Manuel Bravo found a love for suits when he was only 17. He had a penchant for colours, prints, patterns and textures and soon after a trip to India, one of the most colourful countries, he knew fashion was something he wanted to explore.

Although he schooled in Britain, Manuel has always kept his close ties with his Angolan background, especially with the expressions of his designs. According to him:

I’ve always been passionate about exploring how fashion can be tailored to allow self-expression for people of Afro-descendent.

For this week’s Millennial Designer Spotlight BellaNaija Style‘s Mary Edoro talks with Manuel Bravo about his brand and personal style.

Favourite part of being a fashion designer
Creating! Yes, the pressure to exceed my own expectations can make me anxious at times, but that feeling of just being in my creative ‘zone’ is one of the best parts of it all. Being able to bring together different things that inspire me and channel that into my clothing is what this is all about.

Well starting your own business can be hectic, especially when the end product is a reflection of your own creativity as an artist. But I know this is still really early days for me, so I guess I’ll wait and see how I grow in this work. I did burn one of the suits with an iron during my first shoot. Disaster. Luckily we were all done with the campaign.

The ideal Bravo Atelier Individual
My art and designs are a reflection of my own identity; it’s complex and layered. In a sense, I’ve always been passionate about exploring how fashion can be tailored to allow self-expression for people of Afro-descendent. Of course, my brand is actively seeking inclusion and accessibility for everyone. But particularly, my goal is to bring in aspects of dandyism and sapeurism, which speaks to my own heritage. I guess what I am trying to say is that the ideal Bravo Atelier man or woman is anyone who appreciates and can connect with the concept of my brand.

Bravo Atelier SS18 lookbook

Plus-size inclusivity in fashion
I wouldn’t ever want to categorize Bravo Atelier or limit who can wear my clothing. People should never have to shop at select stores and be excluded from fashion, nor should your body type determine what clothes you’re allowed to wear. This is why we have the option of custom-sizing for most of our items– because standardized sizing can create issues for inclusivity.

The dominant popularized beauty standards are disturbingly detrimental. ‘Petite’, ‘Plus-Size’ and whatever else. I design my clothes for women and will always do my best to manage my sizing for whoever wants to wear.

Inspiration behind designs
I find inspiration in such a wide range of things whether its architecture or a historical era. Often it’s film, music or other mediums of art but sometimes anything from a memory can trigger me into a certain direction… when feeling nostalgic.

I think I was specifically inspired by women when working on my latest collection; women I have close relationships with any woman that I hope to someday meet. I was also adjusting to having just moved to India and had Hiatus Kaiyote on repeat when working, Nia Palm’s voice is incredible. Solange in all her glory would also always get me in a creative zone.

Favourite Piece 
Well,  ‘Artisan dreamer’ is actually my first collection. The brocade bomber jackets are definitely my favourite pieces.

Not at all to be honest when I’m working on my own collection. I feel like whether I’m conscious of it at the time or not, it can stray me from wherever my vision/intuition is taking me. With so much research and keeping up with trends of whatever is influencing the industry at the time your thoughts can become anodyne.

Personal Style
It really depends how I’m feeling at the time. I’m a sucker for a suit but also have a collection of ponchos. Either one can make an appearance at any time.

Top Style Icons
Jorja Smith
Russell Westbrook
Emily Ratajkowski
Neveen, she was my best mate’s girlfriend. Always effortlessly yet impeccably dressed.

Most memorable fashion moment
My first photoshoot for the men’s collection. We headed North towards Tibet and stopped in Ladahk for a photoshoot. The altitude coursed us off guard and we all had to get oxygen masks. The model was sick during the shoot, poor guy. He did pull through and the shoot was excellent.

Go-to style uniform
Simple. Black Jeans.

Hmm, it depends how stressed. Anywhere I can be alone for awhile, It’s the only real time I can think and really take things in but usually, a glass of Bordeaux does the trick.

Guilty pleasures
I love cooking with honey, I’m happy to put it on just about anything
Really need to stop eating butter
Mc Flurry’s
A good old horoscope

Read more inspiring interviews with other young African designers on the Millennial Designer Spotlight.