The ‘IRIS COVER STORY – MANUEL ALBARRAN’ is one of our online ISSUE segments, head to ‘THE IRIS ISSUE’ for the complete editorial and set of images.

The IRIS ISSUE Cover Story delivers a visual feast. In our exploration into what the world truly is and what it looks like, one is faced with ever more pieces of information. Some harmonious, some contrasting and some confusing. For what one sees might not be the truth. But then again, whose vision of the world can be seen as the truth? LOAD welcomes our reader to examine all angles. Could you tell with absolute certainty which one the truest one is? Perception is the key. An array of opinion in the end shapes what the general consensus agrees to accept as our world order.

LOAD is honoured to feature the metal couturier Manuel Albarran in this ISSUE’s cover story, spotlighting his pieces. Reimagining the use of metal from a stiff and construction material into a sculptural high fashion design, epitomises the meaning of IRIS as the difference in view and perception on can have to the rest. Celebrities like Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Madonna and many others have worn his designs.


The phenomenal Mackenzie Krueger styled and created the VFX for this story, photography by Michael Carbone with Syan Wombwell being in frame, grooming by Shamis McGillan. Assisting was Vile Sanchez with lighting assistance by Ricardo Lara and lastly the project was photographed at WLab.

Manuel gave an exclusive interview to LOAD Magazine below.

The Concept

A debate of reality and perception begins. The IRIS Cover Story uses the juxtaposition of reality and imagination. Inspired by optical illusions this spread looks to confuse and trip while pushing readers to determine what they deem is the real picture, or is it? This visual game brings this season’s theme to life. Intense patterns, unique colours and metal pieces melt the realms of fashion and fantasy. The model-avatar furthers the illusion of what is the true natural form. This story of visual exploration takes on the narrative of a resilient explorer in the endless possibilities of what our reality could be. The armour-like pieces representin the protection yet reflection we need and feel in this universe.

A few words from Mackenzie Krueger meeting Manuel Albarran …

“In the summer of 2022, by a stroke of good fortune, I met Manuel Albarran, the Spanish metal couture designer, through my partner, Vile. We shared a meal at one of our chosen Vietnamese restaurants in Manhattan. I’ve come to trust Vile’s introductions, often leading to encounters that remind one why they had gotten out of bed in the first place. Once again, Vile was not wrong. In Manuel’s company, my understanding of the world expanded.

Manuel’s creations are beyond description; they’re not only mesmerizing; they’re an immersion into the inimitable parameters of the human imagination. To see them in person is what I imagine watching the first film must have been like. Where a speeding train hurled through the screen: The crowd, to avoid being “hit”, proceeded to lunge out of the way.


In that way, Manuel’s work transports you to that state of liminal magic you experience only as a child, and seldomly as an adult. Where the vehement electricity of new experiences is almost debilitating.

And in that way: Manuel is an alchemical magician.

Meeting Manuel, I felt an immediate connection. Like others when we find ourselves in such a place, I found shards of myself in his words.

My typical quest to analyze, and reverse engineer anything unknown was abandoned. For this, I am grateful Manuel allows us to live perpetually in this state. When asked by people how he goes about making his pieces, Manuel replies simply “by hand.”

“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment.”

When asked to create something for this magazine’s issue, I felt it imperative to highlight Manuel’s work. As well as to share his greatest gift: in allowing us to see not how the world has been, but can be.

And so, I’m pleased to offer below a transcript of my correspondence with Manuel:

Introduce yourself( I can pull something from your biography on your website if you’d like for this)

better by my biography

“Manuel Albarran is an artist, an expert in metal couture, corsetry, leather and many other disciplines. Manuel’s creative genius knows no boundaries.He is a master craftsman with a unique vision. Manuel’s highly conceptual creations / designs have led to him to work within the worlds of fashion, advertising and editorial; Isabella Blow, Nick Knight, Nicola Formichetti, Georgia May Jagger, Janet Jackson, Lil Nas X, Rosalia, Arca, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Cara Delevingne, ID, Dazed and Confused, Vogue and many more… Campaigns include those from Givenchy and Lavazza to his creating costumes for movies, video clips and elaborate stage shows & designing custom pieces for international artists like Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, Madonna… to name but a few. Manuel Albarran is… Metal Couture.”

The Interview

How did you decide on the unexpected choice of metal as your material/medium to your designs?

I started experimenting and working with metal that could be adapted to fashion costumes in the middle of the 90s. At that time, I was using pre-existing pieces of metal. From a hardware store, metal trimmings, and any other pieces that I liked. I would join all of them together, creating something very interesting – something very alien. At that time, this was my main inspiration. In the beginning of this century, I started to make my own metal pieces, and began to be more interested in this direction: metal couture. The avant-garde of armour.

– What is Metal Couture?

“La “metal couture”, una disciplina dentro de la moda que podría definirse como aquellos accesorios en moda hechos de metal. La “metal couture” también llamada “objeto de arte ponible” se caracteriza porque las piezas son mas grandes y prominentes que las de la joyería, no suelen ser funcionales, aunque suelen tener un gran impacto visual. Estas piezas, al poder cubrir cualquier parte del cuerpo con metal, más allá de tratarse de piezas de vestuario convierten el cuerpo en una escultura.”

“Metal couture”, a discipline within fashion that could be defined as those accessories that are made of Metal. The term “metal couture” also called ” wearable art” is characterised by the pieces being larger and more prominent than those of jewellery. They are not usually functional, although they usually have a great visual impact. These pieces, being able to cover any part of the body with metal – beyond being costume pieces – turn the body into a sculpture.

-What’s the process and inspiration when creating a piece?

“Siempre es diferente , cuando es un proyecto personal , no tengo disciplina , voy desarroyando y probando diferentes piezas y formas  hasta que doy con lo que realmente me deslumbra, si es un custom , en base al concepto y referencias, voy desarroyando hasta  que doy con las piezas o full look que me encaja , suele ser largo el proceso y siempre hay muchos cambios hasta dar con el producto adecuado.”

It’s always different when it’s a personal project. I don’t have a “process”. I’m developing and testing different pieces and shapes until I find what really dazzles me. If it’s a custom piece, based on the concept and references, I’m developing it until the pieces or look suits me. The process is usually long and there are always various changes until I come to find the right “product”.

-How did you start creating art?

“Creo que las primeras piezas de arte que hice , fue mi primera coleccion de metal en  en el 1996, en esa epoca no sabia  trabajar el metal y combinaba piezas de metal que encontraba en tiendas de ferreteria y marroquineria.”

I think the first pieces of art I made were my designs in my first ever  metal collection in 1996. At that time I didn’t know how to work with metal and so I combined pieces of metal that I found in hardware and leather goods stores.

-What’s your biggest inspiration in the art world?

“Tengo un gran abanico de inspiracion , aunque ovbiamente todo lo relacionado con ciencia ficción , futuro, especies alienigenas, robots , cyber, androides, mutantes ,super héroes, son una buena parte , también todo lo referente a historia y tribal son otras de mis fuentes preferidas.”

My references as a starting point are always other dimensions. From there I research and develop new concepts. The future, alternative humans, alien species, mutants, superheroes, robots, cyborgs, aliens, and androids became a part of my creative world. Also, everything related to history and tribality are another one of my favorite sources.

My main creative purpose is to transform reality.

– Has your Spanish heritage influenced your creations or the way you express fashion?

“Porsupeuesto que mi educacion , y la historia de arte y de la indumentaria de mi pais y europa ha influido muchisimo en toda mi trayecctoria.”

Of course! My education, and the history of art and clothing of my country and Europe has influenced my trajectory tremendously.

– Have you faced criticism on your designs?

“Soy muy critico conmigo mismo y acepto todo tipo de consejos y opiniones de mi circulo mas cercano , la mayoria de las veces la critica es buena , porsupuesto habra mucha gente  que no le guste mi trabajo, pero la critica de las personas que me importa suele ser buena.”

I am very critical of myself. And I accept all kinds of advice and opinions from my close circle. Most of the time the criticism is good. Of course there will be a lot of people who don’t like my work, but the criticism of the people I care about is usually good.

Do you find that people’s perception of your unconventional designs has changed overtime?

“Si ha cambiado mucho desde  finales del siglo 20 , casi nadie entedia mis diseńos , yo era totalmente underground, ahora muchisima gente entiende lo que es metal couture, y es una tendencia actual.”

It has changed a lot since the end of the 20th century, almost no one understood my designs, I was totally underground. Now a lot of people understand what metal couture is, and it’s a current trend

– What can we expect from Manuel Albarran in the future?

“Sin duda estare unido al metal siempre con todas sus variantes, mi proximo proyecto es una trabaj personal que llevo desaroyando hace 3 ańos, que combina escultura con metal ciuture.”

I will undoubtedly always be attached to metal with all its variants, my next project is a personal job that I have been working on for 3 years. It combines sculpture with metal couture.

– In honour of our IRIS theme for this issue, what do you see as the fashion of tomorrow?

Fashion and technology will be the future.

Writing by Konstantinos Tsagkaris, Interview and Translation by Mackenzie Krueger


Credits: In frame: Syan Wombwell @syan_wombwell

Photographer: Michael Carbone @michael__carbone

Styling & VFX: Mackenzie Krueger @skin.child

Hair & Makeup: Shamis McGillan @monar.x

Designer: Manuel Albarran @manuelalbarranoficial

Assistance: Vile Sanchez @vilesanchez

Lightning Assistance: Ricardo Lara @thericardolara

Studio: WLab @wlab.xr

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