We had the good fortune of connecting with Isabel Simpson-Kirsch and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Isabel, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
Something that many may not know about the clothing industry here in LA, is the extreme amount of waste and environmental harm it causes. From hundreds of thousands of discarded “damaged” garments, to millions of yards of fabric being produced here, and the effect the fabric production has on our environment, the industry is rough on our city. One of the driving forces behind my brand is creating Zero Waste clothing. Working as a designer for various brands here, I quickly saw the insanely high level of clothing and fabric waste as was upset by it. I tried to do little things here and there like donating damaged goods to the downtown women’s shelter, encourage use of old fabric that would otherwise be discarded, etc. When I had the opportunity to start my own line again this past year, I wanted to make sustainability a pillar in my design practice. All of my pieces are made from re-worked vintage items or cut & sewn from vintage & deadstock fabric that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Fabric mills often knit extra rolls of fabric orders, and then the extra sits around until it eventually ends up in a landfill. There are hundreds of fabric mills here in LA as well as several deadstock fabric distributors that make it easy and fun to hunt for fabric waiting to be thrown out. Not only am I able to keep my pricing affordable because of the low material overhead, it’s all made with zero waste.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have been designing clothing ever since I can remember. This is all I have ever wanted to do for the most part. I’ve worked in almost every aspect of my industry for 15 years now. I have learned a ton through personal experience as well as my college education at Parsons School of Design. In 2013, my senior thesis went completely viral, and my brand, Isabel SK was born overnight. Being fresh out of school, I was overwhelmed, but managed to land a wholesale account for my collection and it sold out really quickly. I moved back to my hometown of Nashville after college to run my brand from there. I faced a ton of challenges trying to produce clothing from Tennessee, but learned a ton throughout the process. Including, how to do pretty much everything it takes to run a company myself .After hustling and working from Nashville for a few years, I decided to put my own ideas on a shelf and learn more by working for a successful high end denim brand in LA. I moved to Los Angeles overnight when the company told me I could have the job if I started tomorrow. Since then, I have skipped around to a few different companies and roles. Once Covid hit, I lost my job working for another brand. I had just been starting to make and sell my own pieces again, and in the spring, I started getting a lot of consistent orders. I used money I was saving up at the time to make more pieces and merchandise and have put every penny back into my brand since to keep it moving forward. Using all my knowledge of the industry here in LA as well as previous experiences, I finally feel I have hit a stride with my company and brand. Trying to run my brand right out of college was so challenging in many ways I didn’t even realize at the time. Now that I’ve grown up a bit and become an expert in my field, I feel so lucky to have another shot at creating pieces for the world to buy, wear and love.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There are SO many things and places I love here in LA! Over all, I would say the culture, vibrancy and energy of this city is the best, really helps to keep you going. I do have a few favorite spots (mainly open pre-covid) that I personally frequent and ALWAYS show off to friends in town….Let’s start with breakfast – I live in Highland Park and on Saturdays I always grab a donut from local staple, Big Mama’s on Figueroa. There’s a ton of amazing hikes here in LA and I often take my Husky Mix out to explore on trails with me, we are country girls at heart and really love getting out into nature on a hike or at the dog beach in Leo Carillo State Park. My favorite drink/dinner spot in all of LA, especially during the holiday season, is Dan Tana’s. Its a legendary Hollywood Italian restaurant where everything is old school, intimate, and insanely delicious. For drinks & dancing, I always have a good time at bars downtown or on the roof of the Ace Hotel or for a more low-key night, bonfire on Dockweiler Beach where you can watch the planes land at LAX.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I would love to give a shout out to my Day 1 customers! I have been doing this a lot on and off over the years, and have had a core group of supporters throughout. It really means the world to me!
Isabel portrait: Heidi Ross Branding photos: all by Isabel SK EXCLUDING: 121287870_378634960163040_7119756583351450295_n.jpg – Christopher Cloud and IMG_9778 – Lizzy Allen