On Our Radar is a Who What Wear series by senior editor, Kristen Nichols, highlighting on-the-rise fashion brands we have our eye on.
As a fashion editor, every so often, a brand really grabs you that you simply can’t stop thinking about it. That’s exactly what happened when I first discovered Isa Boulder back in January this year. Eager to find out more about the brand after spotting some photos of their stunning, ruched swimsuits on Instagram, I hoped to place an order, only to realize they hadn’t officially launched yet. My instincts told me they were about to be big, though.
Fast-forward a few months and the brand is now sold on Matches Fashion and has become a favorite of insiders. Interested to find out about Isa Boulder’s quick rise to cult status amongst the fashion set, I reached out to founders Cecilia Basari and Yuli Suri to find out more about the Bali-based brand. Ahead, read our interview as they dive into how they started out in swimwear, why local artisans are key to the brand, and the most popular pieces from the collection.
Tell us about yourselves and your background in fashion.
One of us worked for a few years in the Bali garment industry as a pattern cutter, and the other graduated in womenswear from Central Saint Martins. We both wanted to create a business together which infused both our expertise and passion in garment making.
What inspired you to start Isa Boulder?
We are very interested in the craft of making clothes and find joy in the continual process of discovering new ways to do so. Be it through a tactile method like crochet or something more technical like through experimental pattern cutting.
I read that you’ve never been photographed in swimsuits. Why did you decide to design swimwear?
We were acquaintances with a group of seamstresses who were dismissed from their jobs where they had been working in swimwear manufacturing for almost a decade. Hence, we were compelled to design our first collection swimwear-focused to make sure that while highlighting the skills of our colleagues, we were able to produce very high quality garments (or at least the best that we could). It wasn’t necessarily our idea to simply revolve our designs around this swimwear specialism. It was a good experience to familiarize ourselves with swimwear, as even though it’s small pieces of garments, they are actually a lot more tricky to perfect/sew well than people think.
How would you describe the brand?
There is an emphasis on craftsmanship and whatever we design, we just want to make sure it’s the best possible quality pieces we feel we can achieve, and our items are not necessarily led by a certain trend or style, but coming from a starting point of technique and materiality.
Isa Boulder has established itself as a must-know emerging brand that has been a favorite among fashion insiders. How have you grown so quickly?
We feel very blessed that the women who have responded well to our items have since told friends of theirs, who then told friends of theirs, with the genuine desire to show support and love for our company.
What is the inspiration behind your signature swimwear designs?
It started with the fabric, draping, and then figuring out what silhouettes would work well for the female form.
Why is it important to you to focus on sustainability and handcrafted pieces?
There are already so many garments in the world, it doesn’t make sense to rehash designs just for the sake of it. Even though in an ideal world we would steer clear from the fashion industry completely (since, at times, we do find that we’re in conflict with our moral values when noticing all these waste that we are contributing to the world especially after/during garment production), we are continually finding ways to minimize our negative impact on the environment through our bespoke approach to production and eventually focusing into knitwear.
As an Indonesian brand, how does the local culture influence your company and designs?
We work very closely with local artisans and usually, our design process revolves around using techniques and production methods that have been passed down in generations. Through constant communication and a truly symbiotic relationship with the small manufacturers we work with, we have learned a lot from their technical experiences and skills. Most importantly, our aim is to ensure that while we grow as a small company, these small manufacturers also get to benefit from our growth.
What are your must-buy pieces from the collection?
We feel that the ruched tops are very flattering for all cup sizes. We have heard many positive comments from women who are more flat-chested—they feel the ruching gives them volume which makes them feel very confident.
What are the fresh ways to style your swimsuits this summer?
It’s nice to see swimwear outside of the context of the beach and also worn layered with casual clothes to downplay the fanciness/shininess of the satin swim fabric.
Tell us about what’s next for Isa Boulder.
We hope to continue making clothes that make women feel good.