SIES!isabelle at SAFW #AW18

As we look forward to SA Fashion Week starting next Tuesday, where many fashion brands make their debut to the fashion, we caught up with Isabelle Lotter, founder of SIES!isabelle brand launched at Fashion Week back in 2010.

After featuring SIES!isabelle in the Eleventh Issue of Editéur Plus, I was eager to meet her and hang out with the lady created a brand that makes fashion accessible to regular people like me. I caught up with Isabelle at her Kyalami studio a few Fridays ago.

A tinge of nervous tension hit me as I walked from my car to the studio. My first impression of the great and illustrious Isabelle Lotter was that she is as accessible and real as the clothing she designs and the brand that she has developed.

As we walked through the workspace and up the stairs to Isabelle’s work station, I could feel the creativity in the air. We walked past designer Anissa Mpungwe (from ‘Loin Cloth and Ashes’) on a large table, working with bright, long fabric. A man waved quietly from the back corner behind a sewing machine. My first thought was, ‘This is where creative things happen.’ I was excited and still a little nervous as I sat at the Isabelle Lotter’s desk, stealing glances at designer dresses on the racks all around. Yet again, as we began to speak, the nerves melted away as I was met with a passionate little girl who loves fashion and adores design.

We jumped straight into talking about the Autumn/Winter collection and I got some sneak peaks on what we can expect to see when SIES!isabelle takes the runway at SA Fashion Week next Tuesday evening.

The collection is inspired by silhouettes. ‘There is a mystery in silhouettes,’ says Isabelle. They leave room for interpretation. The details are only revealed when light shines on them, and what one person expects to see in the light is different from what another expects. Fans of the brand can expect oversized and dramatic shapes with dropped shoulders and a feminine touch.

Taking a liking to berry tones and emerald green this season, Isabelle is likely to create a striking collection with bold use of colour and texture. The plan is to contrast textures and the colours in the layers of clothing, creating soft, cotton inner layers distinct from the strong, woollen outer coats which complement them. To create her collection, Isabelle is working with a Cape Townian fabric making company, as always, keeping the production process local and sustainable.

She also believes in empowering each person who is part of the process of making clothing. When you buy your autumn/winter SIES!isabelle fashion item, you’ll find the name of the person who sewed it on the label. Machinists are as integral to the development process as the designer, so well done to Isabelle for giving recognition where it is due.

Though it is thrilling to have her designs worn by a model strutting on the runway with perfect hair and makeup, it is a greater delight for Isabelle when she is at the airport or the farmer’s market and she sees someone style one of her designs to suit them. ‘That feeling is indescribable because someone has committed to my brand…and made it their own, loves it and is looking amazing in it.’

Seeing the concept transformed into reality is what Isabelle looks forward to most as Fashion Week approaches. ‘I can see something in my mind, but it’s very seldom the thing that ends up on the runway.’ She enjoys the metamorphosis of designs from just to concept to real life objects. It’s all eyes on SIES!isabelle next Tuesday as the newest collection hits the runway at SA Fashion Week.

When she is not creating enchanting clothing items, Isabelle Lotter runs both a mentorship programme and an internship. The mentorship allows designers to learn directly from Isabelle while creating and growing their own brand. Nothing speaks sustainability than giving future designers a safe place to develop and grow their gifts.

Though Isabelle has made a name for herself in the world of fashion design, her journey has not always been an easy one. Anyone wanting to be a success in the fashion industry must realise that tough times will come. It is in these times that having an understanding of the fluctuating natures of business is vital. Tough times will come. ‘It happens,’ says Isabelle, ‘and a supportive family is invaluable.’

Young designers and creatives should take a page from Isabelle’s book on sharing work space and administrative employees. This allows, not only for lowered overhead costs, but having others in your work space allows for collaboration and brainstorming. There is value in shared experience that will save collaborators from repeating the same mistakes.

Perhaps the South African fashion industry needs more space sharing, machinist recognising designers who name their outfits after normal people like you and me. Perhaps the future of fashion is collaboration in the creative sense and in the administrative and corporate sense. With creatives like Isabelle Lotter in the mix, the future of South African fashion looks bright.

It was so great to meet the face behind a brand I had written about and have them be so consistent and down to earth. I’m sure there will be much more to come from the SIES!isabelle brand. I am so glad that I can, in a small way, be a part of that.

By Bekiwe Hlongwane

Ticket for SIES!isabelle show can be purchased on SA Fashion Weeks Website or Computicket

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