No-show in Paris for Ester Manas as fashion designer focuses on extended Spring collection

Models present creations from Ester Manas Womenswear Fall-Winter 2023-2024 collection during Paris Fashion Week in Paris, on March 4, 2023.
Models present creations from Ester Manas Womenswear Fall-Winter 2023-2024 collection during Paris Fashion Week in Paris, on March 4, 2023. Copyright GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP or licensors
By Phoebe Larner
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Ester Manas, a pioneer of body positivity, will not be present in the French capital for Paris Fashion Week.

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Inclusive fashion brand Ester Manas made the surprise announcement that it will not be participating in Paris Fashion Week which starts today. Following a series of recent successes, it is taking a step back from the catwalk so it can commit more time to an extended collection for March 2024. 

The brand says in doing so, it is underlining its unwavering dedication to taking the time to create sustainable collections and products and is investing in the future of its brand's vision and values. Eco-friendliness is a high priority for the brand which mostly creates pieces from dead-stock and up-cycled fabrics.

Geoffroy Van der Hasselt/AFP or licensors
Designers Balthazar Delepierre (L) and Ester Manas acknowledge the audience at the end of the Ester Manas Fall-Winter 2022-2023 collection fashion showGeoffroy Van der Hasselt/AFP or licensors

Founded in 2019 by Ester Manas and Balthazar Delepierre, the Franco-Belgian brand is committed to being fully size-inclusive. Ester Manas, a size 44/46, felt the industry wasn't designing clothes for women of her size range. 

The designers came together to offer a solution by creating one-size pieces going from an XS to an XXL. They aim to place the women they are designing for at the very heart of the process. With 'sexy' clothing often marketed for and by women of a petite size, the brand calls for women of all sizes to embrace their sexuality. 

In an interview with the fashion magazine DAZED, Delepierre explains he and Manas have really intense discussions about and with the girls they want to dress and try to bridge the gap between technique and sensuality. They're always exploring ways for the person wearing their clothes to be able to express their sexuality, their body and their skin. 

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP or licensors
A model presents a creation for Ester Manas during the Spring-Summer 2023 fashion show as part of the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week, in Paris, on October 1, 2022Emmanuel Dunand/AFP or licensors

The interview continues with Manas saying the industry is only taking its first steps when it comes to inclusivity. More plus-size models are seen walking the runway, which is good for a brand's image, but that is sometimes as far as it goes. Often the customer is unable to buy the look in shops - something she calls buyers to take action on. As she puts it, " If they are not buying larger sizes, having conversations during appointments, and convincing retailers it’s important and necessary that they carry an extended size line, where do we go from here?"

This issue dubbed "curve-washing" is bigger than it might seem. Unlike Ester Manas, for some brands, placing curvy models on catwalks, magazine covers and brand campaigns is more of a marketing technique than an inclusivity attempt. They might use plus-size models in their campaigns but they don't create or sell garments to fit wearers of the same size. Manas says in an interview with 10 magazine that her vision isn't only about image, it’s about dressing everyone. She says there's a massive market out there for women with bigger bodies looking to wear something stylish. 

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Model Ashley Graham walks the runway for Addition Elle on September 11, 2017 during the New York Fashion Week in New York City.Angela Weiss/AFP or licensors

With this in mind, the designers are questioning restrictions imposed by the fashion industry. Skin-baring pieces are conventionally seen on small bodies. Here, it becomes a staple for larger women. The brand's collections often include revealing two-piece looks or skin-tight dresses. 

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP or licensors
Models present creations for Ester Manas during the Spring-Summer 2023 fashion show, during the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week, in Paris on October 1, 2022Emmanuel Dunand/AFP or licensors

It uses stretchy, sheer fabrics that leave little to the imagination and ruching that seems to become the brand's signature look - no doubt as it clings beautifully to curves and flatters the wearer's shape. Manas says as much as "80% of the materials we use offer some kind of 'elastication' but we prefer to play with ruching in order to welcome a lot of aspects of size."

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