From fashion designer with her own successful label to brand strategist with a leading creative agency and now part-time law student, Natashya Manfield has always loved a challenge. And as I recently discovered, this creative powerhouse is only just beginning.
Natashya Manfield was always destined to stand out from the crowd. Blessed with a great imagination from a very early age, the eldest of five children was raised to dream big and challenge the status quo.
“I grew up in a large family in the country, so we had to make our own fun,” says Natashya.
“There was a lot of storytelling and make-believe, being the eldest I was often responsible for setting the narrative. We were always nurtured to break down boundaries and follow our dreams, it was a great way to grow up.”
Having always had a unique and somewhat eclectic flair for fashion and a keen eye for style, Natashya spent her youth working alongside her mum, Kim, at her fashion boutique, becoming involved with everything from the visual merchandising to the buying. It’s not surprising really, you could say fashion is in Natashya’s DNA, her grandmother was also a talented dressmaker.
But despite her background, Natashya, also a gifted academic, hadn’t always set her sights on studying fashion, in fact she had her mind set on law.
“I was never really creative at school to be honest, I was more academic but then the 17-year-old me wanted to mix it up and express myself and I applied for a fashion course which I was completely unprepared for.
“I had never sewn a garment in my life. Perhaps it was my teenage rebellion to do the unexpected, but I absolutely loved it.”
Armed with a double degree in fine arts majoring in fashion and business majoring in advertising, Natashya worked for various department stores, designers and boutiques after graduating, until she decided to open her own business, and bespoke fashion boutique Miss Manfield at Mooloolaba opened its doors in 2011 in partnership with her mum.
In what was a milestone year for Natashya, she was also chosen as a contestant on Project Runway from thousands of designers after a rigorous application process. It was a baptism of fire for the then 24-year-old.
“I think my skin thickened in my early 20s. I feel like I’ve lived five years for each actual year. There isn’t much anyone could say that would really offend me. Running a business and being on a reality TV show was pretty full on, but in hindsight it was really good for me to be able to learn how to take criticism early on in my career.”
But while others may have been content with such success at an early age and happy to follow one career path, Tarsh (as she is affectionately known) was already on the lookout for her next big challenge.
“Working on my own label felt very self indulgent and I wanted to take what I had learnt and apply it to other businesses. I had a sense of urgency I guess, to validate my skills.”
As fate and timing would have it, Tarsh was introduced to What The Fox Creative, a rapidly growing Sunshine Coast creative agency known for thinking outside the square, and within months was sharing her flair and knowledge to help clients grow their brands. It was a match made in heaven.
“What the Fox could see what I had done with my own brand, how much I valued having a consistent brand voice and being able to visualise the emotive side of my brand message through online and offline touchpoints.
“I now work with companies of all sizes to generate ideas to nurture their relationships with their customers,” she says.
“We are a collaborative team, and I know people use that like a buzz word, but our CEO Nita Childs actually employs each fox in the den for their unique brain. Everyone brings something different to the team. When a client walks through our door they are not just getting one person for one hour they are getting 10 to 15 experts working on their project. My role as a strategist is to bring each of the experts together to deliver a customised solution that will achieve our client’s goals.
“There are different specialisations in a technical sense, we have foxes coming up with social media and digital content ideas, those who are focused on website user experience, those designing physical brand collateral and those working on the marketing message and advertising or activity. When we all work together it’s incredible what can happen.”
Business is so competitive, you must be doing something different and interesting or you simply won’t survive.”
When it comes to inspiration, Tarsh says she has always been naturally curious, which helps her enormously when thinking from a client’s point of view.
“I am always observing. As a consumer, I am always analysing the experience so when I go to a restaurant I am hyper aware of what the atmosphere is like, what the menu font is like, what the receipt is like, all of those touch points are really important to me.
“Business is so competitive, you must be doing something different and interesting or you simply won’t survive.”
And just when you think this chameleon may have stopped changing colours, she throws a law degree into the mix. Told you she loves a challenge!
“It has been a busy year. Balancing studying law with a business that is growing at an incredible pace is a juggle, but it’s incredibly exciting. I love it. I thrive on it,” she says.
“If I am ever feeling overwhelmed I just remember what Mum always said to me, “just do one thing at a time and the next step will appear, just trust that ‘future Tarsh’ will have it sorted.”
Speaking of which, where will Tarsh be in 10 years I ask?
“Ten years used to be this huge milestone but I don’t want to decide yet. Tarsh in 10 years’ time will have a greater depth of wisdom and a much better answer to that question.
“People have asked me why law? Are you not a fashion designer? It could be perceived as a big shift but I don’t see it that way, it seems like a natural progression to me.
“Any gap I have in my knowledge is being filled in law which will only help our clients.”
We can’t wait to see what you do next Tarsh. Watch this space.