FASHION is instant language, so said Italian designer Miuccia Prada.
If that is the case, then former Priestley students turned designer Isabelle Pennington-Edmead certainly has a lot to say.
For the 22-year-old’s first catwalk collection has already garnered great attention – not just for its beauty, but also its message.
“It has a personal focus for me as I am third generation ‘Windrush’ with family roots of migrating to the UK from the Caribbean,” she says.
“My collection is a tribute to my family – their physical and emotional journey to Britain from St Kitts and Nevis.
“The collection is an emotional appreciation to them for the sacrifices and things they endured in order to give my generation more opportunities.”
Inspired by the Windrush controversy that has been well documented over the past year, Isabelle drew from the ‘kitsch decoration of a typical West Indian home’ and of the family home she remembers visiting as a child.
Her first opportunity to put her work in front of an audience came at the end of her degree and a fashion show at Nottingham Trent University.
Scouts for Graduate Fashion Week were among the spectators and the next day they invited her to take part in their event.
“I just got an email saying I made it,” says Isabelle. “I had to get all my flatmates to read the email back to me to make sure I understood what it was saying!”
Graduate Fashion Week is a showcase for more than 1,000 of the very best students and graduates from the world’s most influential and inspiring universities.
It is said to represent the future of creative design talent and helped launch the careers of some of the most successful designers of our time including Christopher Bailey MBE, Stella McCartney, Giles Deacon, Matthew Williamson and Julien Macdonald.
For Isabelle, it was a moment worth savouring as elegant models walked her creations up and down the catwalk in The Old Truman Brewery.
“It was more excitement than nerves by this point because it was where I had wanted to be since I applied for university,” she says.
Her collection, simply called ‘Windrush’, made reference to the tropical elements of St Kitts as well as the history of the plantations.
All of her prints are made from multimedia drawings and collages, which are digitally edited. Isabelle also used a traditional batik waxing technique that she saw in a dye house while visiting the island.
“I knew I needed to be conscience of being sustainable when completing my finished product, particularly my choice of fabrics,” she says.
“I opted for digital printing because it is a more eco-friendly process due to using less water.
“I attempted to make my collection zero waste by ordering my fabrics according to digital lay plans and leftover fabric was used in other ways such as accessories like head scarves.
“A large part of my concept was the West Indian front room, I recycled old unwanted table cloths, doilies and fabrics giving them a new life and preventing them from going into landfill.”
Isabelle, who is from Stretton, studied A-Levels in Fine Art, History and Textiles before completing an Art Foundation course at nearby Priestley College.
Afterwards she secured an Alexander McQueen Sarabande foundation scholarship as she headed to university, meaning she will have studio space at the company’s London HQ when needed.
Her future in the industry seems secure, as she also recently received a nomination for ‘Emerging Designer’, the winner of which will be announced later this year at the Midland Fashion Awards.
Her next step though, is deciding whether to pursue an MA or get straight into work within the industry.
Whatever she decides, there’s no doubt she will have a lot to say.
“I want to learn more about business in fashion and eventually create my own label,” she says.
“I think my work will always have some hidden messages, or maybe I will just make the meanings more obvious in future.”