Interview: Alessandra Affonso Ferreira – Isolda
She is half Brazilian, half British (Brazilian father and English mother), has lived in Brazil, London, and now resides in NY. She is extremely talented and very friendly. This is Alessandra Ferreira, owner of Anglo-Brazilian brand Isolda, along with her sister Juliana and childhood-friend from Bahia, Maya Pope.
Alessandra is the person responsible for creating the drawings that will later become Isolda’s gorgeous prints. She hand-paints her inspirations with watercolor and sends them to Maya so she can digitalize them and later transfer these images to the fabrics that will be developed for the brand. Juliana takes care of Isolda’s marketing and sales divisions of the company.
A little interesting information: Alessandra (as mentioned above) lives in NY, Maya lives in Spain, and Juliana resides in Brazil. Thank God for Skype!
I met with Alessandra to talk and learn more about the Isolda universe, her inspirations, and her connection with NY, and how it has been influencing Isolda. The result? A great dinner, lots of girl talk about our lives in NY, and, of course, her interview for 917Diaries so you could know a little bit more about the brand and the person behind Isolda’s creative process. Enjoy!
How do you think all these geographical relocations have influenced your creativity and the creative process prior to Isolda? How did this development take place?
For a period of six years, I constantly visited antique and jewelry markets in London, as there were a lot of options, unlike in Brazil. I used to get a lot of inspiration from these markets, and that is how it all started; by creating fine jewelry. The clothes came afterwards. I saw so many different and interesting things, especially little trinkets and pendants. As a matter of fact, the jewelry line started because of these old trinkets that my mom used to own. Some of those pieces were given by a relative for someone in the family, with a lot of history, in scripted messages and dates. Whenever I visited one of those markets, I would buy a lot of these pendants as well. The themes and meanings behind them were so cool and creative. I don’t work on them anymore, though, because I rather focus on one thing, and do it well, than try to do all those different things at the same time, and lose focus of the clothes.
How did it all start for the Isolda brand? Did you always know you wanted to have your own brand?
It all started in London. I moved to England to study textiles, and my sister moved in with me. We were always pretending we were in photo-shoots and “playing dress up and fashion”, and I asked Maya (who is a graphic designer and was also living in London at the time) to develop the logo, and we never stopped after that. I studied textiles at Chelsea College of Arts and our first project – our first collection – was my senior-thesis presentation.
And when you decided to take this course, did you already know that you would like to work with textiles?
I actually got my Bachelors in Architecture in Brazil, but I have always loved fashion and wanted to go to fashion school. I was hating everything by the time I reached my sophomore year in college. I thought about dropping out, but ended up finishing it. After I graduated, I moved to England, and decided to go to fashion school. I thought I wanted fashion, and ended up finding out that I actually wanted to work with textiles. In England, you have to do a foundation course, an initiation to fine arts, to give you a foundation. Only after I had already started the course, I realized I wanted to work with fabrics, and that my passion was directed to details, colors, and textures, and not so much to the silhouettes themselves.
Future prints in watercolor
And how did things evolve after your final project presentation?
My sister had worked for Vogue, and Daniela Falcão (Brazilian Vogue editor) saw the creations on my sister’s page and wanted to learn more about it. From there things started to happen. The first presentation event took place at my cousin’s house in Sao Paulo, where we had a private view. The next one was a show that happened at the Emiliano Hotel in Sao Paulo, and that was attended by fashion consultant Constança Pascolato, and things picked up from there.
How do you think your roots and culture have influenced the way you develop the Isolda prints?
Even though my mom is British, I grew up in a house, playing around, and always enjoying everything Brazilian. I have always loved the cashew fruit. For me, cashew is the coolest and chicest thing there is. I have always had a connection with it, and whenever I saw something with cashew on it, I wanted it. When I was little, I would always look for clothes with Brazilian motifs when shopping with my mom, but it was really hard to find them. I have always liked it, so cashew and guava, which are typical colorful Brazilian fruits, ended up being the natural choice for me.
Duda Maia and Miroslava Duma wearing the cashew print
Fruits, flowers, and seafood are elements that will be present in the Summer 2014 collection. How are the creative process and inspirations going for your next collection?
I have already tried to draw other things, but it always goes back to Brazil. When you live abroad, you get the chance to see several beautiful things, and I have made drawings that reflect those discoveries, but I never think they are exotic enough. As far as the new collection goes, you will have to wait until October to find out; otherwise it will be too obvious (LOL). But I have been thinking of masculine influences, more mature colors… It always has the geometric, organic fruit, and flower elements to it, all with a sophisticated and elegant approach. I thought about moving away from those elements and investing in a more surrealist approach, but I really enjoy telling that story, and creating those characters and themes for my collections. One interesting thing, though, is that, sometimes, I save some things I create for later, as they are not part of a specific story I am working on. But that is a tricky thing to do, because the feeling and connection with it will pass eventually. So, I am learning that if you feel inspired by something; explore it right away! Do not get too stuck with telling only one story, because that story may become even more interesting if you don’t limit yourself, and follow the passion you are feeling at that moment. Especially because, once it passes, you will think; “wow, why was I obsessing so much over this? That was insane.” And it all fades away, eventually. (LOL)
Isolda recently presented a necklace collection…
The necklace collection was part of a collaboration between Isolda and the Virzi+DeLuca brand from Marcella Virzi and Betina de Luca. They are very pretty and were especially designed for the Gallerist e-commerce. We are big fans of collaborations between designers, and the idea for the collaboration came from Mariana and Amanda (Gallerist), and the result was very cool, very good. We are actually going to Paris soon, and are considering taking them with us as well. We may showcase them in the showroom, especially because of how well those pieces complement our clothes. Not to mention how great it is to work with Betina and Marcela, they are the best, just as Mariana and Amanda are as well.
Collaboration between Isolda and the Virzi+DeLuca brand
Lets talk a little bit about your life here in NY. How did it happen?
It actually happened because my fiancé moved to NY to work here, so I came with him. We were living in London, and our other option was to move to Germany, and that was not as interesting as NY, even though I was open to move there. But he had already lived in NY, and here is what happens here; the same way we are seeing each other today, I get to meet the girls from Moda Operandi, for example. Everyone in the business is always here, and it made sense to be here because of the brand. I was also able to find an incredible patternmaker here in NY, who really added up to our work.
And how do you feel about living here? What is NY for you?
Well, NY, for me, can be described this way; you are at home, very focused in your own world, and sometimes, when you leave the apartment you are reminded of how much the city is pulsing. It never stops. It is something like a machine that never stops; it works all day long. Sometimes, you leave the apartment, and you are still feeling a little sluggish, and all of a sudden the city shows you what it is all about: Wake up, girl! (LOL)
Where are your favorite places to go in the city?
There are always new places to get to know and explore, but I have my favorite spots. I love Chelsea Market because it is right next to my apartment, and I always go there to shop at the Manhattan Food Exchange, where I love to buy fruits and all. Also, for drawing purposes, when I wanted to draw a star fruit for our previous collection, that was the place I went to buy it. I have already bought a lot of exotics things in this Market. I also adore, and always go to the Lobster Place. There is this Mexican restaurant right in from of my building called Tortilla Flats that I always go to whenever I want to eat rice and beans. Oh, and there is my beloved ballet class at Ballet Beautiful, in Soho. Their website is also very cool and has some very nice pictures of the teacher. As per the stores, I like Bergdorf and Jeffrey’s, and I adore Roundabout New & Resale Couture, which sells vintage and couture pieces. I once found a gorgeous Chanel dress and some other great finds.
Where do you like to take your friends who are visiting the city? Any place you think is a must-go?
You know something I think is really cool to do? Take a boat ride around the island. There is a water taxi that I think is nice and goes around it. It is quite touristy, but I think it is worth doing it because it gives you a great idea of how NY is, and you get to see the Statue, the bridges… As far as restaurants go, I love Japanese restaurants and I really like Yasuda because it is very traditional, they even speak Japanese. Also really like the restaurant at the Bowery Hotel and the Waverly Inn, which I know is a staple for the fashion crowd and everyone goes there, but I like it.
Here is a gallery with fashionistas wearing Isolda around the globe: