Winnipeg-based graphic designer and content creator Manny Martins-Karman (who has more than 41K followers on TikTok, where she shares daily fashion inspo) believes in the mood-boosting power of bright colours—and of wearing whatever the hell you want. “This outfit makes me feel on top of the world,” she says of her zesty take on the classic jeans-and-blazer combo. The thrifted jeans—upcycled with layers of paint and adorned with delicate butterflies—are a crowd-pleaser, garnering compliments and spreading joy wherever she goes. “So many people my age think that they should follow some arbitrary rules about what is appropriate to wear,” says the 58-year-old. “But this is my time to shine, and I’m gonna live out loud and proud.”
Here, she shares her approach to colour, second-hand clothing and finding her style later in life.
How would you describe your style?
The term dopamine dressing [to describe happy, colourful clothes] came about just recently, but when I heard it for the first time, I immediately thought ‘yes, that’s exactly what it is!’
Spreading joy is why I dress the way I do. Dopamine dressing is not just about impacting your mood, but the mood of those of you around you, too. I went to the grocery store the other day and the cashier came out from behind the counter and said ‘I just have to tell you, you look so great and it’s making me smile.’ And that’s exactly what I want to do with my clothes. Being able to bring a smile to somebody’s face—how powerful is that?
Part of my aesthetic is also working with contrast. For me, mixing edgy, feminine and masculine elements together is what gives an outfit its personality and makes it unique.
What is your process when picking an outfit?
When I get dressed in the morning, I either dress for the mood I’m already in or the mood I want to be in. So if I wake up feeling super energetic, I will dress to reflect that. But if I’m feeling low, I will put something on that will make me feel better, like vibrant colours and bold patterns.
Why do you think your style resonates with your social media followers?
I lost touch with fashion when I became a mom and only recently rediscovered my love for it. Through the pandemic, I explored fashion as a means of self-expression and started to put together outfits that brought me joy. I was really just looking to make myself and those around me feel better, and I think that’s why my TikTok page took off—a lot of people needed that. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Fashion is not just about clothes—it’s a form of expression. It says a lot about who you are. If you walk into a room in a pink suit, people are going to turn around and think ‘I want to get to know that person.’ I want to inspire others to follow their heart when it comes to style. So many people my age think that they should follow some arbitrary rules about what is appropriate to wear. But this is my time to shine, and I’m gonna live out loud and proud.
You’re a graphic designer by trade. How does it play into your personal style?
I’ve always had a creative side. I need to express myself through different means, whether that be painting or design or fashion. Because of my work as a graphic designer, I have a good eye and a deep understanding of colour theory. Instead of just putting it down on paper, I started applying it to my clothes. I like using contrasting colors and patterns that speak to each other, and that understanding comes from my design work, but it’s a skill that I only learned later in life could be applied to fashion.
You love to thrift and upcycle your clothes. What draws you to second-hand clothing?
Growing up, I was inspired by what I saw in fashion magazines. I was young and not making much money, so I started thrifting and taught myself how to sew. Once I started making my own outfits, I had so much more freedom and I could explore fashion outside of what was available in my small city.
I have this instinct to make stuff. I love clothes, but I think that we need to try to slow down and reuse stuff, reinvent it. There’s a thrill to finding a second-hand piece and doing something completely different with it.
Every year, I do an art series or a painting series on denim. In the past, I’ve done it with bleach, but this year I took colour to it. The jeans I’m wearing in the photo are from the men’s section at Value Village. I took my painting style—which is abstract and colourful—and I applied that to the jeans.
I also love jewellery, so often I’ll buy a piece, take it apart and put it back together in a new way or wear it in a different way than was intended. I like to ask, “What else can it be?”