Eva Zar’s Girls: Meet Isabel Hall, the Designer Behind Rihanna’s Famous Glitter Jumpsuit

We talked to the recent Pratt Institute grad about RiRi, Harmony Korine's 'Kids' and badass, New York women.

Welcome to ‘Eva Zar’s Girls’, our series where NYC-based artist and photographer Eva Zar shoots her creative wunderkind girlfriends and we do a little Q&A with them. Today, meet Isabel Hall: an NYC-based fashion designer whose name skyrocketed among fashion lovers when Rihanna wore a cool AF glitter jumpsuit designed by Isabel in the music video for “This Is What You Came For”. Although Isabel’s only freshly graduated from the prestigious Pratt Institute, New York Magazine’s The Cut recently named her one of eight millennials already making an impact in the fashion industry. Moreover, she’s already caught the eye of publications like w magazine, womenswear daily, i-d and complex.

Isabel recently launched her debut collection, ‘New York Romantic‘, through Office Magazine. We took the time to talk to her about the whole Rihanna thing, Harmony Korine’s Kids and badass New York women.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hey, Isabel. Rihanna wearing your jumpsuit was huge for you. To what extent does that put pressure on you as a designer?

Isabel Hall: Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between pressure and encouragement. That was a very cool opportunity because it was a ‘right time, right place’ type of situation with people I’m close to. I didn’t even know what was going on until it was already done and became this wonderful surprise. That said, after something big like that happens everyone expects you’ll deliver something else as a follow-up, and that’s where the pressure comes in. The key is knowing yourself and making sure that every decision moving forward is based on what you want to be doing as a designer, not what other people think you should do based on one exciting moment.

What was the process of making the jumpsuit like? 

Such a blur! I was working on that at the same time as a number of other pieces during my thesis. I had pulled that fabric very early on and knew I wanted to use it but wasn’t sure how. It reminded me of this photo Mario Testino took of Kate Moss in glittery underwear and I liked the idea of doing a pair of boxer shorts imitating those skimpy bottoms. As I was designing the collection I realized it needed a bigger feature, and that’s how the jumpsuit was born! It’s funny, though: you don’t always know what’s going to jump out until the end because everything feels so special at that point.

Maxine Ashley for Isabel Hall. Photo by Brendan Burdzinski.

How would you describe your approach to fashion?

I think one of the most important aspects of fashion is the fact that your target audience interacts so directly with whatever you’ve created. The idea of someone living in one of my garments is so cool; I like to work with more ready-to-wear pieces because of that. I’m fascinated with the way clothes develop through history and how you can follow that trajectory all the way up to pop culture today.

You’ve mentioned before that you’re interested in the commercialisation of gender roles. How are you countering that with your work?

This was something I chose to address mainly through silhouette. While we’re used to seeing a lot of women in baggy clothes, a lot of the time (especially if the clothes are more casual) they were originally intended as menswear (ex. the “boyfriend” jean). I wanted to create that same shape but instead of the idea of a woman borrowing something from a man, my goal was to hand it to her directly without the pieces losing any of the original shape or attitude they might have if they were men’s clothes.

I poked around your look book and the designs I saw are characterised by this super baggy thing. What about that loose, baggy nature draws you as a designer?

For this collection it was specific to the inspiration. Most of the silhouettes were inspired by the Harmony Korine film Kids. There’s so much attitude behind the way everyone is dressed in that movie, and it becomes such a male-dominated look that I wanted to explore that. I think very often with women, you see baggy clothing that’s either very elegant or casual. My goal was to ride that fine line in between by combining luxury textiles with that 90s skater look.

You recently told Office Magazine that your new collection is “based on the attitude of New York women.” How would you describe that attitude and why is it inspiring to you?

I think there’s a specific confidence that comes with living in the city and it shows in the way women wear their clothes here. There’s this combination of utility and creativity because everyone is always running around on foot, so for the most part there’s a level of comfort factored in, as well. What I love about that is that people usually find a way to work around it rather than just go with the practical option, which makes things so much more interesting. But yeah, you get this independence from moving around the city with all these influences and energy. It totally shows in the way women style themselves.

Maxine Ashley for Isabel Hall. Photo by Brendan Burdzinski.

Upcoming model and musician Maxine Ashley modelled for your new collection, launched through Office Magazine. How did that happen?

So casually! Brendan Burdzinski, the photographer, and Kathleen Hefty, who wrote the article, helped organize the shoot and reached out to her when we started looking for models. The other two girls, Nicola and Bella, are friends of ours, so Maxine was actually the only model we didn’t know personally. She was wonderful, though; such a great attitude and she absolutely killed it on set. I still can’t believe how regal she looks in those photos.

What’s your dream scenario as an emerging fashion designer?

I’m trying to figure that out. I guess the dream is always to have your own brand and be your own boss, but I think that can look like a lot of different things depending on the person. Right now, I’m working on a balance between my own designs and the work I’m doing for other people. I think I have a lot more to learn before I’d consider going off on my own completely. So currently, my dream scenario is to continue building a supportive circle of mentors and creatives I can learn from and see where my designs take me!

What’s coming up next for you?

I’m working on a couple of new projects! Most of it is still under wraps, but I am working on new pieces that will be out around September. I’ve met some amazing people since finishing my last collection and I’d love to keep collaborating. We’ll see where it goes!

Thanks, Isabel. 

This project was produced in collaboration with The Impossible Project.