A day in the life of designer Stephanie Issacs

Have you ever wondered what a typical – or not so typical – day is like for fashion’s up-and-coming designers? From creating collections, catwalk castings, downing endless cups of coffee to meetings, meetings and more meetings, iMPULSE caught up with Stephanie Isaacs to find out what her day is like leading up to one of many main events: a fashion show.

Issacs, 21, and her fellow Heriot-Watt textile and design classmates, turned charity-shop finds into catwalk chic for a unique fashion show organised by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland.

The students were approached by the BHF asking if they would like to be involved in creating garments and outfits for a fashion show to help raise funds for the BHF charity.

A model shows off a dress customised by Heriot-Watt students for a charity fashion show. The proceeds went to the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland.

Over the past few months, Issacs and her team had been given permission to rummage through the rails of any BHF store in Scotland to pick out men’s and women’s clothes and accessories that they could customise into their own unique designs.

According to supermarket chain Tesco, there has been a huge jump in sales of sewing machines. Sales climbed 198% last year compared to the year before as Tesco sold an average of two sewing machines every minute. The boost in sew-it-yourself (SIY) could be caused by the recession and the growing number of reality fashion shows as people customise and repair their own clothes.

“As a class rep I was extremely enthusiastic for us all to be involved in this project, as it’s such a great opportunity to show off our work as well as raising money for a great cause,” Issacs said.

In a unique twist, the catwalk show was to be accompanied by a narrated love story; from the birth of two children following them through their real life situations which culminates in a parade of wedding outfits.

The trendsetting students scoured BHF stores for garments and spent months designing, adapting and changing the pieces of clothing from their original state to become one-off outfits; following the different life stages, in accordance to the love story.

“My group of five were allocated the ‘shop’ theme, as shopping is part in everyone’s life. After brainstorming, we decided to sub theme the category and play upon the idea of dressing up as charity shops, which are treasure troves in finding amazing garments for your day to day wardrobe and which can also be seen as a great places in finding outfits for themed parties. We decided on four ‘looks’ we wanted to create for our eight models: military, flapper, pirate, gypsy and masquerade.”

Student models wear outfits made by Heriot-Watt textile and design students at a fashion show for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland.

Issacs worked closely with her team members in countless team meetings in order for the overall style of their theme to work as a collection while reinventing the pieces into something that will inspire and encourage others to consider shopping in charity shops.

“Tailoring and embellishment worked really well throughout our garments,” Issacs said. “Initially, when we were raking around the shops, we had an idea of what we wanted but you’re never guaranteed anything when it comes to charity shops, which I suppose was our main challenge; to find garments that could be reinvented.”

Each group member worked on the array of outfits as a team. They individually designed pieces for more than one ensemble.

“I customised the masquerade shirt by adding white ruffles onto the collar and cuffs and also changed the buttons. I created the fringed leather belt worn by the pirate, which used to be a skirt. I also adapted the gypsy waistcoat from a leather dress which I’m really pleased with, amongst other garments I customised.”

On the run up to the fashion show there were late nights and boundless cups of coffee to ensure the garments were completed on time.

The model casting took place at Heriot-Watt’s Edinburgh campus where Issacs’ group spent the day searching for potential models – in the shape of students – and fittings were scheduled every week building up to the show to make sure that the garments were tailored to perfection.

On the night of the show, which took place at the Jam House, everyone was greeted with a complimentary cocktail, and there was a gift bag on everyone’s seat. This included a pair of handmade earrings, Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb perfume and a ‘Happiness Kit’, which had a number of things including a marble – in case someone says you’ve lost yours.

The narrative love story was read by Christine Richards OBE, and Issacs relished in her role as stage manager and made sure everything ran as smooth as possible.

“We only managed one complete run through before the doors opened for the audience, but it ran pretty smoothly. Backstage everyone was enjoying the commotion and excitement those weeks of hard work had come down to. Clothes were everywhere, models walked around in their themed outfits and hair and makeup effects were looking fantastic; all contributing towards a great atmosphere that was felt on stage too.”

Of Issacs’ theme, ‘shop’, the eight models looked fantastic. There was a male model featuring the masquerade outfit which consisted of a Phantom of the Opera inspired mask and tuxedo tail jacket which had been hand stitched; customised from an ordinary suit jacket. This adapted garment later appeared in the auction finale and was won by a member of the audience who paid £70 for the piece.

Cath Fenton, textile and fashion design management lecturer, said, “Our students sourced all the clothes and re-modelled them as well as styling and staging the show. This has been a fantastic opportunity to turn around a full catwalk show, in a short space of time, and for a very good cause – which they’ve also chosen to fundraise for this year.”

Ffyonna Scott, BHF Scotland fundraising manager, couldn’t have been happier with the event. “It was a fantastic show and we raised hundreds of vital pounds. I must say a huge thank you to all those who contributed to our goody bags and to all the volunteers who helped make this show a success, particularly the students, who really put their heart and soul into the event,” she said.

At the end of the catwalk show Issacs reflected on the overall outcome, “There weren’t any mishaps or disasters in terms of last minute alterations, although I think a couple of the models needed a little ‘Dutch courage’ for them to brave some of the wilder looks created, but it was a good fun and all in the name of charity!”

To read the full interview with fashion students Stephanie Issacs and Emma Pellegrini, visit https://impulse2010.wordpress.com/fashion/fashion-with-heart/

Words by Suzanne Bargon


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