#SAFW designer Q&A: Sies!isabelle

The simplicity behind Sies!isabelle is what makes it beautiful as well as it’s ability to appeal to a wide variety of women. Isabelle’s vision is to create clothing that complements not eclipses her clients. She takes us on a fairytale in her SA fashion week exhibition, see what the designer has up her sleeve…

Sies!Isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo
Sies!isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo

1) How did your fashion career begin?

I studied with freaks and poppies (lisof 2003-2005) and worked as a minimum wage retail slave. The start of my happily ever after began when I was mentored by an amazing creative with a strong academic interest , Erica de Greef. She nurtured my love for sculpting and diverted it from clay to pattern making. While working in a factory that produced high end, ready to wear clothing, I started my own journey (2006). With a bottle of red we christened it SIES!isabelle. Initially it was slow going; trying to find a path leading deeper into the woods, and I passed the “don’t quit your day job” marker a good couple of times.

After four years of skirting the perimeter I dove in and launched my collection at SA fashion week (2009, showing winter 2010), a year later I quit my day job and I haven’t looked back once. It’s been a roller-coaster ride ranging from huge orders to begging for breadcrumbs.

Sies!Isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo
Sies!isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo

2) Who do you design for (Target Market)?

My market is mainly women between the ages of 24-60. My design philosophy revolves around making her feel beautiful, dressing her in clothing that is both flattering to her body shape and easy to wear. Clothing that compliments, rather than eclipses her.

3) What have your clients come to expect from SIES!isabelle?

I aim to provide them with the raw material to create their own narrative. To retell the fairy tale by adding their own new elements; layering it with a different tone, changing the setting from the enchanted forest to a coffee date in Greenside. Thus the tale takes on a life of its own, but my contribution is neither the beginning nor the end.

Sies!Isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo
Sies!isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo

4) What is the biggest difficulty being a designer in SA?

Finding the balance between commercial and creative.

Sies!Isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo
Sies!isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo

5) What inspired your latest range?

I am exploring the similarities between how I design and fairytales. My inspiration became real when I found this quote by Angela Carter. “Ours is a highly individualised culture, with great faith in the work of art as a unique one-off, and the artist as an original, a godlike and inspired creator of unique one-offs. But fairy tales are not like that, nor are their makers.”

The basic concept that I found appealing, other than wishing to create clothing that is magic and fantastical, is that I’m not creating “unique one-offs”. Everything in wearable fashion has been done at some point. What fashion designers essentially do is tell the story in a new way. As Roger Zelanzy said:

“Editors believe they are buying the stories, but they are not. They are buying the way the story is told”

Sies!Isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo
Sies!isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo

6) How do you prepare for the SA fashion week?

My design process starts with research. Finding concepts, silhouettes, details ideas or stories, if you will, and retelling them. The end product is mostly clothing but the starting point could be anywhere; nature, fabric, sculpture, conversations, silhouettes, mistakes.

I rework concepts; this is similar to the retelling of a tale. With each rendition it changes; adapted by the storyteller to suit the audience, the political agenda, the trends, or the season.

It is very important for the continuity in a brand to grow from your previous season, not to reinvent the wheel with every new collection. It also allows you the opportunity to perfect a style by telling its story in a different way.

Sies!Isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo
Sies!isabelle at SAFW S/S. Photo by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo

7) What can we expect from your show at SAFW?

I will be presenting an installation this season, rather than a runway show. My story is set in an enchanted forest, growing from last winter’s gypsy collection. I’m painting with saturated berry and pomegranate tones and balancing them with washed out neutrals.

Follow Isabelle on Facebook and Twitter

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