On the High Line in New York City a few weekends ago, the designs of senior marketing major Fei Mancho were featured in the Fashion Envie's OXO Monochrome fashion show, put on by Beau Monde Society. Unintentionally guided by unassociated sidewalk art declaring "This Way to the Moon" and similar ambitions, New Yorkers found their way to the third floor of the Caelum Gallery space as the sun began to set in Chelsea.
Four brands sent their designs down the center of the white-walled space. Mancho's four initial tie-dyed looks were met with a crowd of affirming nods. By the end of the night, eight looks were featured between catwalks and staged platforms where models stood for the perfect photo opportunity.
It has only taken two years for Mancho's line, Fancy Muffin, to find its way into a New York fashion show. At the time of its launch, it was primarily T-shirts and distressed denim shorts. However, Mancho was not satisfied with limiting her line to these pieces.
She then enrolled in the THET284: Stage Costume Construction class at this university under the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, where she was able to expand her limited sewing skills. Taking this class transformed her definition of designing.
"[Before] I would sketch and stuff but not actually design like I do now, because now I have something that I can actually make," Mancho said. "Before I was just sketching stuff that I knew I couldn't make."
She was then able to translate her knowledge of costume making into her own brand.
"This was my first clothing line where I was able to use my exact creative vision for clothing and have it come to life," Mancho said.
Her new line now features pieces such as pleated shorts, long-line vests and the ever-popular Moon dress, deemed as such by Mancho's close friends. The sunshine yellows and celestial blues of her hand-dyed pieces were inspired by the universe, Mancho said.
Every piece of fabric used in the construction of the brand is hand-dyed by Mancho.
"Even if it's just one color that I'm dyeing, it's the process to me that means a lot," Mancho said. "Because I can just go out to Jo-Ann's [fabric and craft store] and get a fabric that color, but I just prefer to hand-dye it myself. It's more intimate."
Mancho holds handmade artifacts in high respect.
"As humans, we have the ability to do a lot," Mancho said. "So I appreciate when we use our energy and our talents to do stuff rather than thinking a robot can do it, or a manufacturer can do it."
She said her connection to hand-dyed pieces stems from her home country of Cameroon in Central Africa, where vibrant colors and patterns similar to those in Mancho's designs are common. She said her love of tie-dye is "something that I've inherited from my ancestors."
Now on the cusp of graduation, Mancho is readily preparing the launch of her latest designs. Fancymuffin.com, where her items can be purchased, is currently under construction as she waits to photograph her label's lookbook featuring the new designs this summer with Ornelle Chimi, a freshman enrolled in letters and sciences and Diamondback staff photographer.
Whether it is being shown in a New York City arts district or being sewn in a university class, Fancy Muffin will continue to change the way the fashion world sees tie-dye.