The fashion designer and artist on inspiration, entrepreneurship and dreaming big.
By Rachel Merriman
Isabella Rose Taylor’s parents call her Bella, for short, a name derived from the word for “beautiful” in Italian and Latin. It’s a fitting nickname for the young artist and fashion designer who has been drawn to creating beautiful things for as long as she can remember.
“One of my art teachers always said, ‘Your painting should be something you want to see.’ Art, for me, is creating things that I want to exist in the world. I believe in creating something that’s just beautiful to look at, not necessarily because of a certain meaning,” Taylor says.
Taylor completed her first painting at just 3 years old, and had her first show at a local gallery when she was 10. In the time between her first painting and her first show, she experimented with many different styles to find the bold, abstract style she currently works in.
“There was a certain freedom to doing one painting in one style, then trying something completely different just to try it,” Taylor says. “I really explored a lot, and I think that’s how I found my voice and what I like because I tried so many things. Of course, I didn’t like everything I did, but it narrowed down my taste. My style is still evolving and I’m still trying new things, but it’s more cohesive than it used to be.”
Taylor made the jump from art to fashion design when she became interested in incorporating textiles into her art and attended a summer sewing camp to learn how to sew. Although fashion was something she already liked, Taylor’s artistic talent naturally lent itself to fashion design, and her love for sewing grew as she learned to pattern and construct her own pieces.
“Because it was all about color, texture, shape and form, it really felt like the same thing,” Taylor notes.
Taylor began sewing for herself and friends at first, then created her first collection the following summer and began selling her clothes online and at pop-up trunk shows. After that, things began moving quickly: At 11, Taylor put on her first runway show at Austin Fashion Week, and two years later, she debuted a fall clothing collection for Nordstrom. Last September, Taylor achieved something most fashion designers only dream of doing: She showed her Spring 2015 collection at New York Fashion Week.
“I was very nervous, especially since there had been a mishap with the clothing being dyed the wrong color, so it was reworked the day before, actually. That sort of added to the nerves of hoping that everything still worked and everyone would still like the collection,” Taylor says. “That was very nerve-racking. But I got a great response, which was really exciting.”
Taylor describes the theme for her Spring 2015 collection as “rainy days and colorful beginnings.” The collection features relaxed graphic Ts and neutral staples juxtaposed with statement pieces that incorporate Taylor’s art, such as a dreamy blue dress with splashy abstract paint, and a miniskirt with a bold hand-drawn floral print. It’s casual and fun, yet modern and trendy.
“My favorite part of fashion is developing my own textiles and making my own prints. I love incorporating my art in the textiles,” Taylor says. “I either draw or paint my own textiles, or take an existing painting and manipulate it to transform it into a textile. It’s a lot of fun.”
Each piece of clothing in the line strikes a balance between girly and edgy, which Taylor says reflects her personal style.
“I have a similar style, a very street, urban, city, chick vibe. In a sense, it is pieces that are missing from my wardrobe. It’s important that the line is cohesive and sellable, but my personal style is in each of the pieces,” Taylor says.
During the design process, Taylor often creates a fictional girl to design for to keep her collection focused.
“This girl ideally wants to look cool but effortless, like she never tries too hard. Her makeup is more of a fresh-faced look,” Taylor says. “Even more specifically, I think about what she likes to eat or what she’s interested in. Making it more specific is helpful to me when I’m designing; it gives it more clarity.”
That she’s quickly risen to her level of success is bound to have some associated challenges, and when asked about the most challenging moment in her career so far, Taylor notes that jumping from producing on a small scale to having her clothes carried by a big retailer like Nordstrom was “definitely a learning process.” And on the creative side, roadblocks do happen, but she has sage advice on how to get through them.
“The best way I’ve found to work through it is just to distance myself for a little bit, or go take in some information and inspiration until something clicks, then run with it,” Taylor says. “I feel like if I put too much pressure, then it just never happens. I either have to try to find inspiration or take a break and come back with fresh eyes.
“I’m definitely my harshest critic. I always have that little voice in my head saying it could be better. Something from art I apply to a lot of different things is if it’s resolved, it’s finished. It doesn’t have to be the way you saw it in your head; just make sure it’s resolved. Otherwise, I would still be on my first collection, still tweaking. It’s important to compromise with yourself a little bit.”
In addition to growing her business, designing and pitching to retailers, creating art, doing schoolwork and traveling, Taylor takes the time to share her story and advice at panels hosted by organizations such as Girl Up and TEDx.
“Public speaking is not something I ever thought I would be doing, but it’s been really great. I get to share my story and my ideas, and I’ve met a lot of great people,” Taylor says. “I really just hope I inspire one person a little bit. That’s sort of my goal. I’ve had so many people that have been mentors and inspiration to me, so whatever I can do to be helpful to anyone is really important to me.”
For the immediate future, Taylor will finish her associate degree in fine arts and continue creating art and fashion, but she also has some bigger dreams on the horizon.
“Something I really believe in is that your greatest limitation is what you believe you can do. I’ve always dreamed big,” Taylor says. “My big, wild dream is to be a big, global lifestyle brand because why not? I’ll dream as big as I can.”
Isabella Rose Taylor’s Spring 2015 line is currently available at Nordstrom. For more information, visit isabellarosetaylor.com.