From her time at Northumbria University, local fashion designer Isabella Dryden has gone from strength to strength in the Fashion Industry.
Since graduating, Dryden has gone from designing for well-known brands such as Pink Boutique and Forever Unique, to now releasing her own collection of sustainable womenswear with kindness and community at heart.
Isabella’s drive for creation began at a young age: “Since being a child, I was always driven towards creative topics, I found that art in school was initially an outlet. My dad studied art therapy and it was something he encouraged me to do in different types of ways. I still have my childhood art box he gave me today!”
It wasn’t until later when the 26-year-old realised the potential of textiles and quickly discovered outlets to take inspiration from. Isabella said: “inspiration can come from anywhere, from catwalk to vintage. It can come from art, textiles, colours, trends, interior design, all areas of design are intertwined.
“My major inspiration at the moment is Jaquemus, not only for his bold designs but because he has also made a sustainability pledge to design only twice a year and combine men’s and womenswear. This has been a huge influence in my own designs for my fashion line Saint Belle. It feels like the industry is slowing down and taking a step in the right direction.”
Since work began on her own fashion collection, Saint Belle, at the beginning of the year sustainability has been at the forefront of Isabella’s mind: “Sustainability is not a modern concept; it is about survival. To be a young start-up brand you have to be sustainable in every way. You don’t need to manufacture 1000’s of dresses on the chance you might sell through on them all, and you don’t want to work with fabrics that overseas factories identify as environmentally harmful.
“But, commerciality dictates it just be made as it is in the pipeline to be big this season. For example, leopard print two seasons ago that went wild, no pun intended, but it did make us think even before Covid how much of that was going to be cheaply made and in landfill within the year.”
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There is no denying that the fashion industry works at a quick pace, but for Isabella “no day is the same, which sound very cliché. There is such a myth around designers just sitting and being ‘creative’ and drawing all day. You have to be multifaceted, one day may be a design on paper and the next relaying tech packs to a producer overseas.
“You have to be retrospective and look at designs or styles that have been popular with the customer from past seasons. You also have to look so far into the future to predict changes in society, high end designers and artists work, ultimately trickling into the high street the season after.”
However, with all the excitement that being a designer brings it doesn’t come without its challenges. Isabella said: “The biggest challenge for me is being based in the North. Initially there was little opportunity to break through without working as a buyer or in bridal. I’ve really had to seek out and ultimately create my own place in the industry. Another driving factor behind Saint Belle is getting behind a brand that is North East based. There is no other ready to wear North East based womenswear brand from sketch to site. There is so much talent in the North East, designers, illustrators, photographers, stylists, buyers, copywriters, it is about time that a fashion house came along and did this, to be established and open up the north to something only held traditionally in London.”
Before Isabella broke ground on Saint Belle, she had made the transition from designing for Pink Boutique, where she had the responsibility of setting up a design department to Forever Unique which Isabella described as “The dream job.”
“Forever Unique felt like the pinnacle in my career for working with external brands, it built and designed collections in a ready to wear style. We looked to couture designers for inspiration and it was about using luxury fabrics and I really felt the value in this, but it also worked around a of quick turnaround time. But the beauty of Forever Unique was it also sold to store groups and boutiques which meant I also got the travel around Europe showcasing the product to other markets to show and sell the collection.”
However, like everything in 2020, Covid-19 had an impact. Isabella said: “Forever Unique was based in Manchester, obviously very far from North East for a weekly commute and ultimately ended in the run up to COVID.”
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The silver lining however is that this led to the creation of Saint Belle, which is set to launch in 12 short weeks. While Isabella had not earmarked to set up her own independent clothing line, she felt that “there is so much more that can be brought to the industry, the region, the talent in our area that my own line deserves a place in ready to wear that has never been done in our region before.
“I also think it is essential to be happy in what you do and enjoy believing in the brand that you work for.”