Elsa Manunta grew up around sewing machines. She watched her grandmother create garments – from the initial ironing of the fabric attached with pins to the finished piece. The granddaughter of Armenian immigrants to France, she learned from a young age the values of hard work and humility. Elsa Manunta left the seriousness of this apprenticeship when she was seized by her passion for the audio-visual arts. She would end up working in marketing and communications at the record label Yellow Production. It was here that she discovered her love of dance, which would blossom into her discovering her creative side.
”One day, while I was walking by the street, I came accross this flyer on the wall. I took a picture. I knew that some changes were about to happen but I wasn’t ready for the next chapters coming..”Elsa Manunta
In 2013, she returned to fashion, contributing to the advertising campaign of Kookai and helping hone its visual identity. This would lead to her meeting artistic director Stefani Martini, which set off a series of collaborations and activities that resulted with her coming back into the fashion fold completely. Convinced that everything happens for a reason, Manunta began to look into herself to create a project that would blend fashion, dance and her personal values. At the crossroads of several worlds, at the heart of her passions, Uma Oath came into being this year. A collection employing minimalist design that uses materials popular in sportswear, Uma Oath speaks in the codes of urban womenswear while leaving the wearer with complete freedom of movement. Comfort and resistance for an Activist in these modern times. Bare like a welcoming land, each of her steps is timeless, drenched with instinct and sensuality. An established identity. An Art of Being.
How did you start with Uma Oath urbanwear & Dance united association?
Before I create UMA OATH, I was working in a famous fashion company in Paris. Ideal job, ideal life, a long lasting career ahead, or at least that was what I thought.. Little by little, I started to feel uncomfortable, I was witness of the damages caused by Fast fashion. Hard to keep doing your job when you’re not aligned to the ethics of the company you work for. A seed was planted in my mind and soul. I couldn’t contribute to this, but in another hand, the price to pay was to leave my financial security and comfort zone. Would I be able to cope with the unknown?
Dancing is what helped me to make my decision by connecting my inner self to some higher purposes. When I finally got a promotion, I just declined. I left the company to start achieving my dreams, find out who I really was, and how I could bring more meaning to Fashion.
I didn’t have any required skills or particular talents to start my company at that moment, but do we really need to be ready to start our life journey?
I started from scratch, I ordered some books and learnt how to draw. I had no money either so I started to juggle with 2 jobs in the same time. My project was fueled by my passion and love, these deep feelings which I had forgotten about, when I was caught by what I thought was a perfect life. The flame arose. I woke up in the middle of the night to draw, with this amazing sensation that I was FREE, for the very first time of my life.
One year later, in 2016, I was awarded as the best designer of the year in north of France. UMA OATH was born, and I also created the humanitarian association “Dance United”. At the crossroads of Fashion, Humanity and Movement, I was now at the right place, with the right people, at the right moment.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
All my inspiration comes from the core values that make us “Human”. Each piece of clothes is designed to illustrate the best in us : kindness, harmony, alignment, creativity, courage, determination etc.
“UMA”, short for human, and “OATH” refers to our commitment to support people as they move through life. I also get inspired by the ancestral japanese wisdom and minimalism. I’ve just updated them to better fit our modern world. My brand is a conscious urbanwear which uses exclusive fabrics from luxury sportswear to adopt the ready to wear codes. Timeless and urban collections to express a true art of living.
What is the one technology trend within your industry that cannot be ignored?
The digital trend is the one we cannot ignore. For so long in fashion industry, the brands and magazines used to create the major trends: they were sold in physical shops only, using huge advertising campains everywhere in the streets. They used to rule the world!
But the digital came to disturb this process. It has given people the opportunity to connect to each other, to express themselves, being seen and heard. It has also made it possible to get some new players, emerging brands, enter the game. Now, everything is possible for everyone. People have the power back to influence and make the trends, either by what they create, or by the way they consume.
What has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
We are the first to present a new disruptive concept in Fashion Industry. The idea was to erase distances, to make available what did not used to be: create a bridge between Being and Appearing. In restrospect, we have been where fashion has never set foot before. We have enriched our models in emotional intelligence. We do not simply create clothes, we offer an Experience.
Mastery of emotions, meditation, visual arts, public speaking, theatre, body alignment. I have gone out to meet inspiring specialists ready to accompany people on this journey towards discovering their true potentiel. Every time someone picks a UMA OATH piece, we offer one hour of coaching in personal development. The opportunity for the people, to meet up, vibe and fully energise themselves.
It took me five years to be mature enough to achieve my biggest dream: to bring Fashion to a more human level. If I’ve started this story all by myself, losing friends, lovers, and financial securities, I have now my own french atelier, an associate, my teamwork around me, and that luxury to be truly aligned.
We know you have been through a lot and had little support, what have kept you going? What can you share about this what can our readers learn?
Dedication, Faith, resilience, love.
Holding to a clear vision, is what helped me going through so many deserts.
I would lie if I told you that I never doubt myself. Actually, I did doubt myself at every crossroad, at every decision. I did fall and fail many times. I couldn’t help thinking during my tough times : “What if I had stayed in my former job ? What if I had not left ?”. But everyday when I woke up, I was pushed by this inner force to make that extra tiny step ahead. I felt this undescribable sensation that I was doing what was the best for me. Along this path, fear and doubt never leave you, it is you, deciding to face them and leave them once for all. Being entrepreneur is a whole “letting go” process. You need to let some parts of you literally die, so that some new ones can be born. You don’t choose a project or to start a company, it is the project which chooses its owner, regarding one’s potential. Once you are chosen, the only option you have, is to say YES or NO to life, to change. I’ve always loved this phoenix metaphor, cause this is the most relevant to the entrepreneur’s journey.
My advice would be to think this experience in terms of marathon and not in terms of sprint. Detach yourself from competition to bring your focus on a true contribution to what arounds yourself. You will achieve whatever is in your heart and soul as long as you keep believing that in the end, love always wins. This world needs each of us, at our right place.
What are the steps you would have to go through when you want to launch your own brand? Do you have any tips?
We are many brands on the market, coming in this arena will not be easy, but here are the tips I could give:
- Ask yourself to go deep into your true purposes. This path will not be easy, so be sure that your project will be nurtured by inconditionnal love all along. You need to be madly in love with your brand, for a long run, regardless the external opinions or judgments.
- Get informed about the potential competitors. Make a market study to give you a clear vision on where your place could be.
- Regularly upgrade your skills and competences though online classes. Don’t take your knowledge for granted! You need to be on the watch and in a permanent evolution.
- Be prepared not to get paid during 2 or 3 years. Ensure yourself a minimum comfort so that you will be in some good conditions to give birth to your brand and make it grow.
- Don’t think too long before going on the market, test your products as soon as you can via the social networks, and readjust what needs to be.
- Go out and find people with whom you will be able to connect, meet, vibe and share!
- Don’t forget to fill this path with joy and entertainement. Smile, life is smiling to you right now!
When you suffer a setback, how does that emotionally affect you and your work?
The trap when leading our own company, is to get so involved that it erases all the barriers between private life and work. I used to identify who I was to the success of my company and this is what caused me so many damages in the past. The day I’ve realised that UMA OATH and I, were 2 different entities with their own personalities, I’ve started to detach myself from these heavy expectations I had on my brand. Once you detach yourself from the results, then you find back your full power to create from a pure impetus of love. A that precise moment, many doors have opened to my company. We are now mainly sold in New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Netherlands..
When I suffer a setback now, I just tell myself that after all, this company thing is just a game, the opportunity to learn and experience some new adventures. Everything is ephemeral, it can end tomorrow or the day after, it is not a problem as long as I fully live the moment. In the end, I know that Life will always supports me in fulfilling what is best for me. Many times, we focus so much on a result that we don’t see that we have some other options aside. I love saying “Life knows better!”… Behind every setback, there is an hidden present. The question is, would you be grateful enough to recognize and welcome it?
If you could go back by ten years, what would be some of the top tips you would give our audience
Wow ! Ten years ago, I was 23 years old… I would say… Keep this beginner mindset, always… Your humility, boldness, passion and curiosity will lead you to your right destination. We are used to thinking that we need to thrive and endure so much to succeed… so, this is what I did, but the price I paid was high. I could have avoided some damages if I had taken care of myself more. I wish you could find a balance in your work dedication, not to ever sacrifice yourself in the process of giving birth to whatever it can be. I would advice you to always put yourself first. I would advice you to replace this belief of “No pain, no gain”, with “With emotional intelligence, comes the greatest human’s achievements”. I would advice you to have fun, and find pleasure in your daily routine.
Share two advice for female entrepreneurs.
Women, this world need us to give birth to more light,
- Every woman has a masculine side and a feminine side. If you have found yourself better in one or another so far, you will need to get both balanced in the end. The feminine part of yourself will bring you deep intuitions, inspiration, awareness, and understanding. The masculine part of yourself will bring you logic, action, boldness and creation. When you get your inner masculine and feminine together, then you will be able to move mountains. Don’t look for some external supports, just make the strength and the flame of these two lovers rise inside of you, and extend their light outside.
- Believe in yourself. I know this is easy to say ! As women, we hold the history of all the past women in our DNA. For so long, women have been used as object, they were sold, raped, killed, underestimated. Things are changing right now. Even if so many inequalities continue, this world no longer belongs to Men only. We are in the middle of a beautiful revolution of mind. So many women dare now to stand up for their rights, everywhere in the world. Believe that your place is waiting for you to be taken. We are so strong and beautiful from our past injuries, we learnt how to recover, how to heal, how to stand, how to shine, generation after generation. Believe me… we have been through so many challenges along history, that we are now ready, that you are now ready. So stand up, and shine bright, cause we and the women after us deserve the very best.
What are you future goals?
Enjoying life ! Ahah ! And help people enjoying theirs ! Because, in the end, we only count our riches in terms of what we have been able to share. Or at least, this is what I truly believe in.
Thank you for reading me, wishing you the very best!