Essence alumni Moana Luu has launched ManLuu, a U.S.-based fashion and lifestyle brand showcasing interpretations of her Creole culture.
“I created ManLuu as a contemporary expression of Creole heritage,” explained Luu, who also serves as the global chief content officer of Essence Ventures. “Every piece has been lovingly crafted to be enduring, beautiful and infinitely wearable.”
Her debut collection begins with jewelry, handcrafted in New York and honoring the diverse cultural tapestry of the French West Indies.
“After experiencing COVID-19 and seeing the racial and political divide in the United States during the summer of 2020, I decided to refocus my energy on what I’m deeply passionate about,” the entrepreneur explained. “My Creole roots are my ‘difference,’ my pride and my power, and what shapes my understanding of the world. Being Caribbean, French, Indian and African is part of what makes me unique and open minded to other cultures,” she said.
ManLuu begins with three distinct jewelry offerings — The Cane collection, made up of bracelets, earrings, hoops and rings featuring a signature octagonal webbing inspired from tropical furniture, woven with brilliant threads echoing the natural lines of rattan; The Beads collection, inspired by memories of her grandmother’s “collier grain d’or,” a gold ball necklace with French roots, these pieces are symbols of pride and resilience, and the ML collection, a minimalist twist on both golden beads and octagonal forms.
The Creole origin story includes Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, African freedom fighters, Maroons, Indians and Europeans, and its jewelry tradition dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries. As Black people could not own property, families instead invested in jewelry, celebrating rites of passage such as births, baptisms, weddings and anniversaries with offerings of golden heirlooms that were passed down from generation to generation. “The stories of these Creole women and their necklaces are incredibly powerful,” Luu explained. “Their beaded necklaces in gold are a culmination of every important moment of their lives and built one bead at the time.”
Jewelry “was the natural answer,” Luu said frankly of her debut offering. Adding that a key moment of inspiration came from the discovery of a vintage Martinican postcard that showcased the traditional art of stacking jewelry in the 1900s. “I wanted to start ManLuu with a symbol of this pride, to create a collection of precious objects that would be timeless.”
Styles are created using a thick layer of 18-karat gold vermeil over a sterling silver base. “We chose the vermeil technique instead of a traditional plating to give our customers a premium product with excellent longevity,“ she said. Pieces range from $370 to $5,100 across all three lines and Luu is preparing a next phase in pure 18-karat gold with lab-grown diamonds for the 2021 holiday season
Jewelry is the beginning, but Luu is steadily building a Creole lifestyle brand, working on several next chapters, including a home decor line, limited edition photography, print art, a coffee table book and a resort clothing line.
She launched as a digitally native brand, selling on Manluu.com, but also has pieces on goop.com and in the Gwyneth Paltrow backed lifestyle brand’s Sag Harbor retail location. It is the first step of building a retail presence that she plans to grow in fall 2021.
“Frankly it was the right time to change, the right time to share this unique and rich story,” she said of her new creative venture. “Everyone uses the term Creole Hoops without realizing that the ‘Creole’ is from Creole culture. ManLuu is proof that the French West Indies and Creole culture are more than rum, sugar and beaches,” she said.