Artist Isabella Huffington is quickly gaining notoriety for her kaleidoscopic collages and mixed media works that run the gamut from abstract florals to political observations. Having grown up in sunny, always in bloom Los Angeles, many of Huffington’s works are a reflection of the colorful city of her youth. Particularly beguiling? Her 2015 work titled Chrysanthemum, which she has adapted into a floral scarf and dress, exclusively for Designow.
We caught up with Huffington to learn more about her inspirations, career path, her commitment to making art accessible and what it’s like to be exploring a new medium: fabric. Check out our exclusive Q&A below and shop the collection at designow.com or at our NYC pop-up Gallery where you can purchase in a box signed by the artist herself.
DN: What made you decide to venture into clothing?
I’ve always been really interested in art and accessibility and how to make fine art a bigger part of our everyday lives. What I love about the collaboration between fashion and fine art is that it takes art out of the museum or gallery space and brings it to a wider audience. I also love the idea of being able to wear art. It feels kind of magical, like being able to walk out of a painting.
DN: Is this your first collaboration?
I collaborated on a set of bed linens with COCO-MAT and a series of prints with One Kings Lane.
DN: What inspired your desire to design?
I love the idea of wearable art and of each person getting to be their own work of art. I love seeing people wearing interesting and cool prints and hearing the stories behind the designs. And I think there is so much amazing art out there that would translate well into prints and fashion.
DN: How has your country of origin influenced your design aesthetic?
I grew up in Los Angeles around a lot of colors and patterns. So I’ve always loved a kind of whimsical busyness. I also love floral and pinks, which I think comes from growing up in a city without winter. We had flowers all year round. LA to me will always smell like a flower garden.
DN: At what age did you start to design?
I started making art as a little kid but I didn’t become really passionate about it until I was 16.
DN: Any favorite colors to work with?
I love pink. I have finally accepted that I’m a stereotype.
DN: How do you define your personal style?
Feminine, understated, and elegant on a good day and gym clothes most days.
DN: What hurdles have you faced in this industry?
I think a lot of working in the arts is having to knock on a lot of doors before one opens. You have to be willing to juggle a lot of different projects at a time because you never know which ones will pan out. And I think having a lot of potential projects helps you deal with the disappointment if one thing doesn’t work.
DN: How did your education prepare you to work in fashion?
I majored in art history so we spent a lot of time learning how to really look at things. And this might sound a bit strange, but I think we spend a lot of time being taught how to listen but we don’t spend that much time learning how to look and notice things. For one project a professor had each student stand in front of a painting for two hours and it was, at the same time, one of the most magical and excruciating experiences. But it taught me to really look at something and actually see it. And it showed me how little I actually look at everything around me.
DN: Can you describe your creative process?
I keep a big notebook of ideas. So I’m always looking and listening for new ideas. As soon as I finish a project I slash it out of my notebook and look for something new to start. After I finish a painting I immediately want to start something else and that way there’s always something new to do.
DN: Who are your design heroes?
Yayoi Kusama, Jim Hodges, Dustin Yellin, Mark Rothko
DN: How has Designow benefited your career as a designer?
Designow has been fantastic because as a visual artist there were so many components to turning a painting into a dress that I really didn’t understand. I knew I wanted to make my work into clothing but that’s a far cry from actually making it happen. The whole process felt seamless. Each time we met it felt like we were making progress and moving forward on the project. And it was unbelievable exciting getting to actually try the final product on.
DN: What advice would you give to a fashion design student?
My advice would be that no one thing is make or break. I really believe that careers are made because of a million different things we do not because of one huge event. I think this takes the pressure off because it means it’s what you do everyday not what you do one day a year. And that no one really comes out of nowhere. We just may not have known about them before.