Adelaide local legend, Tiff Manuell, grew her namesake brand from a dream of wanting to design and create products, incorporating her passions of painting, designing and sewing. All Tiff Manuell products are hand painted onto canvas and each print is carefully constructed into limited edition, bespoke pieces. The brand offers their famous clutches, totes, laptop bags and a limited range of clothing: sports and daywear.
At this year’s Adelaide Fashion Festival, Tiff Manuell launched her brand-new daywear collection, we had the chance to sit down with the icon herself and chat about her brand and the new collection.
Who else is behind the scenes at Tiff Manuell besides yourself?
I have five daily guns by my side and each are super talented at what they do. We all serve our gorgeous customers but individually have our main roles. Lily is the only other painter other than me. Issy creates our neckpieces and other accessory production as well as pattern makes. Doris is our graphic designer and online store photographer/uploader and assistant to customer service. Indigo (eldest daughter) manages our retail, wholesale, customer service and marketing. David my husband and partner manages all our finance and admin. Macy my youngest daughter helps on weekends and Jess our amazing contract machinist pretty much stitches every bag we have ever made. Also, Asha is our outsourced pattern and sample maker who has helped develop my clothing range.
How did you start the label?
The Tiff range was a happy accident. I made a bag for a girlfriend and then a couple more that sat at my front desk near my studio window. A bypassing girl asked if they were for sale, she bought one and then just more girls came past and it all has just organically evolved from there, with a lot of passionate work of course. There was never a plan but I really wanted to create a line of work that took me away from the computer and let me paint and create freely all day without any limitations.
What or who is your biggest inspiration?
I have many creative friends so I guess I take a little page out of their own journeys – we share our experiences and I am always inspired by their incredible talents all so unique from each other. I particularly love other designers, makers and artists, some legends and some new. There’s too many to name.
What has been your proudest moment?
For the tiff range to be sold in the Tate Gallery over the last 2 years has been hugely rewarding personally but equally being stocked through some amazing quality gallery stores in Australia like the National Art Gallery, National Museum, Melbourne Museum, QUAGOMA etc. On another level, sustaining a balanced and happy work place that includes my family is perhaps my most treasured outcome rather than moment.
Tell us a bit more about your new day wear collection.
The new day wear range reflects my recent large scale paintings. Sometimes I think about the dress first but often it’s the painting and that leads me to the creation of the dress. It’s an experimentation of colour, texture and movement. We have the paintings high res photographed and digitally print the fabrics in Melbourne. They are at the same scale as the paintings so I attempt to capture the full nature of the painting as best I can back into the garment, hence keeping the shapes simple and uncomplicated in their structure but super wearable and ultimately fun to wear. We produce very limited quantities to continue with our more bespoke direction.
What’s next for Tiff Manuell?
My focus is always making sure our quality is as amazing as it can be, that our painting develops and we explore new directions. I am keen to develop the clothing line as well, keep it small and manageable but have a more consistent offering and to have our own in house machining. Funnily enough I guess I back away from growth as such, I look for great opportunities but ones that retain our balance and integrity, so we remain creative and relevant – aiming to look after incredible, quality customers and offer wonderful service. Big is not always better, I am in a different phase of my life.
I have a couple of speaking gigs next year, I do like these. Where ever I can I love to help inspire new business and support creativity as a career.
Photography: Peter Fong
Stylist: Lilian Choo
Model: Jo Gibbs