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One to Watch: Isabelle Pennington-Edmead

17th April 2024

Words: Charlotte Harney

Photography: Lilly D'Abreo

Stylist: Bridget Nzenwa, Primrose Nicoll

Models: Mya Denice, Paige CJ

Makeup: Amina Sheikh

ReVamp speaks to designer Isabelle Pennington Edmead about sustainability, inspiration from your past and dopamine dressing.

What inspired you to become a designer?

It’s cliche but from a child I always wanted to be a fashion designer. Even when I was younger I was always drawing clothes, I really liked sewing, I was always in my mum’s sewing box. At school I took textiles and fine art as I wasn't sure if I wanted to take the textile route. I went on to study it at college and did an art foundation but decided I wanted to go down the fashion route. I got a scholarship which covered my fees to go to Nottingham Trent to study fashion design there. I taught myself print design as I was still interested in textiles and decided I wanted to look more into that and did my Masters at Manchester School of Art in Textiles for Fashion, so combining the two. During my time at university I learnt alot about sustainable fashion and the effects of fashion on the environment. It changed my views on where I wanted to work and made it a little more difficult for me. But I saw a job opportunity to work at Net A Porter, to create their sustainable, private label collection. I worked there for a year and then left and decided to do it on my own.

Do you find that sustainable element fed into your own brand? Was that in the back of your mind when launching and developing your ideas?

Yes definitely and everything I learnt in the workplace I tried to take and implement. I’ve not been able to implement everything because I am constantly trying to be as sustainable as possible and being a small brand you need to do as much as you can but in the future I definitely have plans to do more when I’ve got more budget to spend on that.

Who do you take inspiration from in the Fashion world?

I take a lot of inspiration from fine art and textiles more. I love Zandra Rhodes. I love her work and how she incorporates print in with fashion. The artist Althea McNish was always one of my favourite textile designers, so I think I'm more inspired by art than actual fashion designers. But then there's the classics like 90s McQueen, I love all the theatrics.

You’ve said you find most inspiration from art but is there anything else you take inspiration from for your prints or designs?

My first collection was called ‘Windrush’ and it was inspired by my Grandparents coming over to the UK in the 50s from Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean. I took a lot of inspiration from old photographs, looking more into myself at those photos and my family tree. I took a lot of
inspiration for that collection from the Caribbean front room, looking back nostalgically at how they decorated the house. Since then I ran with that theme and looked into different aspects of it. I love Caribbean nature, flowers, and plants. I take a lot of inspiration from nature but also films, books and exhibitions. Just getting out and seeing different things is definitely inspiring to me.

Your designs are feminine and elegant but with a very youthful and playful element to them. Was that intentional in your design process, to have those two merge?

I’d say so. I remember at the time when I was designing the first collection it was during the scandal with the Windrush and there was a lot of negativity around so I wanted it to be more of a celebration of my Grandparents coming over and how brave they were to go through all of
that. I wanted it to be a happy thing, more joyful of the caribbean. I like joyful, dopamine dressing. I’m not afraid of colour, sometimes I do struggle creating for Autumn/ Winter because I just love colour and I know some people shy away from it but I always wear it, it’s just how I am.

With the femininity aspect, I like to incorporate bits of masculine elements like structural tailoring but I like the feminine touches such as the peplum skirts. When I look back at photos I love how elegant and put together people in my family looked, back in the 50s. Even if they
didn't have a lot of money they always looked put together and I love that dressing up to make yourself feel good.

Do you have a specific woman in mind when you're designing?

I do a lot of customer research and look into the market. I know some people want specific age brackets but I think it’s more broad than that. I don’t like to put it down to just ‘women in their 20s’ for example. My mum is 30 years older than me but I wear stuff of hers and she wears
things of mine, so I don't think there's really an age bracket on it. The woman I have in mind wants to be vibrant, fashion forward but care about who made the clothing, where it’s come from etc but they still want to express themselves.

Where do you see your brands going in 5 years time?

I’d love to be stocked in high end wholesalers like Selfridges and Net A Porter but I’m not quite there yet. I’d also love to be a B Corp. That’s something I really want to work towards.

If you could design for anyone, who would it be? 

Probably Beyonce. Gotta aim high, I’ll go there!

What advice would you give brands just starting out in the industry?

To be fair I’ve been running for just over a year, but in that year I guess I’ve learnt that you’ve just got to stick at it sometimes. Obviously do take on criticism but maybe don't always invest in the opinion of the people around you. They’re not always going to understand, family and
friends who don't get it, maybe just stick with your vision and it’ll pay off. Everyone has those days where it's not working and they want to give up but just stick at it!

Isabelle Pennington-Edmead will be stocked on ASOS from the summer, keep an eye on socials for the launch.

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