When we think of successful designers, we often turn to those who pile their fashion-week front rows with Kanyes and Kims — or large-scale manufacturers who dominate the airwaves and ad campaigns. We often don't see the success below the surface: the people paving the way for a new way of thinking. This is the part of fashion that is most intriguing, because it's often those on the periphery who influence the status quo, not the other way around.

Fashion has been a part of my life for well over a decade. I have, as many say, “worn many hats” — a sort of modern-day multi-hyphenate. But I've always approached the fashion world in a most unconventional manner: I was trained as an environmental scientist and entomologist who spent the majority of her time bent over a microscope and on bog mats collecting bryophytes. What drew me to the world of fashion wasn't trends but, instead, its potential to make a positive impact. 

One of the amazing aspects of approaching a traditional industry in a nontraditional way has been meeting some of the unorthodox thinkers out there — those designers, innovators and fellow models and entrepreneurs who cast off the ideas of what we think fashion is. In some cases, they are returning to the essence of style, and in other ways they are completely rethinking the way that business gets done.
 


When we think of successful designers, we often turn to those who pile their fashion-week front rows with Kanyes and Kims — or large-scale manufacturers who dominate the airwaves and ad campaigns. We often don’t see the success below the surface: the people paving the way for a new way of thinking. This is the part of fashion that is most intriguing to me, because it’s often those on the periphery who influence the status quo, not the other way around.

Kate Brierley of Isoude is one such designer. She has been dressing me for more than six years for some of my most memorable events — from the launch of the Pirelli Calendar to the UN Equator Prize gala. A couturier by training, Kate takes a more personal and meticulous approach to her design. I sat down with her to talk shop before show season. 


How long have you been designing?

I have been designing in various capacities for about 12 years. It began with styling clients, then progressed into what is now Isoude. 


You work with a lot of private clients. Take me through how that works, especially since you are based in Rhode Island and don’t have a brick-and-mortar here in New York.

Yeah, that is a good question. We have found what works for Isoude is to build around our vision, which is to make very finely crafted pieces for our clients. My training is as a couturier, which means that we work very closely with our clients. At the first client meeting we discuss the client’s needs, take measurements and preferences and any calendar and important date direction. From there we present the client potential pieces or a more comprehensive wardrobe concept. Our clients value their time and find that by working with us, all they need to do is send a calendar or outline their needs and we take care of the rest. We have the ability to customize patterns and fabrications, so they have a trust level that the pieces will work for them.

At this point we have clients across the country. We work from The Mark [Hotel] in NYC by appointment and provide home appointments for clients as needed. We are in NY for appointments several times a month. Word spreads about how we work through our clients; the result is kind of a tribal outreach. We come together on a shared values basis rather than geography.

 

Courtesy of Isoude


You have an emphasis on sustainability through your design. Take me through some of your overarching philosophies. 

I design pieces that are compelling and timeless. It’s really about designing pieces that have strength but do not overpower the wearer. We take such care and use such quality fabrics in this process that we want our clients to have pieces that they will wear for many years. We think long term; we think about building a real wardrobe with our clients — instead of trend-based thinking.

 

What type of person wears your clothes?

We dress women, and I would say the biggest commonality is an intelligence level. Our clients are smart; they are serious and self-determined and I think they appreciate our commitment to craft and our level of professionalism. The Isoude process is experiential on so many levels; that attracts a very interesting type of person that enjoys being connected to a creative process. 

 

What’s the concept behind your latest collection? 

I have been spending a lot of time at DIA Beacon looking at Agnes Martin's work. When I see her pieces there is a sublime simplicity and almost a frequency that I hear. We are looking at how to bring simple linear and geometric shapes into the collection and developing them: distilled beauty.

 

Courtesy of Isoude


You often have some interesting collaborations — from artisans to printmakers. Anything currently in the works?

I am helping with a project centered around Bedouin women and their incredible artisan skills. We are looking at how to preserve their crafts and build a sustainable business around them.

 

New York Fashion Week starts today. What is the most overrated aspect of it?

It was developed to showcase designer collections to wholesale buyers. As it stands this model is a bit outdated. There is a mad rush to develop the runway pieces, and pieces that only fit a runway model. So much time and resources are put into a runway presentation with items that are really more designed for editorial content rather than end wearers. There are exceptions, of course, but it would be great if designers on the luxury side of the business could present their collections in an exhibit format — more like an Art Basel setting. Clients and buyers and content creators could delve more deeply into the designers’ inspirations, design details and processes behind their collection.

 

All right, then — what do you think is the most underrated aspect of NYFW?

There is so much wonderful design talent out there! So many lovely collections, it can be like a treasure hunt. 
 

Kate Brierley of Isoude


What music do you jam to when you are working into the wee hours of the morn on your collections?

We don't like to work that way. One cannot do good work in the wee hours of the morning. We only take in as many orders as we can handle. As with our products, our processes need to be sustainable. It takes time and thought to make things properly. With that said, everyone needs a little jam sometimes: Lately it has been Mike Dehnert and Fever Ray.

 
Where can we find you and your designs?

We suggest that anyone that would like to connect with us send an email on our website at isoude.com

 


By Summer Rayne Oakes

Summer Rayne is a model and head of Marketing & Community for Foodstand. When she's not cooking up sugar-free meals or running barefoot, she's likely tending to her indoor gardens. You can see more of her projects at summerrayne.net or follow her on Instagram.