It takes a lot of work and dedication to become a fashion designer, and if anyone knows how difficult it can be, it is Isy Obi. Obi is the brainchild and creative genius behind Isy B. Designs, a brand that has become internationally successful thanks to her perseverance and vision.
We caught up with her while she was on one of her trips to New York and found out what inspired her to become a designer in the first place and how she plans to conquer the fashion runway.
What’s Hot: When did you know that you wanted to be a designer?
Isy Obi: I’ve always loved design and even though my mum was a fashion designer and I studied product design at school, the idea that I could have a career as a fashion designer came to me quite late. It’s one of those things I daydreamed about and dabbled in personally as a hobby while I worked in the corporate world, until the drive to do the work I love became greater than the fear of taking the leap.
WH: Who or what was your biggest influence when you were starting out?
IO: My family was my greatest influence at the beginning and they still are. I come from a family with a wonderful ability to balance the creative aspects of themselves with their more logical side. For example, my mother was a fashion designer, but she was also a PhD level scientist; and my sister is a senior level legal mediator, but she is also an award-winning glass artist in London. They spurred me on to believe in myself and encouraged me to dream big.
WH: How do you source your materials?
IO: I source my materials from all over the world, from Colombia to China. It depends on what’s needed for a particular style. There are sourcing tradeshows held all over the world where suppliers come from different countries. I’ve been to shows in the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and sometimes I travel directly to the factories to find what I need. I’ve learnt that success sourcing is based on lots of research, lots of testing and building reliable relationships with people in the industry.
WH: Did you ever think you’d be as successful as you’ve become?
IO: I could never have imagined the amazing things that have happened as Isy B. has grown. There was never really a plan at the start, I just followed my intuition and took the opportunities that came my way. It’s humbling to look back on my path to get here, and I’m grateful every day for this epic adventure and am looking forward to all there is to come.
WH: What has been the highlight of your career as a designer so far?
IO: There’ve been so many highlights in my design career to date, but I had to pinch myself as I stood in front of five cameras on the set of Evine, the U.S. home-shopping TV channel I collaborated with last year, waiting to go live and introduce Isy B. to millions of people. That was a surreal moment and nothing I’d ever done before had prepared me for it. I had a blast on the show and getting the positive feedback from the buyers calling in was a complete rush.
WH: Who are your favorite “celebrity” designers?
IO: I appreciate the creativity of all designers and the innovation in each season’s collections, but my favorite designers share an aesthetic rooted in elegance, femininity and simplicity of line. Designers like Carolina Herrera, Elie Saab, and Roland Mouret. My ultimate favorite is Ralph and Russo, whose work elevates fashion to a level of beauty and craftsmanship that can bring a tear to my eye as it did recently when I visited their haute couture atelier at Harrods in London.
WH: Name one famous person you would love to dress, and why.
IO: My dream client would be Oprah because she’s a woman who is so aware of her strengths and weaknesses, and her gifts and vulnerabilities. I believe in clothing as a language which can communicate who you are to the world, and it would be fascinating to design a gown for her that can communicate even a fraction of the beautiful person that she is.
WH: Where can people find your designs?
IO: Isy B. can be found at Sand Angels in Camana Bay, at The Ritz-Carlton, on the website at www.isybdesign.com, and in our studio in Grand Harbour for a unique personalized shopping experience with me and one of the Isy B. stylists.
WH: What are your plans for the coming year?
IO: We want to continue to build the brand locally with a special calendar of events and trunk shows this year. I’m also excited to be collaborating with the National Gallery and Jawara Alleyne for an amazing exhibition later this summer. Internationally, we are also continuing to grow with more boutiques carrying Isy B. across the Caribbean and the U.S.