“There’s so many people to please on a set. I help to build that bridge”; Emmanuelle Loca for Footpatrol, Gauchoworld and Jordan.

For Jordan’s ‘Black Future Season’, Footpatrol, Jordan and Gauchoworld have teamed up to tell the stories of four Black individuals from the world of music, fashion, art and food. Our penultimate feature is Emmanuelle Loca, who’s traversed through London’s creative industry, unapologetically pursuing her interests. We caught up with Manu to discuss her creative journey that’s taken her to a multitude of places: Martinique, Ghana and everywhere in between.

Meet Emmanuelle Loca, or Manu as she usually goes by, who’s navigating the creative industry as she sees fit.  A multi-hyphenate director — creative, art, film, movement — her journey is one of exploration, self discovery and building connections, leading her to be a valuable contributor to increasing the profile of women within movement direction in fashion.

Falling into the industry through a behind-the-camera stint that surprisingly began before her modelling days she’s known for, Manu began assisting her best friend’s mother, an art director. Due to her lifelong interest in cinema and art direction in general, she felt at home on sets, and whilst she was still trying to figure out what aspects of the job she loved, she knew this was the space she belonged in. Till this day, it’s formed a unique role that is all-encompassing of her interests. “I’ve never liked being in a box. If I like something, I’ll try it and see where it leads me,” says Manu.

Constant trial, that Manu sometimes admits sometimes ends in error (but more importantly learning), led her to a shoot that made her consider another angle to her creative pursuits — the one she is currently flourishing in. “I’m very big on being inspired by my homies. There’s not one friend I have that doesn’t inspire me,” says Manu. After being invited down to offer her expertise on a shoot, she met movement director Yagamoto. They worked together closely, agreeing they should work together again in the near future. And so they did, collaborating on many shoots, creating opportunities for her to be seen as a capable solo movement director, too.

When working with the likes of the established Yagamoto, she’s aware she’s overlooked as a woman working behind the scenes of the fashion industry — it’s still a battle she occasionally has to fight. Rather than dwell on the negative, Manu approaches the situation positively, surrounding herself with those who share a mutual understanding with her. “I just make sure I build relationships with people who value the work and value my work,” says Manu.

And she’s not short of respectful collaborators. For every director that’s overlooked her, there’s a director like Gabriel Moses, who places utmost trust in her wealth of both research and experience. For every “what even is your role” comment, there’s a “Manu, you do you” that pushes her to continue being her most authentic self on every set. Naturally a more reserved character, she’s also continually challenging herself to project and ensure her voice is heard. “The more jobs I do, the more people and sets I experience, I’m getting better at it,” says Manu.

In addition to ensuring her voice is heard, she feels a massive part of her role is to empower models, as she’s “been there” herself, so she knows “how they feel”. An unquestionably empathetic being, Manu believes part of her job is to give models licence to express themselves, the same way a set designer, a stylist, a director is encouraged to. “It’s about giving models freedom, allowing them to be more than just a mannequin,” says Manu, which is something that translates into the way she works with the less traditional ‘model’, giving anybody who finds themselves in front of the camera the freedom to be fearless when they step into the limelight. 

Especially apparent on one of her favourite projects to date, she was the movement director behind Gabriel Moses’ shoot featuring black cowboys. Her fascination with black cowboys was complemented by her background in visual research and cinema. Due to there being a multitude of live reptiles on set, they [the cowboys] hadn’t seen them before so were a little tentative. So, as Manu always does, she took the cowboys to the side, had a general conversation and placed the reptiles on herself to make them comfortable around the animals. By the end of the day they were not only enjoying themselves on set, but they also “wouldn’t leave the reptiles alone,” says Manu. “Movement works in the same way, you’re easing into someone’s character. It’s important to challenge them but make them comfortable in what they’re doing.”

Manu is excited for her future within the world of movement, but never will put her first love, cinema, completely on the back burner. As such a humble character, who is able to amalgamate disparate ideas from all the different individuals on set, she describes her wider role as more than what can be defined by a job title: “There’s so many people to please on a set. As a movement director, I help to build that bridge.”

That bridge is ever expanding, we’re excited to see the forthcoming projects Manu will share, one of which includes a self-directed film.

Photography – @armand.dasilva

Printing – @rhysbawilliams

Words – @igweldn

Editor – @elliefmuir

Styling – @rachel.parisa 

Design – @andycarnegiebrown

Production – @pifivy

Hair & Make Up – @anushasolanki 

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