StyleNest talks to Daniella Helayel, founder of that royal blue dress which won the nation’s hearts, aka Issa. Designer to the royals, the renowned Kate Middleton engagement dress sold out immediately and became an instant sensation with overwhelming media-buzz. But, that’s not all Issa is about, the Brazilian born designer who now resides in London exhibits her heritage through colour, natural shapes and bold prints.
You were born and raised in Brazil and then moved to New York to study. Living in London, where do you call home?
Chelsea feels like home.
Your designs are sophisticated yet relaxed and also very true to the female form, where do you get your inspiration?
I find inspiration all around me, I never really switch off. Whether it’s a beautifully dressed woman, a particularly moving exhibition, a great film, art books, a new part of London I have discovered, an exciting view from a hotel room. Pretty much anything like that can suddenly trigger an idea. I also take a lot of inspiration from my childhood in Brazil, being surrounded by beautiful nature, sun and sea. I have tried to translate all the unexpected colour combinations, natural shapes and the thrill of the carnivals into my prints, fabrics and designs.
You empower women through your clothing in many different ways. Who inspires you?
My friends. I have some super chic, fashionable friends and it’s always them I think of when designing, not celebrities. Would Andrea Dellal wear this? What would Giovanna Battaglia think of this? How would Camilla Al Fayed style this?
The animation of Brazil and bright colours are clearly reflected in your designs, what is it about London that inspires you?
I love being in London, I get so inspired here. Driving around in a taxi looking at women walking down the street, the weather, the architecture, the museums, the parks, the shops, the restaurants. I try to keep my mind open constantly as I don’t want to miss anything.
Issa was created with your dream to create the perfect dress. What is your definition of the perfect dress?
Issa dresses always accentuate the best parts of a woman’s body; the waist, the curves, whilst also downplaying the parts a lot of women are not so fond of like their midriff and their arms.
What is your main aim when you create a dress for a woman? Do you want her to look beautiful on the outside or feel it in the inside?
Versatility and making sure my dresses work for all different shapes, styles and sizes is critical to my designs. Issa clothes fit so well and I believe that’s because I try every design on myself and I only use fitting models with curves. I fit either on myself, my team or my friends. The philosophy behind Issa has been the same from the very first dress I made when I couldn’t find anything to wear. I think most women have felt the same way as me.
How do you define true style?
Chic, simple, comfortable and effortlessly glamorous.
What is your failsafe look when you are in a rush and just can’t find anything to wear?
An effortlessly stylish and comfortable dress from my collection of course, like one of our silk jersey classics, a wool knit dress or the rayon rib dress. I dress things up with classic Chanel pumps, my favourite bag of the moment, pair of sunglasses and a scarf.
Issa has exploded with media coverage recently, what do you do to stay focused?
My job is to make beautiful and designable pieces, the rest just compliments.
From what age did you know you wanted to be a designer and why?
Growing up I was always interested in fashion and surrounded by stylish women like my mother and aunts. I loved dressing up and trying on their clothes, makeup and wigs. Actually, when I was a little girl I wanted to be an astronaut.
What do you like to do to unwind?
Work is fun to me, I’m very lucky in that sense that I really love what I do and don’t think I could do anything else. This world can get crazy, hectic and incredibly stressful so I like to chill out by having massages, practising yoga, meditating, swimming and dancing.
Can you clue our StyleNest readers on any exciting projects you are working on?
Our new online store will be launching on 13 September, as well as our first stand-alone store.
What trends are going to be big next season?
Head-to-toe prints and smart tailoring.
Issa is all about feeling confident, what is the best advice you would give our readers on how to be confident?
Only wear what makes you feel good and comfortable.
Did you ever envisage yourself having achieved the success you have?
My motto has always been to dream big and aim high, if you don’t dream then how can you achieve anything? I only started designing out of necessity because I couldn’t find anything I wanted to buy. I soon realised this is what I wanted to do with my time and began designing for myself and friends. I’m over the moon to see where we have come from, it’s a dream come true. However, as Creative Director, I am only as good as my last collection so the pressure never comes off. I’m very thankful to have a wonderful team and that is the best gift.
Women often lose their confidence and sense of self after having children, what advice would you give to women to help them get their style back after giving birth?
I would say to do anything that makes you feel good, be it getting a new hairstyle, buying a new pair of shoes or a new handbag. I don’t have children of my own yet however, I know that my girlfriend’s bodies have changed significantly after giving birth. Luckily, I have some fabulous fitting pieces in my collection like the Rayon Rib dress which is like Spanx in a dress. It sucks everything in and makes you look amazing, no matter how you are feeling.
Your designs are always sophisticated, feminine and flattering to wear. What advice would you give to working mums who don’t know where to start with their winter wardrobe?
Every woman deserves to find the dress. The dress which works for her, makes her look and feel her best, has a perfect fit, will transform her wardrobe and means she never has another “I-have-nothing-to-wear crisis”. No other item has the power to be a complete outfit in itself; a dress can totally change your mood. If it’s right it can make one feel absolutely fabulous.
You always look so chic and elegant. We can’t imagine you ever having a scruffy day. What is your ultimate wardrobe staple?
Dresses, dresses and more dresses.
What is your failsafe cocktail look?
The Cape dress, it can be effortlessly transformed from day to evening.
Are there any British designers you really love? Whether established or new to the fashion scene?
Any top tips for our readers on how to look fabulous in just five minutes?
Throw on an Issa Dress and feel instantly transformed.
You have worked with so many iconic people and brands. Any particular favourite memories or faces?
The first time I dressed Madonna was a pivotal moment in my career that I will never forget. I always wanted to see her in my designs as she has been my idol whilst growing up. It made and still makes me very happy that she chose to wear Issa.
What’s your motto?
Feel good to look great.