Starting any business amidst the pandemic is not an easy feat. Even more challenging is to start a clothing brand at the age of 20, having to individually make each item by hand with only your self-taught skills to rely on. Mouj Hijazi talks to Floriane Manuela about how she started her women’s clothing brand FloWma, and what it stands for.
Floriane Manuela, 20, from London, has been fascinated with art from a young age, in awe of the different worlds you can create and ways of expression. But what drew her to fashion was its ability to make one feel more like themselves, more confident, and liberated.
She explained: “It was an escape for me, but when I got to the age of around 16, I just felt drawn to fashion design, mainly because I’ve always been into dressing well, and expressing myself through clothing. I see it as a way of empowering myself and women,
“If people are drawn to it then they understand the point I’m trying to get across, but there isn’t a main point other than wanting to make girls feel like bad b*****s!”
Floriane taught herself how to sew at the age of 17, after realising this was her passion. She went to university for a while but felt she could elaborate on what she was taught and do everything herself.
She emphasized that with the right determination and mentality, you can do whatever you put your mind to. Floraine explained: “As much as you need the technical skills, it has a lot to do with your mentality.”
When it comes to art and design, from an outsider’s perspective it might be hard to grasp where all the creativity comes from when it seems like everything has already been done before. But to Floriane, the ideas never stop coming.
The 20-year-old said: “Inspirations for my designs just appear in my head, then I draw them. It has a lot to do with something that I’m feeling at the moment and my experiences.”
She also cites renowned English fashion designer Alexander McQueen as one of her top influences. Floriane said: “I really feel like I connect to him on so many levels when I see his work. His work also has a lot to do with what he’s feeling, and I relate to him so much.”
She added: “He uses a lot of sick techniques. I watch his shows and see the crazy s*** he’s done before, and I think ‘woah, I’ve gotta try that’. I applied one of his techniques to this new dress I designed yesterday.”
While she has been designing and selling clothes covertly for much longer, mid-July last summer was when Floriane announced the launch of her brand FloWma and its first collection.
She described how people around her encouraged her to go ahead with it, with the notion of ‘it’s a pandemic, might as well’ in mind. But in hindsight, Floriane feels she wasn’t quite ready just yet.
“I designed like the clothes really quickly and just put it out. I haven’t put out any fresh stuff because I don’t want to do it just for that reason anymore,” she expressed.
“If you want to do it and you feel passionate, and you can feel the things you can get out of it, then do it.
Floriane Manuela, 20, Fashion designer
For her next collection, Floriane plans on releasing something more authentic and representative of herself. She said: “I loved doing it, but I wanna do something that really shows me, and for something to show me it’s gotta have a lot of stories to tell because I have a lot to tell, I want people to look at the collection, and feel like ‘wow, I felt that’.”
Floriane is someone who marches to her own beat and stands for individuality, inclusivity and being yourself without worrying about what others have to say. “As you can see, a lot of the stuff that I do is like mini-skirts, chest out,” Floriane explained, “I’m all for that, because… do whatever you want, wear whatever you want. That’s what I’m about.”
One thing she hopes to work on as her brand continues to grow – in order to drive her messages further – is to cater to larger sizes on the website, which she hasn’t been able to do yet as a fresh small business.
The self-taught fashion designer said: “It’s really good to cater to bigger sizes, but being an independent brand, you’ve got to think how much fabric the bigger sizes take. But people can message me if they want a custom-made size and I’ll happily do that, definitely.
“I know it’s not fair, and definitely the bigger I get, the easier it will be to include bigger sizes on the website without having to ask for it to be custom-made. It’s all to do with budgeting, but definitely it’s something I want to work on.”
Starting a business on your own can be extremely daunting, especially if you’re predominantly self-taught. It might even be troublesome trying to promote your brand, for fear of what others might say. One has to have thick skin and confidence to be successful and self-assured. Naturally, though, this can be intimidating when you’re new, as it was for Floriane.
Floriane said: “With FloWma, I was coming out and saying ‘yeah, actually, I wanna be a f***ing fashion designer, this is my work’.
“Because it was my first time actually showing it to people, I got a bit scared like ‘damn, people are really watching’, so I posted less. Fear is my biggest enemy. But that’s something that I now know not to be.”
Floriane went on to emphasise the importance of not letting fear win when you are doing something you are passionate about. She explained: “The comfort zones – leave them in the bin. People talk whether you’re doing bad or good and that’s something I’ve learnt by now and I’m gonna project better though my work and show that I learnt.”
Based on her personal pitfalls, Floriane’s advice to people who wish to start a business is to do so when they’re ready, and not to give in to peer pressure. The 20-year-old business owner explained: “If you want to and you feel passionate, and you can feel the things you can get out of it, do it. Make sure you remember the reasons that you wanted to in the first place.”
She wanted to highlight that the process won’t just be rainbows and butterflies – there will be moments where you might feel unmotivated, inadequate, depressed, anxious and more. Floriane parted with the message that you should always stay true to yourself and your goals, and never listen to others’ negativity.
Floriane said: “But don’t let that distract you from the reason why you wanted to do it, because nothing ever works out so perfectly right. It’s about your resilience and ability to move past and the lessons that you learned.”
With such a talented and innovative owner/designer and empowering message, FloWma is going places.
Follow @_flowma on Instagram to stay tuned in anticipation for her next release. International shipping is available.