While fashion designer Cecilia Basari got her bachelor’s degree in womenswear design at Central Saint Martins, she decided to step away from fashion design after graduation, choosing instead to help her brother with his interior design brand in Bali.
It was while she was working in interior design where she learned more about sketching and three-dimensional modeling that she was inspired to take the new practices she learned and merge them with her fashion design training, which led to the launch of her fashion label, Isa Boulder, in 2020.
“It was daunting to think about how to use what I learned from the very intense three to four years course, so I think, in a way, [the break] helped me in how I think about fashion design,” Basari said. “It gave me time to distance myself from fashion in a way and approach it more in my own speed.”
Basari launched Isa Boulder first with swimwear as it’s one of the most high-demand garments in Bali. She created swimwear with a stretchy, satin-like fabric that helped her incorporate draping and typical lingerie aesthetics into the styles, which helped her quickly develop her customer base.
The designer then took her design ethos to knitwear as Isa Boulder’s next category expansion. Basari explained the decision to enter knitwear was multifaceted as it has always been a category of interest to her and because knitwear can be made more sustainably than other categories.
“I’ve always been interested in knitwear just because of its ability to be reused,” she explained. “The yarns, we can rewind them and reuse them, so it’s cyclical and not wasted. Personally, I also think knitwear is interesting because we can calculate the yarns that we’re going to use to limit the waste instead of the cutting and sewing process like when we do swimwear.”
Isa Boulder’s knit pieces have in way become more popular than the swimwear, especially with the brand’s celebrity clientele. Since the brand launched, Isa Boulder’s pieces have been seen on the likes of Dua Lipa, Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, FKA Twigs and many others. A fishnet-style, knitted Isa Boulder shirt was also seen in the recent season of HBO’s “Euphoria” on Alexa Demie’s character Maddy.
Basari described the aesthetic of Isa Boulder as “homely sexy,” where she combines traditionally sensual styles with more rigid silhouettes.
“Sometimes the word ‘sexy’ is quite subjective,” she explained. “We try and play around with its perception and then put a twist to it so, like, who are we being sexy for? Is it for ourselves or for people to view us as sexy? I think it’s a starting point, but then we like to subvert this notion and add maybe awkward or bulky silhouettes to the sexiness.”
Basari acknowledged that while a fashion brand cannot be 100 percent sustainable, she’s trying to be as eco-friendly as possible with her practices. In addition to her sustainable knitwear methods, everything on Isa Boulder’s website is custom-made, so the brand doesn’t carry any already-created inventory. For its distributors like Net-a-porter and Ssense, Isa Boulder provides a small quantity of pieces in an effort to not overproduce.
Coming up next, Isa Boulder is releasing its men’s collection with Ssense in June, which also offers unisex pieces. Basari said in the future she hopes to continue making interesting pieces that challenge gender norms and ideas around what is sexy.
“I’m really happy with the collection and I hope that it’s not gender confining,” she said. “In terms of silhouettes, it works well for our clientele who is gravitating toward our knits because of the figure-hugging aspect.”
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