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Isabel Elfast

Surreal, sophisticated, and illusory, Isabel Elfast’s PHANTASMA collection has earned her a nomination in ELLE Style Award New Nordic Talent of the Year. We caught up with the young designer to learn more.

Born and raised in Gothenburg, Isabel Elfast became interested in fashion as a phenomenon in her early teens, absorbed by the imagery of her sister’s fashion magazines.

– I was quite obsessed with my own wardrobe from a very early age. I would refuse to wear certain things, and at the age of seven I asked my parents if they could help me start my own label, simply because I had a hard time finding children’s clothing that I didn’t find ‘childish’ or tasteless. My aunt, who is now an artist, was then a tailor turned designer and I’m sure she influenced me.

– When I was around 14, I became more and more interested in fashion as a phenomenon. This was around 1999, 2000, and a lot of exiting things were happening internationally. I used to read my older sister’s fashion magazines, and I became absorbed by fashion imagery.

– I was also fascinated by the history of fashion, and I spent a lot of time in the school library, reading fashion history books. I was drawn to early Dior, Chanel, and Balenciaga. To me, fashion was the ultimate artistic expression, and I knew that I wanted to be a designer.

The whole notion
of fashion is abstract

After courses in tailoring, pattern cutting, and fashion theory, Isabel began to study at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm, where she recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design.

– My three years at Beckmans were the most important years of my life. ‘Learning by doing’ is one of the key elements of the programme, which was challenging but effective. It provided me with a wide set of skills, but also a sense of confidence and self criticism, which I find equally important in this line of work.

You’ve also had an internship with Christopher Kane, what did that mean to you?
– Christopher Kane is a young super talent with an amazing team by his side, so working with them was very rewarding and exiting. Material innovation is a passion of mine, and obviously one of Kane’s strengths as a brand, so working hands-on with their garments and experiments was truly inspiring.

Where do you find inspiration?
– Inspiration can literally come from anywhere. To me, the most important thing is to keep myself stimulated by various impressions. I am constantly consuming culture; photography obviously, but also art, cinema, and music. I am also fascinated by science, and how you can infuse that into fashion.

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Are there any designers that you look up to?
– Hussein Chalayan, Nicholas Ghesquière, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto, Christopher Kane, Ann-Sofie Back, and Anders Haal.

– There are a lot of amazing designers and brands that continue to surprise and evolve, even though the fashion business sometime seems to be governed by conformity and conservatism. It is important to keep inspiring designers and brands in mind in order to stay motivated.

Tell us more about your collection PHANTASMA.
PHANTASMA is based on visual illusions, and holographic experiments. I was influenced by the work of Man Ray, the surrealist movement, the holographic Tupac show, and the endless editing possibilities of today’s digital, visual society, among other things. I thought about the way fashion is dependent on various kinds of illusions. The whole notion of fashion is abstract, since it is only embodied in people’s opinions on what fashion is. I began by experimenting with photography and 3D effects, and then developed it into a sartorial reality using transparent appliqués, hologram sequins, foam-doubled silk, and more.

Surreal, sophisticated, and visually stunning, Isabel’s PHANTASMA collection earned her a nomination in this year’s ELLE Style Award New Nordic Talent of the Year. A joint award between ELLE Denmark and global fashion brand MUUSE, the first stage of the competition is based on public voting. The 25 designers who receive the most votes will advance to the semi-finals, where a panel of ELLE’s Scandinavian fashion editors will select three finalists. The final winner will have their collection produced, marketed and sold on MUUSE.

See Isabel Elfast’s collection PHANTASMA above. See all the nominated designers in ELLE Style Award New Nordic Talent of the Year here, and click here to vote for Isabel. The voting closes on Friday, January 24.

Photography: Per Möller
Styling: Isabel Elfast
Stylist’s assistant: Lisa Sandberg
Hair and make up: Halina Cukrowska
Model: Isabell T, ELITE Model Management