Issa Jetsets in Any Climate


Brazilian designer Daniella Helayel began her line Issa in with the improbable dictum that she “couldn’t find a dress to wear and so decided to design my own.” By 2006, Helayel had a full-fledged brand on her hands, and scheduled her first official runway show. She specializes in clothes that are light, light, lighter than air—black jersey jeans, printed ponchos, silk shirts, or altered basics like a chic sleeveless belted trench.

These are “designs that work from work to play,” says Helayel, which is even more convenient when play is work, or vice-versa. Over the years, the line has accrued a jetsetting crew of followers whose apparent mantra is joie de vivre. An Issa show guarantees a “who’s who” of high flyers—Peaches Geldof, Jade Jagger and Princess Beatrice of York.

When designers cater to glitterati, due skepticism about the label’s integrity will follow. Helayel has hit back hard for Fall 2010 with design developments to take the label in a more sophisticated direction. For the first time and arriving in stores come June, Issa has launched a pre-fall collection. The collection, called “NY-LON” takes on the very condition of being between seasons. She took the conditions of living in London and New York as her inspiration, explaining, “I found it hard to find pieces which worked for the changing seasonal weather.”

She also took the line, which has long respected women’s various shapes and sizes, to an even more wearable place, by “introducing separates that can be worn as a whole look or team with other pieces.” Perhaps what is most remarkable in the pre-fall pieces is the way the designer has created mélange fabrics-Chinchilla jackets with leather sleeves, a “Hairy Monkey” embellished biker jacket, and sharply tailored staple dresses in technical jersey. It’s testament to Helayel’s design acumen that she’s managed ‘to go grown up’ without cutting off her longstanding flighty fan base.

And that base will be even more in the bag with the launch of a new Issa handbag collection, available by direct order in the fall. Signatures to look out for include the Madison tote in red pony skin and the Chelsea clutch in pill-print double satin. And if the monikers are part of what the designer hints is a bid “to expand in the US,” it’s only a minor part of Helayel’s vision, which includes “a store in every city” and with a new online store project in the pipeline, “making Issa accessible to everyone”—if not just by jet.