It was back in 2015 that designers Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel announced they'd be branching out from their brand Mansur Gavriel and its beloved bucket bags into footwear and ready-to-wear by showing up in samples of said designs to the CFDA Awards—where they also happened to pick up the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design.
As it turned out, the pair stepped into the former much quicker—in February of last year—than the latter, but at long last, on Sunday afternoon of New York Fashion Week Spring 2018, the pair unveiled a series of firsts, including not just their first ready-to-wear outing: It was also their first runway show, as opposed to their famously Instagrammable presentations, as well as their first go at a see-now, buy-now approach—one that makes more sense for Mansur Gavriel than practically any other brand, given that their aesthetic found such an early cult following in large part thanks to Instagram.
Their success on the platform has also been in large part thanks to Zhenya and Tanya Posternak, the Ukrainian photographer twins whom the designers first met through a mutual friend, "back when Mansur Gavriel was just a team of three people—ourselves and one assistant—and we were in a tiny studio on the Lower East Side," Mansur recalled earlier this week. "We really liked their energy and their aesthetic, so one day they came to the studio and we gave them a bunch of bags and told them to go shoot and be free."
Since that fateful day, the Posternaks have gone on "too many to remember exactly" shoots for the designers, though the number is definitely over 50, in locations ranging from across the U.S. to all over the globe, from Iceland to Spain to Paris to Mexico to Italy and, of course, Ukraine. It's a testament to their faith in the photographers that while the Posternaks have romped around the world, Mansur and Gavriel have always stayed decidedly at home: "We develop together the ideas together first—the styling, the location, the girls—but when they’re shooting, we like to give them their freedom," Mansur said.
Somehow, though, they've never sent the Posternaks off to Asia, even though Gavriel said she and Mansur have "always wanted to go back and shoot" in Japan after they took a trip there together in 2014. Their first stab at ready-to-wear, then, proved the perfect opportunity to return: "As the team grew and we did more destination shoots, it was a natural choice," Gavriel added—much to the delight of the Posternaks, who packed up the designers's bags, cast their favorite Japanese models, and set off for the islands of Naoshima and Teshima, as well as the city of Gifu.
It's the latter where the pair shot the images that consist of this season's campaign (or at least their latest set of Instagrams, given that the brand has never been one for traditional advertising). Smack in the middle of the country, Gifu is home to Yoro Park, a theme park of sorts also known as the Site of Reversible Destiny, which the artist and architect couple Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins designed in the '90s.
The location—a series of wooded, grassy hills studded with imaginative, brightly hued buildings and pavilions and even a pastel-colored maze—turned out to make perfect sense for the collection, which is infused with bold colors, rich textures, architectural lines across a spread of wool, camel, cashmere, and mohair outerwear and knits, including pieces like a floor-length oversized pastel pink coat (and a new sculptural "Ocean Bag.")
Arakawa and Gins were so optimistic with their designs, their goal was to use them to promote not just utopia, but eternal life. And while Mansur and Gavriel are definitely interested in "the relationship between architecture and nature—the dynamic between natural softness and modern lines and colors," don't worry: While they're quite happy with their first-ever set of ready-to-wear, they haven't hopped on to the lofty bandwagon of thinking their designs have the capacity to make you immortal just yet.
"It was definitely more the form and color," Mansur said with a laugh.
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