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A Year In Fashion: Meet Isabelle Pennington-Edmead As Her Namesake Label Celebrates Its First Birthday 

By Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse

 

One year. 365 days. A period, once so infinite, now flashes by in the blink of an eye. Thinking back, it’s hard to remember exactly what you did over a year; celebrated a birthday, slogged through the work week, spent a few weekends away somewhere with fresher, cleaner air than the city where you live. There’s probably not a whole lot to show for your efforts over that time, maybe some holiday trinkets. But Isabelle Pennington-Edmead has a lot to show for her year-long efforts.  

 

Isabelle Pennington-Edmead Fashion

Since launching her namesake slow fashion brand in February 2023, Isabelle has not stopped. With her bright, bold, and adventurous designs garnering attention from across the globe. You may have spotted her pieces on the Graduate Fashion Week runway, at Pure London’s fashion festival, or interspersed between the pages upon pages of stunning clothes on Net-A-Porter’s website. But Isabelle’s success story had to start somewhere.  

 

“Even as a child I was always into doing arts and crafts, that was always my favourite thing to do,” she told me when we sat down to chat. “I also loved seeing my mum getting ready on a Saturday night to go out and getting all glamorous. I used to always try on all her clothes and jewellery and get glam with her. So, with that interest in both art and clothing, I just thought I wanted to combine the two and do fashion - I've always wanted to go into that. I've even got little sketchbooks from when I was six and designing clothes!”  


"It's a very fast fashion-based industry here and that just did not align with my morals, with what I wanted to do..."


Taking her childhood love and honing her craft, Isabelle studied to gain a variety of qualifications; A levels in textiles and fine art, an art foundation degree, a BA Hons in fashion, and a Masters in textiles which gave her skills in both pattern cutting and tailoring. Not satisfied enough, she taught herself print design and learnt about fabrics in her own time on the side. It all paid off and, walking out of university, she began working for fashion giant Net-A-Porter, “on their private label for their sustainable collection,” she told me. “I was always interested in sustainability,” she added, “and I learnt a lot from doing that with them.” But when her time with the company was up, she struggled to find work that aligned with her values. “When I was looking for fashion jobs near me, just outside Manchester, everything was focused on fast fashion. It's a very fast fashion-based industry here and that just did not align with my morals, with what I wanted to do.” 

 

So, she jumped into the deep end. You could say fast fashion is the reason she started her brand at all, doing so to avoid joining an industry plagued with problems. “One day, I just thought, ‘I want to give it a go doing it myself.’ I've always wanted to do that on some level, so I thought now that I’d left my job I might as well just try.” The process was a surprisingly smooth one for Isabelle who had “always been creating original designs and stuff on the side, even when I had a job.” She teased her work on social media, her favoured aesthetics classically feminine and soft form, paired with her unique, vibrant prints, garnered attention. With a bit of momentum, she launched online and, in tandem, set herself up on rental sites. And here she is, a year on, following the same model with each collection she launches.  

 

Isabelle Pennington-Edmead Fashion

Her latest release, ‘Season 4 collection: Xanadu,’ is a testament to her growth, embodying the feel of her first pieces with an added edge, a new confidence. “My aesthetic is always colourful, printed,” she explains. “It's bold, fun, and quite feminine - but I also like to mix in a bit of masculine for that nice juxtaposition. All the collections I’ve done have really fed on from my first one. They’re all underlined by the vintage Caribbean style prints; very tropical.” 

 

The process of creating a collection is an organic one for Isabelle. She never puts herself under too much pressure and is keen to keep her job feeling more like a hobby. “I design all the fabric prints by hand. I usually have a sketchbook and just do loads of paintings, drawings, and sketches whenever I feel inspired and have free time. Once I've built up quite a lot in a book, I'll scan them into the computer and then edit them digitally. When it comes to creating a new collection, I'll just see what fabric designs I've got.”  


"When a customer gets a piece, they know that it's really good quality and it's been made with a lot of love..."


“I think it's good to just always be creating them as a hobby, rather than putting that pressure on and feeling forced to do it in the run-up to a new collection. Sometimes running a business, just stops becoming creative at points, which I hate. Especially when you're doing all the spreadsheets and all that, it’s stressful! So, if I've got free time, I’ll just be drawing or painting, because I do enjoy it anyway, and then I've just got a file of loads of different motifs to work from.” 

 

The prints are digitally printed onto Isabelle’s fabric responsibly in the UK, so the process uses less water and Isabelle’s ethos of sustainable practice is upheld. As a slow fashion brand, this is vital for her. Her passion comes across in full force as she details to me how she works to make her impact on the planet as small as possible; using natural fibres, working only with certified sustainable companies, reusing scraps from pattern cutting to make accessories and patchwork items, and, most important, making everything to order. “It's all about just going back to basics, really,” she says when I ask what it’s like to run in such an eco-conscious way. “There’s not as many hindrances as people think. Made-to-order means there’s no reels of fabric being wasted, there’s no deadstock being sent to landfill. It feels a lot more special to have a garment made in that way. When a customer gets a piece, they know that it's really good quality and it's been made with a lot of love.” 

 

Isabelle Pennington-Edmead Fashion

The love in Isabelle’s designs is obvious; both for her customers and fashion in general. She designs everything to be seasonless, making her pieces versatile across seasons, across occasions, to be dressed both up and down so people can wear items that make them feel good whenever possible, not just for events with dress codes. That’s what she values most about clothing; the way it makes people feel. She enjoys dressing up in unique, high quality and bold, but also wearable, pieces - even if that’s just for a trip to the corner shop - because it makes her feel good. 

 

There’s another way she puts love into her items too. While she is, amazingly, currently running her brand as a one woman band, her mum often comes in to help, turning the creative process into a family affair. I asked whether her mum was in fashion, thinking perhaps she was helping to sew, and design, or if she was the one who once taught Isabelle to do so. I’m surprised when I’m told, “She's actually a teacher!” We laugh as Isabelle explains, “She's always been interested in fashion and she loves clothes and she likes sewing. But I think when she was younger it just wasn't a thing that you could have a job in fashion. So now when I'm like, ‘Oh, what do you think of this? What do you think of that?’ She'll come and say ‘Oh, why don't you design it like this?’ or ‘I've seen this on the runway.’ I think she gets really excited by it! As the brand has grown, she’s been saying she can't wait till she can work here full-time! That would be lovely, to work together with my mum here.” 

 

It’s just one of many goals she has. Isabelle’s not scared to dream big and, looking back at her successes, there’s no reason why she should be. While she’d love to “be sold in a big department store like Selfridges,” long term, Isabelle is planning a takeover, an entire rewiring of the fashion industry. “I would love to be B-Corp certified [companies verified by B Lab that meet high standards of social and environmental performance.] I'd love that mostly so I can have the power to make a difference in the sustainable side of fashion and encourage others to do things the right way. Because I think there's always more I can do, but at the moment I'm doing as best as I can. It’s quite frustrating when there are certain things that you want to do, but you just don't have the platform or the money for it yet. I don’t at the moment, but hopefully, when we grow, there’s so much scope for new and exciting things.”  


Images: Isabelle Pennington Edmead Website

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