Fei Mancho: Style Enthusiast, Textile Designer, Tie Dye Chemist
If you are in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area, by now you have definitely heard of Fancy Muffin fashion design line. If you haven’t, today is your lucky day because we have everything you need to know. The brand was created and solely designed by Cameroonian, Fei Mancho. Even though the business is fresh, being that it was started in August 2013, it is vastly growing due to the unique style it has. Another thing that make the business great is the passion that Fei Mancho has for what she does. I went to high school with Fei, and always admired her fashion sense because she always did her own thing, unlike others who try to fit in. Check out my interview with her and support a fellow creative.
Can you please give a little background information about yourself?
Hiyeee, My name is Fei Mancho. 23 of years of age. I was born in Baltimore, MD but my parents are from Cameroon. Aye #237! (Barely home but always reppin) I’ve always been into being creative. Exercising and exploring the different avenues of self-expression through art is so important to me. I started my own clothing brand and launched my site in 2013 because I really wanted to share with others what made me happy. I went from selling tie dye shirts that I would make to selling repurposed vintage denim shorts. Now I am focusing on hand dyed garment that I make alongside working with African textiles to create beautiful clothing. I’ve been sewing now for two years, I wanted to expand my creative process and not limit myself to making tie dye t- shirts. I learned how to sew via YouTube videos and of A LOT of patience and consistency, haha.
Previous work of Fancy Muffin (Reworked denim shorts and tie dye crewneck sweater)
Describe your creative process.
My creative process consist of exercising my imagination. I get inspirations from anything and everything. Having an active imagination helps me come up with different concepts. I usually sketch out prints and designs, then I execute what I have on paper. In many cases, the execution leads to another direction I didn’t have planned which necessarily isn’t a bad thing. It’s good to experiment! With tie dye, there is always a sense of uncertainty with the end result. I honestly don’t know what I am going to get as a final result until I unravel the garment. I have an idea but with the mixing of different colors and the free flowing movement of liquid in the process, it’s always a surprise.
Where does your artistic influence come from?
My artistic influences stem from my African background. I believe that some things are birthed within you (God given and also passed on to you from Ancestors). I got my hardworking tendencies from my late grandmother. She was a strong willed woman who took care of her family and was very well known in the compound by others for her hard work. She also knew how to sew! I was given her birth name Fei, her strength is rooted in me. I am highly influenced by Africa as a whole because of how diverse and beautiful the continent is and how we the people still rise despite the many adversities. That alone inspires and motivates me to continue on a path that wouldn’t be possible without the people that came before me.
How do you describe your style?
My style is comfortable! It is also dependent on my mood. How I feel dictates how I dress. STYLE is fun! It is also a reflection of you evolving as an individual. As you change, so does your style. There is meaning and power that can be seen in people’s style because they can express themselves without saying anything, it’s a silent story, one that can provoke thought, inspiration, discussion and such.
How did you develop your interest in art design?
It’s an interest that has always been there. Looking back to when I was little, I always found a way to tie anything back to into fashion. I’ve always been a fan of clothes, fashion, style, the whole shebang. Staying true to the fact that I was interested in fashion design helped me dabble into things that involved perfecting my craft. Things like sewing, drawing, photography, designing, styling etc stemmed from my interest. I think I stuck with it over many years because it was something that always made me happy. Never your many sources of joy, within it, you can find your passion.
What is it like working for yourself now and who is your dream client?
Working for myself is cool. Fei is pretty easy going but super detail oriented haha. I believe in life, you are already equipped with the tools necessary for your current situation so you cannot be given more than you can bare. Your duty is then to make the most of every situation with what you have. For me, this is where hard work comes into play. The idea that the success of my business is dependent on the amount of work and time that I put in gives me the right amount of pressure to try harder in moments of wanting to get comfortable. I aim to be intentional in all that I do and remind myself to enjoy the journey. My dream client would be Solange. I love how authentic she is.
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
I love this question, because we tend to always talk about the moments of success but what about the pivoting moments that lead to success because as we all know it’s not a straight path. There will be many moments of self doubt-I still have them…Adversity will always be there. When those moments come crawling in, I make sure to focus on self-care, surrounding myself with those that make me happy and exercising my faith. Taking a step back and just being in the moment helps to slow things down. It helps you see your adversities as postponed blessings.
Tell me about a project you’ve completed that has made you the proudest?
I would have to say two projects. The first one would be the outfits I made for Afropunk Festival in New York. I was proud of that because those got so much attention. I did a good job of working with my clients to give them exactly what they want, and the pictures of them in the outfits got a lot of exposures. The second one would be this universe blue dress I did. It is currently on my website. The dress was the first material I made after a year of learning how to sew so I am really proud of the work I did. I saw the improvement in my work through this dress.
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
Letting my imagination run wild. So many possibilities when it comes to designing a garment, they really are endless. I love the control I have over my ideas. I love the flexibility to be able to make what I want, when I want. The connection that I make with others is also valuable. I meet people that appreciate what I do and like I am “I appreciate you”. The support is greatly appreciated, I truly cherish it. I am currently putting together sewing session for girls at the high school that I went too. I think sewing is skill everyone should have.
What favorite quote/mantra do you live by?
“In all things, give thanks.” Life throws so much at you and I’ve learned its not about waiting for things to better but rather in those moments of discouragement, to give thanks because the best is yet to come….it also ALWAYS could be worse!
How do you stay up to date regarding fashion?
I don’t think I intentional try to stay update but I like to peep what my style inspirations are wearing. I visit personal blogs and I am a fan of Instagram photos. You come across some really tight people doing their own thing. With fashion, I just like what I like. I am more drawn to the way that people dress and that inspires me.
How reasonable are the prices for your work?
I think they are very reasonable, but of course that is a subjective answer. I have learned to put value into my work because that also makes people value it. The pieces are all handmade in house by me! At the beginning of making stuff for others, I didn’t charge so much because I was still developing my craft and making a profit wasn’t really a part of my agenda. The price I charge also depends on the fabrics I use and how much labor is involved to make the item. I ask a lot of questions to make sure the product the person will get is what they want.
What are your plans for the future?
I will be releasing some new pieces for the Spring/Summer time, I am very excited about that. Make sure to follow @shopfancymuffin on ig to stay updated. I also recently made a personal blog (feimancho.com) if anyone is wondering about my life outside of Fancy Muffin, haha. Feel free to take a peep.
This interview was conducted by Vee Kromah for Onetribemag.