Monday, January 5, 2015

Isolated Heroes



I first became aware of Isolated Heroes a few years ago when out of boredom I explored Asos Marketplace, a subset of the Asos website and platform for independent brands and sellers (now listed under the 'Boutiques' tab). It mainly featured vintage stores out of the UK but there were some shining examples of independent designers and obviously Isolated Heroes was one of them. Even now new talent keeps cropping up such as Molly Trubody with a similar aesthetic and penchant for sparkly eyebrows. Although a word of warning about the marketplace some sellers are not as they seem and particularly when it comes to footwear sell run-of-the-mill styles that you would otherwise find on eBay. That's all well and good for some, but I prefer to know more about the people who make my clothes and support ethical decisions in business. That's part of the charm behind Isolated Heroes, as well as watching how the style has evolved over the years. 




I think Isolated Heroes is unique in that it has always had its own voice in the fashion industry so to speak. What's more common is a change in technique or exploration of different styles before finally settling on a signature look. It's clear that Isolated Heroes is the direct reflection of designer Samantha McEwen's strong sense of self. Not only is she creating the clothes she wants to wear by hand but her soul goes into the design and construction of these garments, which in the 21st century is a virtual rarity. It's comforting to know that these clothes are created by someone so passionate about what they do, but also by purchasing one of these amazing coats or jackets McEwen is able to survive in what has proven to be a very competitive industry.



The lookbooks and photo shoots created last year are by far their best to date and manage to capture the essence of many UK and London based fashion bloggers and style as a whole. And while it may seem over zealous to pinpoint a single brand as representative of an entire blogging community it's easy to imagine certain bloggers wearing some of the pieces. Over the years there has been a departure from raver culture and the migration towards sequins, tinsel and Mongolian wool to create high impact outfits. I could go on and on about the different pieces I've had my eye on for months now and have been itching to buy but I'm flat broke at the moment so to say that entertaining such ideas is dangerous is an understatement.



Despite my high praise for this independent and proudly Scottish brand there were a number of styling decisions which I took issue with. First and foremost is white girls should not wear bindis, end of story. I know of at least one article written for the Huffington by a woman of colour in defense of the trend, justifying cultural appropriation as a sign of the times and how "style evolves". But it fails to recognize how the marginalization of certain groups contributes to and is in fact part of systemic oppression. The use of braids is also a little unsettling, and while many would argue that a hairstyle in itself isn't racist it does seem to perpetuate a legacy of white girls hijacking the style and culture of black women. I don't want to dwell on this too much as there are already an overwhelming number of essays and articles on this subject and I encourage you to read.


On a more positive note following a flood of happy snaps from customers on their instagram Isolated Heroes announced they would be expanding into a plus size range, catering for sizes 16-24 UK after several custom orders. Plus size is still a relatively new market which many companies have yet to crack. Even sadder still is the sentiment that by increasing the measurements of a dress pattern they can make a plus size range. It's as Tim Gunn said on Project Runway there is an unwillingness of certain designers to treat plus size models with respect and dignity or just a downright awkwardness. It's common when being so used to making sample sized clothing or fitting garments around a mannequin that young designers don't know how to approach a variety of different body types and Isolated Heroes have quelled this fear quite early in the brand's history. Hopefully it sets a precedence at least on a local scale in Scotland that other independents will follow very soon. 




*All images via Isolated Heroes website

11 comments:

  1. I had never heard of this brand before. Im so glad you posted about them, I really love it. The photos are so great, its such an eclectic look & super unique!

    rosalindis.blogspot.com.es

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    1. I'm so glad I was able to spread the good word :)

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  2. Oh my, this stuff is gorgeous! I especially like the sequined dresses and the short pink "Believe" jacket (and also the fuchsia pea-coat style jacket).

    Also, I very much agree with your critque of their use of bindis. Like, if we lived in a world where no one was ever made fun of/treated cruelly for wearing a bindi, then maybe it'd be slightly less problematic. But to have white girls appropriate it and use it solely as a fashion accessory while society as a whole still reacts negatively to anyone wearing a bindi for legit cultural reasons, it's a big problem.

    If they really wanted to achieve a certain sort of effect or whatever, there are plenty of ancient Greek/Roman or even medieval English headdresses that would have worked.

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    1. Thanks- and I think you've identified the key issue here where WOC growing up and attending predominantly white school felt so ashamed of wearing their bindis they were either teased to the point of tears or removed this symbol after the left home and then put it back on after school in order to hide their cultural identity. The very same people have appropriated this as a fashion symbol which is the most problematic part of this situation.

      Thanks for the encouragement, I'm going to keep writing about and addressing brands who do great work but also single out any issues with their branding

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  3. Oh-my-god, I think I'm deeply in love. I absolutely love every single thing on these pics: the clothes, the colours, the models, the glitter everywhere, it's lovely!

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    1. one of the attractive things about this brand is the cohesion amongst colour and textures incorporated in the clothes as well as the props for their shoots

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  4. So in love with this collection! I've been totally captivated by sequin lately. :-3

    themadmod.blogspot.com

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  5. I'm so happy you posted about this collection! I'd heard of Isolated Heroes once before, but never really had a chance to look into it. the clothing is such a cool take on the color/feather/glitter overload that seems to be kind of a trend right now. thank you for acknowledging that you can acknowledge the beauty of their clothing, while critiquing the fact they can both make interesting clothing and participate in cultural appropriation. it's easy to ignore that you can have both of those in the same space, and that you as a consumer have the right to call them out on it. following on what you said above in the comments- i agree that it does create an environment that exploits PoC, and sends the message that the culture they created isn't beautiful until it's taken into White hands.

    // kani
    velveteenstyle.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Kani- the brain behind Isolated Heroes Samantha actually took the time to read this blog post after I tweeted and instagramed it to her and she did apologise for allowing their hired stylist on set to make these decisions.

      With social media these designers are approachable and as a consumer group we can connect with them and ask for change like I did. They should respect and welcome constructive criticism when something harmful like appropriation has been perpetrated but these comments can also coexist with compliments

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