Interview: Fashion Designer I’sha Dunston of IZAYLA is Making Sophisticated Stylish Again

During a fashion era that is often driven by affordability and quickly-moving trends, there seems to be a steadily decreasing appreciation for the young, fresh talent who truly exhibit authenticity. But there’s a renaissance brewing, led by diverse newcomers who are finally getting their seat at the table, that is ushering in a new season for style. These newcomers, who include our interview feature I’sha Dunston of IZAYLA, are reinvigorating the essence of individuality that exists at fashion’s core. And when you observe the work of such talents as Dunston, whose young fashion house is already showing veteran-worthy pieces on the runway, you’ll see that temporary trends and quantity will never supersede quality.

We’ve pulled up a chair to sit down with I’sha Dunston to discuss her debut appearance at New York Fashion Week, her path to launching her prét-a-porter label, and her vision for IZAYLA’s inevitable dominance of the fashion industry. Read on to learn more about the journey of IZAYLA and to see a behind-the-scenes peek of their New York Fashion Week debut.

 

1. We’d love to know more about the woman behind IZAYLA. How old were you when you first created your designer label, and what inspired you to take this entrepreneurial route in the fashion industry?

The woman behind IZAYLA is a twenty-two year old who is passionate, tenacious, self-motivated, and a visionary entrepreneur. She is the IZAYLA woman.

I created my first designer label IZAYLA, at 19 years old-while attending F.I.D.M. From a young age, I always possessed a strong passion for wanting to become an entrepreneur.

I saw the benefits, opportunities, hard-work, flexibility, and autonomy that came with entrepreneurship and it fit my personality and aspirations.

 

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2. Can you explain the story behind the name IZAYLA?

When I was thinking of names for my brand, I knew I wanted to incorporate my name and personality. At first, I decided [to go] with the name “House of AHSI,” which is my name spelled backward. However, when I started playing around with the name, I noticed that it didn’t flow right and sounded a little too “boutique-ish”, and that was something I wasn’t going for. So I decided not to proceed with that name. After taking a few days and weeks off with trying to come up with a name, I suddenly one day came up with “IZAYLA”, which represents women who can be both sophisticated and conservative. I thrive off my brand encouraging women to be one thing-unique!

 

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3. You describe IZAYLA’s aesthetic as timeless, versatile, sophisticated and conservative. Who is the key ‘IZAYLA’ woman that you create your designs for, and where do you find your inspiration?

An IZAYLA woman is your luxurious, working, sexy, mature, independent, tenacious, wise, endless, unique woman who wants more for herself and doesn’t settle for new “fab” trends.

I envision women who wear my clothing having the same mindset as myself by craving more for themselves as women and innovators. Women who wear [my clothing now] and who will wear my clothing [in the future] are go-getters and women looking to be leaders. I draw numerous inspirations from the true icons of Chanel, Chloé, and Victoria Beckham because they resemble what it means to be an IZAYLA woman in a unique way.

4. Why did you decide to create a luxury pret-a-porter label, and what are some of the challenges of navigating this esteemed, competitive space in the fashion industry as a young designer?

My main focus with my luxury pret-a-porter line is to create indefinite clothing for women to cherish and have for a lifetime. I live by the mantra “quality over quantity.” IZAYLA is a line that will be around for a long time and will evolve with women as they grow and enhance themselves as individuals. As a luxury brand, my clothing will include high-quality fabrics, details, solitary color palettes and trends that will be continual.

Being patient has been a challenge when working on getting customers and brand recognition.

I’ve learned the importance of being intentional and marketing to the appropriate group of women.

Since my brand and line are of quality, I will be recognized for my work and women will benefit from the luxuriousness of my work. I’m understanding and learning to master the idea that “time can be one’s best friend and best teacher.”

 

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About NYFW:

1. How many collections have you released before your SS2019 collection, and why did you select this collection as the one to make your NYFW debut?

My SS 2019 collection consisted of a two-part assembly. I first debuted Part I of IZAYLA SS 2019 collection last year in October [during] LA Fashion Week. Part II of IZAYLA SS 2019 collection, which was shown at NYFW, aimed to display the sophisticated and sexy side of women! This June, I look forward to releasing my Pre Fall/Winter Collection during  NYFW.

2. What was the NYFW preparation process like, and what was your favorite part of the overall experience?

The preparation process for NYFW was pretty vigorous, intense, and exciting but so worth it. For 6 weeks, I met with my sewers every day to make sure my vision of my collection came to life with each stitch, palette, and fabric piece.

My favorite overall experience at NYFW was the fittings with models and meeting the models. I loved seeing their facial expressions, their responses, s and the squeals when the models tried on my items and modeled them! Each model was in [absolute] awe with my items and had so many encouraging and positive things to say about my collection.

 

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3. Do you plan to debut any future collections at one of the international fashion weeks in the future (London, Paris, Milan, for example)?

Unfortunately, I do not have any plans to attend any international fashion shows this year. However, if the opportunity presents itself, or whichever organization reaches out, I would love to attend and have IZAYLA showcased.

4. You describe your SS2019 collection as being sexy with a neutral yet eccentric color palette. What was the inspiration behind the creative direction of this collection?

The inspiration behind this collection was purely showcasing my vision of women being conservative while being sophisticated with the incorporation of nudes and eccentrics color palettes.

 

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5. What is your favorite SS2019 trend that you incorporated into this collection?

While designing my SS2019 collection, I didn’t approach the creative direction with “what’s trending now”. When I design, I base it off wanting the audience to know the transparency of who an IZAYLA woman is by incorporating and reinventing timeless pieces.

6. How did it feel being one of the few black designers at NYFW, and what are your thoughts on the general lack of representation and acknowledgment of black designers in the mainstream fashion industry?

First, it was an honor and privilege to be chosen out of thousands [of designers] for NYFW. It was humbling and inspiring to know that IZAYLA was one of the brands to be selected and showcased. Secondly, it felt amazing being one of the few young African American female designers at NYFW as well.

I know that the exposure I received is motivation for me to execute and be the best designer I can be.

7. How do you intend to use your platform as a black designer to help in bridging the diversity gap?

As a young African-American fashion designer, I intend to use my platform by elevating, evolving, giving back and empowering young people who have goals and aspirations of becoming a fashion designer.

To accomplish this, I will continue to be a student to the fashion industry. Although I just stepped out into the fashion industry world, I have so much to learn, many trials and tribulations to endure, constructive criticism to receive, and enlightenment to experience. By being open-minded, I am exposing myself to diversity and learning what it means to evolve as an African- American designer.

I know that my presence is valuable and I hope to use my platform to create and develop ways to make fashion design accessible to girls who look like me.

I also want to teach and share with the world that I am more than a fashion designer. I am an entrepreneur and I have multiple businesses.

Keep with I’sha Dunston and Izayla by following the brand here. Visit their site, check out their collection, and tell them that The Strut Mag sent you!

Gabriella Layne

Editor-in-Chief of The Strut Magazine

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