You Will Never Be As Cool As This Brand: Interview with Issay Issay


Forgive me for my blunt words, but you won't be. Issay Issay is a hip-hop heavy home-ware brand started up by a Loiner (yes, that's the correct term for an inhabitant of Leeds, I googled it) called Isabelle. I met her over a year ago when I was still stuck at the London College of Fashion at an entrepreneurship workshop, one of the few extra curricular I bothered to attend, and she stuck in my mind. At the time, she wanted to go into clothing renewal (turning vintage pieces into current, on trend items using alterations) and I kept her on Facebook, only to recently notice Issay Issay creep onto my timeline. 

Issay Issay is quaint and dainty but inspired by hip hop legends. So basically it represents the synergy of two of my favourite things: retro home-ware and rap. I interview founder Isabelle to find out a bit more about how she got started with the business, and what her challenges were along the way.

Hi Isabelle, firstly can you tell me where the inspiration for Issay Issay came from?

I’ve always had a playful style and like making things that are fun! I’d made an embroidered face of Biggie Smalls for my one of my final pieces at University and started playing around with famous hip hop faces on things to sell then it evolved from there really. I found crockery a lot less labour intensive as embroidery but still do custom embroidered jumpers. Drake was the first he’s such a babe!

Can you describe the Issay Issay brand in a sentence?

Issay Issay is a playful illustrative brand not to be taken seriously and there to make you smile!

Why did you want to start your own brand and what were the big challenges you faced while getting things going?

When I was finishing University I realised I didn’t want to work for a big company designing for someone else but I wanted to do my own thing. I started a vintage brand but soon lost interest and created Issay Issay. I like having full control and creative freedom to do what I like as this makes me a lot more creative!

It’s hard getting knock backs, I have emailed hundreds of people in the past and received 1 reply for which makes it hard to find the motivation. I’ve found you have to do everything for yourself is the best motivation, prove them wrong and make them want you!

I work full time to fund my business so time is very precious and it can be tough fitting everything in meaning some days I’ll work 7.30 am to midnight! I use the money I earn in my full time job to help aid my business. I don’t want any debt so decided to start small using my earnings instead of getting a loan and build up which has proved a good system!

Why do the heroes of Hip Hop appeal to you so much as subject matter?

There is so much merchandise and fan art for pop music, film stars etc. but hip hop I feel is overlooked. I think it’s fun to use hip hop stars who are often portrayed as bad asses and draw them in a cutesy way on a mug- the juxtaposition is what I like! I also am a big fan of hip hop and listen to it when I work- it’s where the idea came from when I had a mind block at Uni!

 If you had all the financing in the world, what would you expand out in to and why? 

I’d like to branch out into clothing and accessories. I like the idea of having Drake on a pair of knickers and socks! For the clothing and accessories I’d like to incorporate embroidery into it again too but keep everything very Issay Issay. Maybe one day!

What is the best and worst thing about starting out a business in London?

The best thing is the amount of opportunities that come your way that you wouldn’t get elsewhere, such as the people you meet and being able to be in the hub of fashion and homewares.

The worst thing is how expensive everything is, my bedroom is my studio so I have limited space to work but I’d love to have a studio soon!

If you could tell your 15 year old self anything, what would it be?

I’d say to intern and meet as many people as you can! I’d also tell myself to start my business as early as possible too and to always have fun.

What advice would you give to young, female entrepreneurs who want to start out their own venture?

Make your own luck, the world isn’t always nice but if you keep going at something you love then you can make it and if you have an idea just do it! There’s no time like the present.

How do you keep your creative juices flowing when you feel you are lacking inspiration?

I imagine myself in a studio filled with plants and drawings and my own workshop and remember that’s what I’m aiming for! It’s good to have a breather when you don’t feel creative too- everything I do when it’s forced creativity looks bad. You can tell if I’m rushed or in a bad mood when I’m working as the illustrations don’t look as good!

And finally, what is in store for the future of Issay Issay (whether in reality or hypothetically) + where can we find you online...

I’m planning on making soy candles for the next collection with hip hop puns such as ‘Leminem’ a lemon scented soy candle in the up coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled for some limited editions! And hopefully it won’t be long until the Drake silky knickers too!

You can find me on:

Depop: @issayissay

Well I'm sold, and I've got my eye on those silky drake panties...

You can find me here:

As always, thanks for reading and make sure you leave any comments you have below!

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