The Interview Series | Designer Bowie Rae

Updated: Aug 9, 2019



Manal Waugh, the designer and owner of Bowie Rae recently spoke to The Anti-Bride about what motivates and inspires her and whats next on the cards for her label Bowie Rae, which launched in February this year.

Bowie Rae is available to purchase online and Mannie has showroom days every month where brides can book in to view and try on the 'Her' collection in Sydney. Mannie will also be in Perth this weekend, for any WA brides wanting to view the debut collection. Make sure to keep an eye for any further trunk shows and Sydney showroom dates.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I have always loved fashion and designing. I practically grew up designing with my sister. She went into fashion design, I went into teaching! I loved teaching, and got a lot out of those 10 years, but I was always itching at the seams to get back into my creative hub. Bowie Rae was born because everything else was just so very bridal and repetitive. The way of alt-bridal has really come a long way and I’m really honoured to be a part of that world, bringing the fashion runway to the aisle.

How long have you been at the helm of your business for?

Bowie Rae was born five years ago but I have only launched my debut collection in February this year. It’s been an incredibly long and in many ways, life-changing journey but I’m glad it took as long as it did.

What is your advice to couples getting married?

It’s a big day, no doubt about it, but it’s a bigger life that you guys are signing up for. I think it’s important for couples to really take in what they’re pledging to one another and make their wedding day a celebration of that. Keeping it about them and their love-story rather than signing up for what an industry has told us we need to include in the celebration.

What do you wish you had known when you got married?

I’ve never really been a romantic, I kind of always knew that marriage was a hard gig - my husband on the other hand was and still is a hopeless romantic. I always said you had to be a fool to be in love while he said you had to have honour to be in love. So we ended up compromising and called ourselves the Honourable Fools. That kind of sums up marriage for me; everything you ever knew before marriage will be changed.

What is your favourite gown and why?

This is like choosing a favourite child. I love them all for very different reasons but the most sentimental one is definitely The Bombo. I had that skirt designed in my mind for decades and copped a fair bit of heat over that skirt. In the end, it was all very serendipitous that it ended up in the collection. I only took it to the shoot for fun, it was never part of ‘Her’ collection because I stupidly listened to others and had chickened out. But I wanted to shoot it in the campaign, as soon as Rebecca Burrow put it on, everybody lost their minds and we all knew it had to make the collection. I am always so emotional when somebody chooses The Bombo, because it reinforces that brides come in all types – for everyone who said “no bride would ever wear that”, I can now say, “they certainly will”!

What inspires you?

Fashion, art and lifestyle. I have always loved the runway and watching the reinvention of the old, which is why I have one major rule when it comes to fashion, ignore the trends. I’m a lover of all things classic and simple; a ‘great pair of jeans and tee girl’ through and through. For me cut, fit and fabric are the most important things; the devil and the fun is all in the details. The inspiration for me is what happens when I am designing and how it all fuses together; music, art, the landscape – it all finds itself in the design and even if I’m the only person in the world who knows it and can see it, that’s important to me.

What is next on the cards for your business?

Just to keep designing what I love. I’m not designing with an intent to shake things up and be different, I just love designing without any rules or parameters- Just designing without the word Bridal hanging over my head like some ‘paint by numbers’ guide. Her was a collection very close to my heart but it was also the most tame. I can’t wait to bring all of my other designs to life and hopefully, they will all be received as well as ‘Her’. It’s easy to create something unique when it comes from within because you are directed by your own muses. I mean, all art is borrowed from someone or somewhere else but it’s never the same in the end.

Do you have kids? If so, how do you balance work/mum or dad life?

Yes, I have two kids and there is no balance with that haha. I took on Bowie Rae as my own company when I first fell pregnant with my second child, and launched my first collection when he was three months – so it was a crazy nine months of prep! I’d be lying if I said I had any balance at all. It’s been a tough ride but I’m not alone. So many other companies have reached out to help because they also started on the cusp of motherhood, so they got it. It’s hard to explain mother’s guilt to anyone who isn’t a mum, but my whole first year was riddled with it (and it’s still going). Anytime I was working on Bowie Rae I felt I was neglecting them, and anytime I wasn’t working I felt the load piling on. So I guess it’s a lot less of a balancing act then an organising act – I live by to-do-lists, calendar dates, hand written notes backed up by phone reminders, and so on. I just keep shifting between the two lives; my mum life and Bowie life and as hard as it is having both, I couldn’t do either gig as well without the other. I’m a better businesswoman because I’m a mum and I think having this passion that I could delve into has made me a better mother.

What has been the hardest thing about starting your business?

Timing. It would have all been easier if it were just me to look after- doing the mum and business thing is definitely the hardest thing because a 5 minute job becomes incremented and takes 5 days in the end. I’ve ended up having to run my company in the fringes of the days – between sleeps and the evenings.. What I would give for an uninterrupted full day’s work! Haha but that’s the irony, having kids makes you so much more efficient – so what I can do now in one hour of free time I could have done in one day pre-babies so it kind of evens out.

What has been the most rewarding?

Seeing everything come to life! There were so many reasons not to do this and to put Bowie Rae aside for ‘later’ or in the ‘I wish I could have done this’ basket. So much had gone into it and so many people had put themselves on the line for me so that I could have a shot at this and so the most rewarding thing for me is doing it – watching it become as I had intended. I didn’t quit or remodel it to make things easier to digest or fit in. Bowie Rae remained as it was meant to and has been received so well by so many people. There is nothing more rewarding to me than that.


Images by Matt Godkin (first image) and Megan Kelly (above).

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