Paul Manza, Closets
Paul Manza

We first scouted Paul outside of a threeASFOUR fashion show a couple of years ago. As timing and synchronicity would have it, we ended up posting the designer trio's video within the same month/theme as this dressed-to-kill-in-comfort yogi. As his biblical-statement beard suggests, Paul is all about helping himself and others to abandon society's unconscious complaisance. Of his intentional farm, Heartland, in Upstate NY (which he created from an inherited family home that is straight from Norman Rockwell), Paul announces: "We don't know a lot things, but what we do know is: if you show up, you'll have a space to be honest, spontaneous and a mess."
A childhood of growing up in the same burbs that he now uses as a refuge (with its plethora of people "who seemed to be wanting different lives"), Paul champions getting away from life's prescriptions and other people's definition of you: "When I came into yoga and other forms of Eastern mysticism, I realized that the sole effort of these sciences is to ignite the spirit and consciousness and give it room to flourish." For Paul, what's important is all of the things that we’re not talking about: "our sexuality, our reproduction, our death, and our ability to love one another and to redesign the architecture of a life that has become mechanical."

Being a mother-daughter team, what floors us most about Paul is the brutally honest awakening that occurred while taking care of his mother during the final three months of her battle with pancreatic cancer. "I learned about her body and her breath and what it means to be a mother. The parent and child are one, and the moments after she left her body I felt that that kind of motherly love existed between every single person. I felt humanity in a way that I knew I had been turning away from." His mother asked him point-blank, "What do you know? You're this spiritual guy doing all these crazy things and what do you know?" The candid question was a smack in the face of the quintessential kind, one that wiped out what Paul refers to as his reckless, cocky, and indifferent experience with being a spiritual guide. Speaking of this most sacred of interactions made Paul, as he says, "Embarrassed that I could ignore people's souls. I’m actually lying to myself about love and freedom. I’ve developed my own tiny world that looks free from the outside, but it's really a product of denying the intimacy of my mother’s motherhood and not being a son to her."

Making preppie priestly, in a black Phillip Lim suit or a vintage madras ensemble, clothes are as conscious for Paul as motherhood, life, and death. He feels that they build bridges between people, as well as between one's own skin and the rest of the universe. This is most obvious in his decision to wear his mothers clothes after she passed. Her emphasis on linens and comfort lead him to embrace her sartorial expression and don garments that "didn't squeeze the waist and disrupt my internal system." The relaxed outlook gave birth to a spiritual, shabby chic that makes all else look like unappealing bondage-wear. But Paul is also equally in touch with the inherent ephemerality of clothes. "I beat the shit out of them. I have very few that are still wearable. So, in a way, I'm gradually living free from her."

It takes guts to navigate the delicate and messy demarcations between connection, dependence, independence, and autonomy. About his mother's death, Paul revealed, "I’ve been hoping that the experience would give me a concrete understanding of death. I hoped for a new solid ground, only to find out that that's the opposite of the process. The process is actually a disillusion of understanding and the recreation of experience."

xo,
Elisa & Lily

Paul's video was edited by Jeff Trezza 

Read our Q&A with Paul here.

 

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