When Alber Elbaz died in April 2021 due to complications from Covid-19, it was just months after he’d unveiled his first collection for AZ Factory, his new brand embracing both size inclusivity and sustainability. The Paris-based label has recruited guest designers (or “amigos”) to carry Elbaz’s vision forward into the future, beginning with South African designer Thebe Magugu in April. Up next? Belgian brand Ester Manas, which has made waves in the industry since debuting at Paris Fashion Week last October. In many ways, Ester Manas is the perfect choice for AZ Factory’s latest collaboration, particularly given that body positivity is embedded in the DNA of both brands. “AZ Factory is really about the body, and we also work in the same way,” Ester Manas, the brand’s co-founder and designer points out; she cites AZ Factory’s My Body collection as an example of how they don’t discriminate based on size or shape.
The signatures of both AZ Factory and Ester Manas are instantly recognisable in the resulting capsule collection, from the form-fitting dresses and sculpted shoulders seen in Elbaz’s debut for the brand to the cut-outs and sheer panelling that the Belgian label is fast becoming known for; bold injections of colour also pay homage to Elbaz. The prints inspired by depictions of food often seen in Renaissance art are intended to spark conversation. While inclusive sizing has been important for both brands from the start (AZ Factory’s pieces typically run from XXS to 4XL), Ester Manas has a one size fits all approach, providing a new challenge for the brand; they developed flexible sizing so an L could be an XL or XXL. The capsule collection will be stocked in sizes XS to 3XL.
But accurate vision and the strong method of Elbaz designer Julian Manas were vital, but it was the town of Independent rather quickly that sprang up around him that will remain with the two of them. When we worked with his designer and his team, we were very happy and felt like I was not an outsider, as he says in his journal. They treated us like family, and I believe that’s what Alber desired.
The design duo hopes that by adopting a more flexible sizing system, they can reduce waste – both in terms of the amount produced and by allowing customers to keep items in their wardrobes for longer, if their size changes down the line. “We thought maybe we can reduce the sizes to produce only what we really need,” Manas continues, adding that the candy-coloured bags are all made from deadstock leather, again to cut down on waste.