MANUELLE GUIBAL — The Visions of an Artisan

13 Jun

The very first piece I sold in my store was a Manuelle Guibal jacket.  It surprised me then – it doesn’t now.


I first encountered the Manuelle Guibal collection on an unusually warm day in early March of last year.   I was in New York scouting out my Fall buys and had already established who I was working with vendor-wise.  I had some time to kill and decided to walk through the Chelsea Art Museum, which for the purposes of fashion week in NYC had been converted into stalls for various vendors to show their wares.

As I turned a corner my eye was immediately drawn to this beautiful Japanese woman walking towards me, quietly conversing with her colleague.  She wore a sleek black turtleneck that made the complexity and volume of the black skirt she was wearing that much more intriguing.  It was a piece that was at once simple and complicated, wrapping over itself in a soft cocoon.  She had black boots on and the only thing out of place was a strand or two of her long dark hair, and somehow even that seemed intentional.

I loved the mix of tight and loose that she was wearing, but what intrigued me most about her was that, unlike most of the people surrounding her in this hot and crowded arena, she looked untroubled and approachable.  To me she was the embodiment of what style is about – being comfortable not only in your own skin but in the clothing you choose to envelop it in.

As she walked past me I thought “This is the kind of person I admire.  This is the kind of style I want to be able to express in my space.  Not something about the latest trend or something to show off your amazing cleavage, but something that makes you stop, dead in your tracks, and think ‘now there goes someone who gets it.’ “

A few minutes later I entered an aisle and came upon a large booth, hung with garments in deep, rich hues and textures.  At the center of the racks stood a simple dress form wearing almost exactly the same skirt as the lovely woman I had just passed.  I approached it with tentative excitement.   It was made in a black stretch wool gabardine that moved like water over my hand.  I always buy with my fingers as much as I do with my eyes, so naturally I fell in love.  I browsed the racks, taking a mental note of this item and that, all the while remembering that I really hadn’t planned to pick up another line.  I took a card, nodded my thanks to one of the women there and continued to my next appointment.

I could not keep the line out of my head for the rest of the day.

The next morning I made a beeline back to the booth, and introduced myself to the line’s creator, Manuelle Guibal.  Between my rather poor French and her far better English we managed to strike up a conversation.

guibal herself

The designer herself

I learned very quickly the passion she had for her craft – her eyes danced as she told me of the time and difficulty she has with getting just the right tone and shape to each of her pieces, of the small factory in the French countryside that produces the majority of her knits and her close working relationship with them.  It was obvious to me that, even though it was a great trouble to create what she did, she couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and in that I found a kindred spirit.

Manuelle’s admirable work ethic manages to produce garments unlike anything I’ve ever come across.  The Spring/Summer 2013 collection is done almost entirely in knit cotton, cotton poplin and crushed linen.  Of course all wonderful garments start with equally wonderful textiles — but her focus on them, their properties and variations — this was something I rarely came upon.

Each piece is individually garment dyed for a very unique depth of color and texture.  Guibal’s washed and crushed linens are richly toned and imbued with a sense of age, as if you’re wearing a piece that was buried for millennia and just recently unearthed.  They just slip on, softly skimming over the body, and the more wrinkled they get the better they look – and feel.


A crushed linen ensemble for SS2013

Her cottons are unbelievable.  This is not your typical ‘Hanes t-shirt’ cotton.  This is serious cotton involving high-twist yarns carefully blended with just a touch of Lycra, hand-guided on a custom loom, then individually dyed with a rolled raw-edged hem.  This is cotton knit to be soft as silk and light as air but made to wear like iron.  Add to that crisp stretch poplin pieces that rustle like sailcloth, snapping taught and breaking free around you as you move.  Insane.

guibal ss coton pic

A stretch knit cotton ensemble – SS2013

There’s a certain sense of peace that comes with wearing clothing like this.  I don’t know if it’s because there is so much integrity behind each piece, that it’s created by someone who loves their métier, or craft, as Manuelle does.  It’s cerebral style – there’s no other way to put it.  These are pieces that you’ll have forever, investment pieces with no sense of season or trend.  And it’s wonderful how systematic her pieces are – 5 pieces make 20 looks, and it’s all up to the wearer to be as classic or creative as they like, to mix them with other favorite garments and to, as always, dress with intent.

I hope you all can visit soon and see the collection for itself — it’s a treat.

Thanks for your following and support….




2 Responses to “MANUELLE GUIBAL — The Visions of an Artisan”

  1. Tracey August 14, 2013 at 2:17 PM #

    Chris, this is fabulous.

    • ada November 19, 2013 at 5:18 PM #

      I was not a fashionista – just a bored with herself 70 year old. I saw a “rag” of a dress by Manuelle Guibal which intrigued me. I tried it on and was immediately transformed. Paid what was for me a small fortune and carried it home. Wore it to death all summer, threw it into the washing machine many many times, and still it looks divine. Now that winter is here I am wearing it with boots, leggings and a sweater. I would love to find an online store carrying the whole range. My best purchase ever. Never had so many compliments on my clothing – ever!!!

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