Isolated Heroes: Are you a BELIEVER?
Isolated Heroes designer Samantha McEwen introduces their latest collection
After studying Fashion Design for Industry at Heriot Watt University, Samantha McEwen officially launched her brand of luxury, unisex street wear, Isolated Heroes, in 2012. Since then, the brand has quickly expanded globally from its base in Dundee, with a sell-out range of accessories on ASOS, a host of celebrity fans and a Scottish Fashion Awards nomination for Scottish Young Designer of the Year in 2012, as well as coverage in an array of publications including Grazia, Hunger and Vice. After graduating, McEwen took things into her own hands and established a brand based on ideas of ‘empowerment’ and ‘avant-garde primitivism’ which produces the wardrobe of, "a kaleidoscope tribe of cyber Barbies and lost boys."
Isolated Heroes garments are definitely not for the shy or faint-hearted. McEwen herself admits: "I am obsessed with all things tacky and I absolutely hate minimalism!" – an assertion which is extremely evident throughout her collections. There’s certainly no minimalism to be seen amongst beautifully garish (but beautiful) faux-furs, bold prints and yards upon yards of metallic fabrics and sequins. The latest collection certainly does not disappoint in terms of extravagance, opulence and bright colours.
The designs seem rooted in the atmosphere of McEwen’s studio, and the extensive process of researching and seeking new inspiration. "Our studio is such a lively, chaotic place and always full of laughter. As soon as you open the door you are hit by colourful garments, textures and walls and walls of research." For the Isolated Heroes ‘family’ inspiration can come from anywhere from "witch doctors and voodoo practitioners in Haiti to Kosovo Brides and Russian folklore," and the whole team are, "one hundred per cent committed and invested in the brand vision" of clothes having the ability to empower and transform the wearer. Samantha particularly enjoys the challenge of in-depth research into culture and traditions, which often sees her, starting from a dark, sinister or really serious topic and turning it into wearable clothing which radiates a sense of fun – a feeling that seems to resonate throughout Isolated Heroes' various collections. This is particularly evident in the latest collection, BELIEVE – in our opinion the brand's strongest yet.
Throughout every Isolated Heroes collection, there is an emphasis on the story – the underlying idea that has informed the garments. With BELIEVE they have produced a colourful retrospective infused with glitter, sequins and sass, which has been influenced by the 90s "third wave feminism, girl power and our generation’s current obsession with 'self-help.'" With the influence of feminism, the fashion topic du jour, McEwen sees the BELIEVE collection as a "semi-autobiographic look at girls in their twenties," girls who would have been formed by the ‘girl power’ movement. The collection makes feminism feminine with shimmering garments of full sequin fabric adorned with hand beaded motifs and embroidery creating a sense of luxury. With slogan embroidered sequin jackets, party dresses and logo emblazoned coats, the collection reflects the change or ‘metamorphosis’ represented in the phases that young women go through, with what Samantha refers to as a, "colourful, tongue in cheek satire." With the slogans ‘Believe’ and ‘Be Happy,’ McEwen sees the garments as a challenge to the "stereotypes and perceptions of what is the norm and what we aspire to be." She addresses "our need to better and prove ourselves with unrealistic ideals." The collection seems to echo an idea that runs throughout the brand – an emphasis on non-conformity and disassociation with ‘trend-led seasonal collections’ in favour of ‘mini collections’ which each have a story and mean something in their own right.
Always aiming to champion originality, Isolated Heroes have looked towards luxurious and unusual fabrics and materials in their new collection, to create extremely covetable garments – cosy oversized coats in hand-dyed boiled wool, brightly coloured Mongolian lambswool collars and crinkle effect metallic sheepskin leather biker jackets. McEwen says: "I wanted to work with more luxurious fabrics this season and take a step out of my comfort zone." Despite these extravagant materials, she has still kept the use of technology minimal, "keeping things pretty basic" by focusing on hand-embroidery and needle work, with occasional laser-cutting and digital prints.
In terms of the growth and development of the brand, McEwen reflects on the influence of working with ASOS on the increasing success of the business and brand. In addition to being stocked on ASOS Marketplace and the accessories collaboration with ASOS.com, Isolated Heroes won a competition to be mentored on an ASOS business and development programme by fashion guru Alison Lewy. Samantha has gained "invaluable advice and support in terms of growing her business, wholesale and international markets."
October saw another exciting project for Samantha McEwen and the brand – collaboration with the hugely influential Australian bloggers How Two Live at Mercedes Benz Tokyo Fashion Week. The blog How Two Live is run by two super-stylish sisters who have a penchant for bold, quirky and matching outfits – their style seems a perfect partner for Isolated Heroes.
And future plans? McEwen teases, "we are currently designing some pieces for one of our favourite celebs!" The brand can already count Lily Allen and Foxes among their famous fans, so it will be exciting to see who sports Isolated Heroes next. As for more collaborations, McEwen is open to working with other designers and artists but loves teaming up with "photographers and stylists on editorials, seeing the collection styled to a completely different story which is so far away from the original concept and research that the collection stemmed from. This sort of work further contributes to the transformative nature of the garments themselves."
It seems like things are only on the way up for Samantha McEwen and Isolated Heroes with the launch of the new collection, their growing success and recognition, and a variety of exciting collaborative projects in the pipeline. Collections are stocked on Isolated-Heroes.com and ASOS Marketplace, and from this month you will also be able to buy items from Asos.com and Nylon Store. We BELIEVE!