Review by Afsun Qureshi
Unlike the rest of London's fashion professionals, Issa's creative director, Blue Farrier, has not yet seen the Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition at Tate Modern, which was surprising, because it looked like the painter lived in Issa Resort 2014. It wasn't just the collection's floral and painterly ways that evoked the grand master; there were also echoes of Matisse's cutouts into painted paper, a technique he was forced to use when ill health prevented him from painting.
Farrier spliced cutout flowers on a fil coupe base, an effect made even more remarkable because the fabric, a concoction of silk, nylon, and cotton, crunched like parchment paper. It was a jolting statement that appeared on blouses and a standout white coat. Farrier was influenced by the grande dames of art and sculpture: "I was intrigued by Picasso's muse, the painter Françoise Gilot, and I wondered where she and other influential female artists like Barbara Hepworth or Niki de Saint Phalle would holiday, and how they would dress there," said the designer. Thus the south of France became part of Farrier's thoughts, most visible in an ocean-wave motif. The wave appeared as details on culottes, took the shape of a peplum on a jacket, was used as a print, and was even an undulating sleeve detail on the "Kate Middleton" dress. Farrier also continued the exploration of knife pleats she began last season: A crisp white silk pleated blouse, made extraordinary through its simplicity, will appeal to the intellectual, thoughtful kind of woman Farrier referenced. That customer will also appreciate the more structured looks and muted colors of blush lavender and monochrome that Farrier used.
The designer had a playful moment by turning the ocean wave into the "royal wave": Little hands that were waving regally appeared as a print and as dozens of little acrylic hands in bright colors that hung off sleeves and collars. On the collection's showpiece, a floaty white silk organza dress, the hands were laser cut and half-appliquéd on, leaving the other half to wave around, creating texture and depth. If the "Royal Wave" was a tribute to Farrier's most famous customer, the Duchess of Cambridge, it was done in a humorous, ironic way that felt very English. Despite its Brazilian roots, Issa is an English label, and in a few weeks it will hit Liberty for the first time, on the British floor. But the Issa girl still loves the tropics and travel, and the collection is anchored by exuberantly colored, embellished caftans, jumpsuits, and fit-and-flare dresses. One of Farrier's goals is to please the brand's loyal clientele while drawing in an entirely new fan base. With this collection, she should create some pretty big waves.
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