Interview & Photo: Emily Davis
Growing mushrooms, brewing kombucha leather, and soaking them in plant dyes, are ways artist Isabella Lalonde is taking eco fashion to the next level. Her green strategy is illustrated through efficient use of natural resources and honest love of our planet. By experimenting with colors, textures, and different sustainable materials, Isabella’s world comes to life through her every day attire.
It is rare to find a creator that can forge a truly distinct style, while incorporating universal consciousness. Isabella Lalonde is a name to be known in the fashion world and one that will make a truly positive impact.
Emily: Can you talk a bit about where your interest for fashion and dressing up came from?
Isabella: When I was young, I sincerely believed that I was a fairy. My friend and I used to pretend to hide our wings at school and in front of your families. Though the stereotypical aspects of this belief faded with time, there is a still a part of me that feels I can communicate with trees, animals and plants. The way I dress often derives from a place of fantasy. I replicate my favorite films and feel more connected to past or future eras.
Though always eclectic, my style became more refined upon moving to Paris for high school. Parisians helped me understand the power of putting together a well thought out outfit. From colors to forms and textures, the way one dresses themselves can showcase their knowledge about art making. The city itself is also so magical and romantic that it inspired me to incorporate that freedom of imagination and romanticization into my own wardrobe.
Emily: Your pieces are very theatrical, with wonderful prairie and jester-like elements. Can you talk a little bit about the different influences on your expressive style?
Isabella: The clothing I make usually encompasses two main themes; experimenting with unconventional methods of sustainability and the stereotypical (yet outdated) fashion silhouette. Both of these are stabs at the modern fashion industry and how I believe it needs to evolve.
More directly about my inspiration, I am very inspired by animated movies with surreal worlds. Some of my favorite films are Fantastic Planet, Howl’s Moving Castle, the Dark Crystal, Pan’s Labyrinth and Tim Burton’s Hansel & Gretel. All these movies encompass an escapism of the mind, materialized into a mystical environment. This expansion of natural human reality aids in the disassociation from capitalism and negative energy.
Being a practicing herbalist, I am also very inspired by the personification of plants. The Secret Life of Plants, a documentary proving plants have emotions and telepathic thoughts much like humans, is one of my great inspirations. As for music, Plantasia by Mort Garson is another cherished relic of mine. I also love sound artists like Yasuaki Shimizu & Kimio Eto.
Emily: Who or what is your biggest inspiration currently?
Isabella: A creature who is ⅓ plant, ⅓ Studio Ghibli character and ⅓ eclectic Parisian elderly woman.
In terms of tangible inspiration, I love spotting irregular fabrics. Quirky patterns, iridescent silks and fuzzy textures are only some of my favorite characteristics in fabrics.
Emily: All of your pieces are sustainable in some way or another, by using either kombucha leather, recycled Chanel fabrics, or thrift finds. How do you see sustainable fashion evolving in the future?
Isabella: Sustainable fashion has an innate ability to be experimental, radical and political. It is a threat to mass produced fashion. Sustainable methods are the way of the future, not only because of how much more carefully researched and better for the human body they are, but also because they are so much better for there Earth. To me, it is a spiritual act to utilize the Earth’s natural plants to dress our bodies. Doing so corresponds to our physical naturalness as humans. Hopefully, more brands begin to experiment with radical forms of sustainable materials. One of my favorite alternatives in the fashion industry right now is pineapple leather, which replaces leather with pineapple skins. Additionally, I think mushrooms are a great source of inspiration in their versatile abilities to transform into many surfaces.
Emily: You dress in a very unique way and have really owned your look. How do you feel about “on trend” styles or even the basic white tee?
Isabella: Personally, I boycotted the white tee because it was was a fun challenge. Though I still find them difficult to incorporate into my outfits, the white tee has a population of two in my closet. This stemmed from reading countless celebrities pronouncing their closet staple as a basic white tee. This redundancy not only made me reject the idea of the white tee, but also experiment with how far my daily style could evolve without one.
Of course, like any consumer, I am not immune to trends and do like incorporating some into my style. Some of my favorites are baby doll dresses, mary janes, knee socks, barrettes and vintage beaded purses. Trends can be seen as a form of unity or conforming. Some people comment and critique current culture and do so by ironically dressing in a trend. They are symbols and why fashion is a part of our sixth sense or language.
Emily: Now for a difficult question – How do you decide what to wear in the morning?
Isabella: Choosing what to wear for each morning is one of my favorite moments of the day. It is a form of meditation, like painting or baking. As I am an artist at heart, I love to create and thus, each morning, a new character is born from my outfit. Part of the game is intersecting colors, textures and forms to achieve maximum comfort, while creating a fresh silhouette and look. If my day is emotionally grey and negative, my outfit will be a symbol of strength, happiness and positivity.
Emily: Besides fashion design, you also create performance videos, take photos, and create zines. What is your artistic message you want to convey through these different mediums?
Isabella: Having versatile interests and budding curiosity for almost every art form, I love embodying my imagination into different mediums. I think of my art more as a mindset than one tangible form of work.
As an artist, I live in a creative nook. It’s a world. I work in different mediums because it allows me to study my world from different angles not accessible to one another. My world is like our planet, in that it contains many mysteries undiscovered by science. The process of art making is comparable to a science research study. I make a hypothesis, test and a conclusion. As soon I have discovered a massive section of the mysteries of my own world, I realize how little I actually know about it. How much more than me it actually is. Making art is like making a hard copy of a digital document. It allows me to feel the world in its physical form, rather than merely in my vision.
Sustainable fashion has an innate ability to be experimental, radical and political. It is a threat to mass produced fashion.
Emily: You’re currently trying out new forms of design through jewelry and candle making. Can you talk about how these explorations connect to your overall narrative as a creator?
Isabella: One of the biggest issues I would have with painting and drawing was that I got too in my own head. Though that can be a good thing, for me it was a roadblock in those mediums. Going to art school, I felt a lot of pressure to uphold these classic art standards of painting with oils and what not. Making jewelry completely relieved me of that unnecessary pressure because it allows me to use my creative brain entirely and apply it to something of a more functional design. I love that it can be worn. Additionally, candle making is a natural interest because I love essential oils and looking further into forms of relaxation, such as ASMR. Candles seem like the perfect marriage of sustainability since you can use old glass jars from food, soy or coconut wax, hemp rope for wicks and essential oils. I love playing with the senses as a creative experiment. It’s almost like cooking and witchcraft combined because you rely on your knowledge of a sense and pair it together to create a perfect spell.
Emily: It’s easy to be influenced by the fashion industry on social media. Do you find that social media has helped or changed your own style?
Isabella: Social media an interesting topic in terms of fashion because the platforms themselves are addicting and extremely time consuming. Sometimes, I spend hours of my day scrolling the the explore page researching other creative’s styles. Perhaps, I am less interested in the fashion industry on social media and more so enjoy using it as a tool to discover independent designers and personalities with a unique style and distinct voice. Living in New York City is actually super interesting in conjunction with this type of research because there are many ‘it girls’ living here. Basically, it’s like that moment walking in a New York City street where you see a well-dressed person with original style walk past you, and you either decide to forfeit your guilty pleasure of observing their creativity in their outfit, or you both take a sneak peak for several seconds. Instagram is like that moment, yet frozen in time and extended.
Emily: With so many projects happening and working for big names in fashion like Vogue, what is next for you?
Isabella: Having recently graduated from school, this is a question constantly lurking around. Right now, I am deep diving in all mediums of jewelry. I really enjoy glass and started to create these otherworldly beads from it. Also, I finished a pair silver mushroom earrings with opal stones embedded into the mushroom cap. I plan to experiment more with sustainability in jewelry through unconventional material use.
After a necessary breather this summer, I am also getting ready for my next video. I will be building miniatures and filming my own magical world full of fairies and fungus. This world can be one that encompasses all of my creative hobbies, such as glass, plant dyeing, jewelry and more.
I make a hypothesis, test and a conclusion. As soon I have discovered a massive section of the mysteries of my own world, I realize how little I actually know about it.