If you’ve dipped more than a toe into the world of burlesque, then chances are you’ve heard of the name Christina Manuge. Establishing her brand Manuge et Toi Design in 2008, not only is she Canada’s #1 Burlesque Costume Designer, but she’s also sat in the number one spot of 21st Century Burlesque’s Burlesque Top 50’s non-performing chart for a number of years. Creating unique, luxurious costumes for burlesque performers all over the world, her client list includes top names in the global burlesque community Roxi D’lite. Ginger Foxx, Havana Hurricane and Lou Lou La Duchesse de Rière.
Christina is one of the loveliest and most supportive humans I’ve had the pleasure of ‘e-meeting’ throughout my career as a burlesque photographer and I’m SO excited to be able to feature her the blog today, along with some of my favourite images I’ve taken of her work over the years…
Manuge Et Toi
Name: Christina Manuge
Occupation: Burlesque Costume Designer and Corsetière; owner of Manuge et Toi Design.
How would your best friend describe you? Hmmm… Well, I’m an introverted workaholic with resting bitch face! Charismatic when tipsy or on the internet! (Actually, I asked my two best friends, and they said: “Friendly, outgoing when she wants to be. Open to anything.” and “A creative mind, sitting behind a big smile while controlling the skilled hands of a natural craftsperson. She also makes the best damn Christmas cookies I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten plenty because Christina is also a generous person who’s good to her friends.”) I’m pretty sure that last part was a thinly veiled plea for me to put some cookies in the mail this year!
Name three things that you always carry with you? Literally: Vaseline lip balm, a mask (this year, anyway!), and keys or my phone. Figuratively: An open mind, a calm demeanour, and a love of good food.
What was the last book you read? First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson. It’s an excellent volume about living with extreme anxiety. I usually go for sci-fi/fantasy novels or classic literature, but this was a fascinating, insightful read.
Tell us a little about your Costume Design brand, Manuge Et Toi – how did you end up becoming the world’s premier Burlesque Costume Designer? I’ve always said that I fell ass-backwards into this business – and that’s 100% true. In fact, after 13 years, I still have never had anything you could call a business plan! I’ve flown more or less by the seat of my pants, in that regard. However, I am extremely well organized, honest, patient, creative, and attentive to detail. All of those characteristics have played an important role in building my rep. When it comes down to it, though, it’s my own high standards that have driven the quality of my work, and it’s the quality of my work that has driven my reputation.
Adding to that, I am fortunate to have had many people champion my work over the years: Starting from my very first customer, Coco Framboise, who encouraged me to actually make a career of it — to Roxi D’Lite, who ordered more costumes from me than any other living soul and sang my praises to anyone who asked — to Holli-Mae Johnson, editor of 21st Century Burlesque, who decided that costumers deserved their own bonus list back in 2013 — to every one of my customers and patrons who sing my praises online and off. Literally, everyone I have ever worked with has helped me get here. (Thank you, all! I appreciate you!)
Who would play you in a movie of your life? A complete unknown, probably. I’m someone who’s in the background: it would make sense to surround my character with well-known actors, rather than for me to be played by one. (Also, I have no idea!)
What’s the most interesting thing about you that the internet doesn’t know about you yet? That my partner is actually way cooler and more talented than I am! He’s a filmmaker, musician, graphic designer, conceptual genius… I could go on! One of our friends has taken to introducing me as the most interesting person in the room – and I’m 99% sure they say that ironically! (Some of Daniel’s work can be found here )
Tell us about the costume in your archives that you’re most proud of – why do you love it? This question reminds me of how people sometimes seem to think I likely have a collection of costumes and random pieces on hand… which, I gather, other designers have?? I genuinely have never had the opportunity to make a costume for fun/learning only! Manuge et Toi went full-tilt right from year one. Any free time I ever had, was spent hustling side gigs to make enough money to pay my rent (because like all beginner costumiers, I didn’t charge even remotely enough for my work!). Haha
Okay but actually, I will answer your question: My favourite costume has long been the Honey Bee Cowgirl for Kalani Kokonuts. The reason I’m so proud of this one – the reason I love it – is that it’s a theme that I normally would have tried to avoid. When Kalani initially pitched it to me, I was surprised. Then I thought “oh, I see – she’s testing me!” Haha, I don’t know if that was actually her intention, but I took it as a challenge. I’ve always been very proud that I was able to come up with such a unique version of the cowgirl theme, and I still think it’s among my strongest designs.
What song gets you on the dancefloor? I think you mean how many drinks?! I have genuinely no ability to keep a beat (hello arrhythmia!), so I usually only dance in my apartment!
What are you most proud of in your life so far? That I’ve been able to inspire and encourage so many people through my work and as a teacher/mentor.
If money was no limitation, what would be your ultimate dream for your brand? Honestly, I’m pretty much living my dream already! My schedule is equally divided between three branches of my business: Big, elaborate costumes (dreamy!), small, made to order burlesque bits (fun!) and sharing my skills through tutorials on Patreon (fulfilling!).
There is one more thing I want to do, though: I want to write at least one book. I want to leave behind something lasting and tangible; something that could help or inspire future generations of burlesque babes and their costumers. That’s my ultimate dream!
What will your autobiography be called? Obviously it would have to be “The Manuge Behind the Madness”
If you could design for any burlesque performer, which performer would it be and why? I don’t really care who, to be honest. If someone has an idea that sparks my imagination, I want to design for them!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about commissioning a bespoke burlesque costume of their own? Nothing will make a designer or seamstress work harder for you than knowing that you respect and appreciate them! Be kind, reasonable, communicative, and never make them chase you for payment.
What exciting project are you working on right now Three exciting projects, actually!
- I’m in the final production stages of a new costume collaboration with Miss Alyssa Kitt! It’s been in the works since long before the pandemic, of course, and we’ve been working on it slowly throughout the year. This is the most exciting stage, as I get to actually build and embellish the final pieces: All of a sudden, it goes from a concept to a full-fledged reality!
- I’m getting ready to launch a new online storefront (to be hosted at manugeettoi.com)! There will be a ‘soft open’ on New Year’s Day, followed by the grand opening on Manuge et Toi’s 13th anniversary, January 28, 2021. Follow me on Instagram for updates.
- I have several new made-to-order designs coming out! All will be revealed when the new shop opens, but if you want a sneak peek, you need only become my patron on Patreon (as early access to all new designs is a perk of patronage)!
Just invested in your very own bespoke costume? Book in with me right now to showcase it in all it’s glory – and if you’re an Equity member, you’ll get 10% off your booking! Drop me an email, I can’t wait to hear from you!