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‘Lost in Las Vegas’: Designer Ermelinda Manos has a beautiful, deeply personal story to share

Local Designer Ermelinda Manos

L.E. Baskow

Local designer Ermelinda Manos arrives for a combo fashion show and book release for her “Lost in Las Vegas” art book, fashion diary and history of Las Vegas in one publication at the Metropolitan Gallery on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016.

Local Designer Ermelinda Manos

Models line up as local designer Ermelinda Manos presents a combo fashion show and book release for her Launch slideshow »

BUY THE BOOK

• “Lost in Las Vegas,” by Ermelinda Manos

• $39.98 at lostinlasvegasbook.com

• Avoid shipping costs by ordering from [email protected] and picking up from Manos’ showroom, 3610 S. Highland Drive, Suite 1, Las Vegas

Have you ever harbored a secret struggle so deeply and so quietly that your friends had no idea you were even in pain?

Clothing designer and author Ermelinda Manos recently unveiled her coffee-table book, “Lost in Las Vegas,” at the Metropolitan Gallery Art Museum downtown. With sumptuous photography by Anthony Mair and a team of artists she calls friends, Manos showcases her mother’s vintage jewels and her gorgeous fashion designs while sharing history and fun stories about her hometown.

But this shining work isn’t all glitz and glamour: It reflects her constant struggle with immigration to the United States.

“I did this mainly to share encouragement, and to share that with dedication and patience, you can make anything happen,” Manos said at her Dec. 7 fashion show and book party. Through tears, she added: “This is not just a fashion show. I’m sharing my private story that I actually kept somewhat of a secret for so many years ... about my battle with immigration since Day One when I came into this country.” She said she dedicated her book to young immigrants who, like herself, aren’t yet citizens.

Born in southern Albania and raised in Greece, Manos moved to Las Vegas at age 12. She studied fine arts and fashion design as well as philosophy, and launched her women’s eveningwear line Ermelinda Manos Designs at L.A. Fashion Week (and in 2009 was named the most anticipated new designer). Honing her skills in the fashion industry, she worked as a dresser to fashion stylists on shows for everybody in the business, including Macy’s and Nordstrom’s, Giorgio Armani and Chanel.

Manos founded EM Creative Group to help facilitate manufacturing in Southern Nevada and provide styling, textiles, design and publication resources. It was natural that she self-publish “Lost in Las Vegas” — part fashion diary, part art piece and part Las Vegas history book.

“The purpose of my book was to document my designs throughout the years and capture them through my hometown,” she said. “We have so much culture and beauty in Las Vegas, and I just wanted to touch on that. … I also wanted to write this book for anybody dealing with loss in their lives, feeling down, discouraged or up against an obstacle.”

Your work includes fashion design and textiles. When did the idea for a fashion book come along?

I wanted to create something with my designs — in the city that I grew up in, that’s my home — to raise awareness, and to leave something behind whether I stay in Las Vegas or I have to depart. I’m in the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program; it’s a bill for young immigrants who were brought here by their parents before the age of 16, to help them with the path to citizenship and exemption from deportation. I fall into that category, and I’m still in the process of resolving my case.

What is the most important message this work has to offer?

Being a young immigrant, I always wondered if there were any other people out there like me going through it. My motive behind the book is to help others who felt like me … so we can all unite. And not just immigrants — anyone who ever feels lost or discouraged. I just wanted to be a connection.

You describe your book as part art gallery, part fashion diary and part Las Vegas history. How did you go about assembling the right team to help you tell this story?

Growing up in this city, we all know each other anyway, so it’s mainly my friends and people who have been with me from day one. The whole team is people who have always worked with me, and always supported me, and supported my vision.

The heroine, modeled by Alicia Hall, is based on your own experiences. Can you give us a peek into what she discovers?

I left the journey of the book open so people can make it their own story, and relatable to themselves. Toward the end ... we don’t actually learn if she’s leaving or staying. And the reason I made that was because I feel like my friends and people I know locally always have this urge to leave the city, but some can never make it out … and some always come back.

Which location was your favorite? Which outfit?

All of them actually are my favorite because they all have different history, and I fell in love with each and every part of Las Vegas history. I touch on the parts of Las Vegas that related to me the most, which I thought were cool things to know. My favorite look tonight is on the model from the book, Alicia Hall. She’s a Victoria’s Secret model, so we tried to style her Victoria’s Secret-esque. But really, all the looks are my favorite, because they’re all from different seasons of collections of my designs.

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