Feature: Austin Style
Isabella Rose Taylor talks graduating from Parsons, her recent Pottery Barn teen collaboration, and upcycling ’90s fashion
by Emy Cies
Photographs by Jessica Pages
For most of us, the evolution of personal style is a battle fraught with awkward photo documentation and cringeworthy teenage years. For Isabella Rose Taylor, who turned 16 in March, style is the outcome of an inherent desire to create.
The Austin native started painting at age three. Her first sewing class at eight sparked an interest in fashion design. By 12, she’d launched her first collection online, graduated high school, and become the youngest designer to send a collection down the runway at Austin Fashion Week.
After taking two years of art and design classes at Austin Community College, Taylor transferred to Parsons School of Design in New York, where she earned her associate’s degree in fashion marketing. At 13 she became the youngest person ever to have a clothing line at Nordstrom and show a collection at New York Fashion Week. This year, she’s graduating from Parsons and is celebrating her freshly launched collaboration of home décor with Pottery Barn Teen.
Taylor has never seen her age as a disadvantage or an excuse to be taken less seriously. “I was definitely younger, but I never really got any reactions,” she says. “I feel like most people didn’t really notice or pay attention; I just blended in.”
To her classmates’ credit, Taylor radiates calm and wisdom beyond her years. Her poise and easy confidence are opposite to the typically awkward teenager. Perhaps it’s the self-assuredness that comes with making a name for yourself in the fashion world before you can drive a car.
But being a teen designer has some serious advantages. Mainly, being the same age as your targeted demographic. Her collaboration with PB Teen dropped earlier this year and the final round of samples have just been escorted out of her studio and back to headquarters. The collection is inspired by her sketches and paintings: a black and white color palette with abstract faces, dramatic brushstrokes, and accents of dreamy pinks and rose gold.
“I’ve always been really interested in interior design and textiles, plus I was kind of designing for my peers,” she smiles. “It was a fun way to bring them into my world of art.”
This was Taylor’s first foray into home décor. It included a signature bedroom and art studio, both inspired by her personal bedroom and studio in Austin. “In a studio I look for multifunctional pieces, that’s a big thing I was able to do with Pottery Barn, like a really awesome art cart,” she explains. “I really wanted to create more versatile pieces that can grow with you.”
Taylor describes her path into design as an organic process that started as a fun hobby and snowballed into a full-time business. After taking sewing classes, she started making clothes for herself and friends, then progressed into selling online and landing massive retailers like Nordstrom.
While reinvention is always key to developing your personal style, it is never more true and important than during tumultuous teenage years. Growing up with a brand allows for plenty of experimentation, it’s just that most teenagers don’t have a catalogue of their fashion choices marching down the runway. Taylor sees it as a natural progression and has stayed true to her own brand of self-expression.
“A lot of the values of my brand have stayed consistent but the style has evolved a little bit as I’ve matured,” she says. “I’ve always been drawn to more classic pieces and simpler silhouettes that can be reinvented.”
Her personal style is a mix of urban and glamorous aesthetics. Think sporty caps with waist-length blonde hair, tracksuits and Chanel backpacks. “I like a street and sportswear-inspired influence,” she says. “I love looking at old designers, like vintage Calvin Klein.” Keep in mind that if you were born in 2001, Calvin Klein is an old designer.
“Everyone has a pretty specific personal style, whether they think they do or not,” she says. “Every decision you make, from a piece of clothing you pick out to how you decorate your living space and what you like on social media.”
Her latest collection, IRT Redux, took vintage and classic brands and “upcycled” them with political and female-positive messaging. “It kind of brings to life my personal style of reinventing classics,” Taylor explains. “I wanted to make fun statement pieces with a twist.” For example, the classic ‘90s Gap hoodie, bespoke with the message: “Close the Gender GAP.”
Whether planning a runway show or designing an art studio, Taylor likes to be as involved as possible, curating every aspect to create a world for her clothes and designs. “I love creating the concept: mood boards, figuring out color schemes. Creative direction is always very fun,” she says. “I think also first round of samples is very exciting because it’s the first kind of physical thing that you have.”
In 2014, she achieved something most designers never will: making it to New York Fashion Week. Taylor feels Austin had a big part in preparing her for such a pinnacle moment. She debuted at Austin Fashion Week in 2012 and was honored as a rising star. “I feel really grateful; that opportunity helped shape me,” Taylor says. “Austin is such a creative city and there’s so much support that comes from within the fashion community.”
Her whimsical collection wowed at New York, where she became one of the youngest to ever present. Taylor says being 13 wasn’t an issue, and she was more than ready for the challenge. “Because I had done Austin Fashion Week I kind of understood what goes into putting a show on,” she explains. “So when it came to a larger scale I felt more prepared, but it was so surreal and very emotional.”
“It was always a dream of mine — I think it’s every designer’s dream, I never expected it to happen,” she smiles and then adds, “Not this soon.”
Read more from the Style Issue | September 2017