Edie inspired vibe of her character and combined that with Warhol’s mod screen prints to illustrate the unpredictability and frail danger of her character.
What did you always want to be when you were little?
A fashion designer! however I was clearly SUPER ambitious because I also wanted to be an Actress/Model a Cindy Crawford, Marilyn Monroe type (so I guess I really wanted to be a sex symbol?! haha). When my family moved (I was in fifth grade) across the country to VA, I actually signed autographs for all my classmates because I had them convinced I was going to be a famous actress!
What designer would you most like to be like?
I most greatly admire Alexander McQueen and the elaborate and ingenious creations he designed! I love a theatrical quality in fashion and for that I also look up to Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano . They seem to focus as much on the stage production and the “show stopping” element of their work as much as the classic practicality.
What else do you like to do when you’re not designing?
I love brunching with my girls, visiting the puppy store, and going to concerts! Anymore hanging at home with a movie and some wine &cheese is fun, too :). Sometimes, though, I do get the urge to rage hard and dance all night but those nights often begin with lots of cocktails!
So Studying vs Work experience – what would you recommend?
Work experience! A great example is my driving test to get my license– I got an A+ on the written test and a D minus on the actual DRIVING test! Fashion is the same. Just because you can name every seam, fabric or finish does not mean you can construct a collection! Part of that is innate creativity and talent, but when you take what you have learned from books (fabric knowledge being the most important to me) and combine it with actual industry experience, you will be set! I participated in four apprenticeships that followed my studies and led to a pretty well-rounded fashion experience.
What is the most expensive item in your A/W 13 collection?
For Fall 13, I wanted to create a piece similar to my favourite vintage finds (I LIVE for vintage pieces! )with unique custom beading… so one look (a shirt jacket and skirt combo) is entirely covered in Swarovski crystals hand sewn in a custom floral pattern. It is quite heavy and rattles when the woman wearing it walks and is possibly my favourite look of the entire collection! Due to the originality of the piece and the laborious handiwork (each took about 60 hours to custom embellish), the price tag is higher than my usual DEIVIE pieces coming in at $1298 for the “Confetti” blouse and $1580 for the “Cirque” skirt. For such exquisite pieces though, that price is a steal.
What is the cheapest item in your A/W 13 collection?
The solid “Trapeze” skirts which are made out of double silk georgette. They are simple in design – high waisted mini’s with front “M” slits and overall an easy wear! They retail at $378 each and add a sassy sultriness to any look.
Tell us something that will shock us!
Hmmm… I sleep walk and I’m afraid of the dark… STILL…odd but perhaps not “shocking”? I suppose what most would find shocking is that despite being a fashion designer, I’m not someone who is dressed up all the time despite my extreme love of clothes and dressing up! When I’m not going somewhere I will be seen, like when I’m just running errands, etc, I can be the most unglamorous person in the world! I stroll around in sweats and a baseball cap with undone hair, etc. It’s really a high-low lifestyle. I like to either go all out with an ensemble or put forth zero effort. I think i need to find a way to turn my flannel and sweats into a signature look a la Steven Spielberg’s hoodies and Alber Ebaz’s bow ties.
Your tombstone will read…..
Probably a combination of things…. including sparkly stone, perhaps? but I’ve always loved the Marilyn Monroe quote “it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring”.
You can shop the DELVIE collection here or if in NYC, at Qlosette (215 Mulberry street, New York, NY).
By Kitty L