Bringing together simplicity, contemporary design and experimental form, Isabel Wong is a luxury womenswear designer based in London. Interested in translating conceptualism into wearable products, Wong is often inspired by paradox and enigma. She is also concerned with innovation and sustainability and often utilises unusual materials in her pieces. Aesthetica speaks to Wong about her design process and British fashion.
A: When starting a new collection, where do you begin?
IW: I usually begin by looking into a concept, such as the butterfly effect or levitation, and then I source images and research key words relating to the concept. This enables me to gather ideas for colours, shapes and also fabric choices. I like to work on the stand to experiment with draping and cutting techniques before designing on paper. The design developments come after this. On average I produce around 500 designs and I select the best of these and redesign them to finalise the collection.
A: What do you think are the biggest challenges for new designers starting out today?
IW: The biggest challenge is definitely gaining recognition for your work. It takes a lot of time and commitment as well as finance to complete a collection and then to promote and sell. Showcasing at established and high profile events such as London Fashion Week can be extremely expensive and competitive, and once you’re in, it doesn’t mean overnight success or guaranteed sales. Press and buyers tend to wait a few seasons for new labels to grow and show their potential before taking them seriously. Everyday is a challenge.
A: Where would you like your business to be in 20 years time?
IW: I’d eventually like to have my own long standing flagship store and to be stocked in all the major luxury department stores and boutiques. I’d like that sooner than later! I hope my label will be recognised as a well established and reputable brand. I want my pieces to be something that people sought after and would be proud to wear and have in their wardrobes. Most importantly, I want to be a successful business no matter how big or small it may be.
A: Which designers have been the biggest influence on you?
IW: I must say that I design without being overly influenced by existing designs or designers. I like to see my own ideas as my biggest influences. I do greatly admire Hussein Chalayan though, who is incredibly conceptual and clever in his thought processes. He tells a very powerful story through every collection and presentation. Chloe is also one of my favourite design houses, the clothes have such clean lines and are very elegant.
A: What do you think is unique about British fashion?
IW: British fashion is so vast and varied and culture plays a big influence. On the one hand there are some very wearable, classic designs while on the other there are some quirky conceptual and not so wearable pieces. There really is something for everyone.
A: You use quite unusual materials in your collections, such as CPU computer chips, why is this? Do you think it is important to source materials carefully?
IW: It is important to source materials carefully in order to be different to other designers. I first came across CPUs when I was designing my graduate collection at university. The idea came from researching fashion and technology, however I quickly realised this was something that had been done many times before. I wanted to dig deeper into technology and introduce something unusual and inconspicuous – this is where I developed the idea of utilising computer components as an innovative embellishment technique without making it obvious.
To find out more about Isabel Wong, visit www.isabelwong.com.
1. Isabel Wong A/W 14-15, courtesy of the designer.