• Photo courtesy of Isabell Kristensen

Photo courtesy of Isabell Kristensen

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Fairy tale haute couture signed by Isabell Kristensen: the interview Part IV

editorial & arteditorial

13 February 2014

We all want to live our dream. In the fashion world not so many designers succeed in creating a story around their designs, around their work; not so many are able to put some fairy tale sparkles on their creations. Isabell Kristensen does all that; Isabel Kristensen weaves all the sparkling details into a glamorous piece of art.

I met the beautiful Danish fashion designer, Isabel Kristensen, at her boutique in Monaco. A warm, smiling person who shows not only her beauty but also her talent through gorgeous gowns, jewelry and mesmerizing fragrances. During the interview, I have discovered a passionate fashion designer who loves haute couture and knows how to make her dreams alive. Every piece from her collection is an entrance to a personal story: that of the woman who wears it. Feminine, elegant, glamorous, sensual, each one of them is the door to a woman's strength and beauty. A story that Isabell Kristensen perfectly weaves with beads, sequins, crystals on delicate fabrics like silk, chiffon, French lace. It is a celebration of the woman's beauty, of the woman's body.

Read the interview and discover inspirational stories like the Zero gravity fashion show, underwater photoshoot, launching of a career as a designer on the second day after giving birth and many more. This is the fashion designer Isabell Kristensen and I let you learn more about her amazing story with this interview.

AO: After fragrance, jewelry, haute couture, there is the bridal collection. How come?

IK: I always did wedding dresses since the beginning without having a wedding collection. I was always asked to do wedding dresses. I was delighted because I love wedding dresses, I love the fairy tale!

AO: Gowns, wedding dresses, they are in the same area...

IK: With couture, there are no limits. You are not restricted like the ready to wear where you do not use extra amount of beads because you have to stick into the price range. With haute couture, there's no limit. You can make a 20m train, you can have a huge skirt, a 5m long veil, you can put crystals if you want, and it is just about if the client has the budget to do it. There is no limit of what you can create.

AO: You have a style of your own. What is your style?

IK: My style is the ultimate feminity. I love a woman's body that always should be celebrated. Even though women are the most critical ones of themselves (laughing), every woman has something that she loves about herself. And for me, from a very young age, I was always listening to people talking, to my mom. When you find out what you really like about yourself that should be emphasized in your outfit. And if there is something you hate, you should hide it. When people come to you to have a special gown made for their special event, it's very important that you listen to them ...

Photo courtesy of Isabell Kristensen

AO: To be happy and comfortable at the same time wearing the gown...

IK: Exactly! To feel beautiful in a gown!

AO: You had been the maid of honor at Princess Charlene of Monaco. How was the choice made?

IK: It was a very great honor. It's a fairy tale in itself. Seeing two friends getting married ...

AO: ... is a special moment ...

IK: Is a very special moment and it was so incredibly beautiful. She was so beautiful, she looked so amazing.

AO: How does it felt like keeping the wedding dress train of Princess Charlene of Monaco as a maid of honor?

IK: It was a very very great moment. Carrying her train and having her turning around smiling at me, was just lovely.

AO: You were wearing one of your dresses?

IK: Yes! I was wearing a dress from silk chiffon in a color that I chose with her to fit in with the whole look of the wedding and it was incredibly beautiful because it was inside the Palace Courtyard ...

AO: What about the hat you were wearing?

IK: As a maid of honor I had no hat but, at the civil wedding, I had a hat designed by DD Valentine, a milliner in the UK.

AO: I saw pictures of you with fantastic fabulous hats. How do you choose them?

IK: I love hats! I always loved hats. It is innate because of my grandmother. My grandmother always wore hats. Since I was little, she would never leave the house without wearing a hat. I always thought I was cheated living in this age and wear a hat only when you go to Ascot or to a wedding. And for a wedding, you cannot come with a massive hat ... it would be very inappropriate. The only time when you can wear this fabulous piece of art - because a hat is like a piece of art - is at Ascot. Ascot became ... and I love traditions ... a yearly event. Of course, it is fun to gamble on the horses, but I am not a great gambler because I was always losing. I am sure that if I won, I would definitely become a gambler (laughing), but I am always losing so I didn't get hooked. The whole socializing is like a massive fashion show of clothes and hats and four days of parties ... it's just fabulous.

Photo courtesy of Isabell Kristensen

AO: Have you ever thought about creating hats?

IK: Yes, absolutely! But it is a specific thing in itself; you need to be a milliner to do a beautiful hat. You can always make your own hat but it's not the same. I had always gone to different hat designers and said to them that this year I would like to wear a flower. Last year it was a Danish designer milliner who did my hat. He had never done this huge hat before and I said to him that I would really love a rose, a flower and if he could create it. He created this fabulous huge fuchsia pink rose which was beautiful. I was so excited because all the other years I worn from Philip Treacy to DD Valentine and many hat designers worldwide. And I collect the hats and, of course, now my daughters are wearing them. For me, hats are like the ultimate fashion accessories.

AO: To return a bit at the wedding of Princess Charlene of Monaco. Did you give any style advice?

IK: We always talk about fashion and style, look at different magazines. But she has a very good style, she knows what she likes and she goes for what she likes.

AO: At the wedding, did you appreciate a person in particular for her style, someone who was perfectly dressed for the event?

IK: Well, Charlene! (laughing)

AO: Of course! But, among the guests ...

IK: There were so many! And to be honest I was really overwhelmed by the whole atmosphere, the music, seeing my friends getting married, it was very romantic, a very very special day. To be asked to be maid of honor is incredible.

AO: Indeed! Now, I want to go back in time in your fashion career and tell me a bit about the NASA moment. This one impressed me very much and I loved it. I loved it because you want to turn dreams into fashion and fashion into dreams. This one is really an exciting idea that I would really love to come to space to one of your fashion shows.

IK: (laughing) Well, it all started because doing the London Fashion Week and the annual shows in different hotels, I was always looking for new venues to do it. And one of my dreams was to do an underwater show because I love mermaids; I love the floatiness of the fabric, the colors of the coral reef as an enormous inspiration in my whole career. I am always very much inspired by nature and by the seas. So, it started with that and then I kind of got the idea that I always wanted to go to the moon (laughing). I wanted to see how it was like there. I love to watch the stars and going into space and actually doing one in zero gravity ...

AO: In fact, you were into an experiment like this ...

IK: It came about because I thought it would be so beautiful and floating. In those days you could not go to the States and do zero gravity. You had to go to Moscow and there you could hire a plane with three pilots that would take you into zero gravity. So I decided to try that, to see if I actually make it work. I took some photographers, some film crews and I asked several models if they wanted to come and do it. It was an amazing experience. You find out that you actually have to roll yourself up as a ball. The only way it could be seen as a fashion show, because everything was obviously floating, was to tie down the chairs, and you had to push the models so they came like a rolling ball.

AO: So, this was like a fashion show in a zero gravity space?

IK: Yes! It was like a test. When I went there, I wanted to try it myself. Many of the people got sick and vomited. Luckily, for me, it was the possibility to fly and it was just incredible. It looked amazing like champagne coming out like pink floating bubbles, all the feathers and the chiffon. I have some lovely photos. Nowadays, it becomes more common. Everyone now does it in zero gravity.

AO: It was made when?

IK: Many years ago!

AO: It was revolutionary at that time.

IK: Yes, I remember going at the BBC talking about the idea.

AO: How the idea came, in fact?

IK: It came with this fascination of doing shows in other places and being creative. For me, I love to see a movement in a fabric. So, if chiffon moves... Also, I do a lot of dresses with fringes, I love that they move. Till this day, I did not manage to do an underwater fashion show, only an underwater photo shoot which we did last year and it was called Monaco faces Underwater, photographed by Gaby Fey. I did it with two of my daughters and, in fact, it turned out to be the most difficult fashion shoot that I had ever done. Not to breathe, to open your eyes, to actually look glamorous, all these at the same time is, literally, impossible. But I agreed to do it for charity in Monaco.

Photo courtesy of Isabell Kristensen

Photo courtesy of Isabell Kristensen

AO: It was made here in Monaco?

IK: It was made in Monaco and, one day, when we are ready, we should do it in the sea and make a fashion show. So this is still on the horizon.

AO: It is a difficult thing to do. Are the models willing to do it?

IK: With the zero gravity, the insurance question is enormous. And it is a full time project, you don't have time for anything else. For sure we have to go back again...

AO: Please tell us about your biggest fashion moments. What are the greatest moments from your fashion career?

IK: Oh, my goodness! There are so many! I don't know which one to pick. Maybe one of them was at the beginning when I met Charlene. She loves animals and she loves the Panda bear. And, if anyone could wear the dress with the panda bear, it would be her. So I created this panda bear with beads which is three dimensional and it took ten weeks just to do the teddy bear. And she wore it and that was a great moment. It was a combination of supporting the case in a massive way because of her wearing it. And it raised a lot of money for the panda bears. It was a very sweet gesture.

AO: Do you have fashion shows where you go to with your collections?

IK: Yes, we have fashion shows all the time. We present the collection twice a year and then we do the charity fashion shows. That is why I said I like to choose different venues where it hasn't been done before to make it more exciting.

AO: Your brand including fragrance, jewelry, haute couture gown - are sold everywhere in the world?

IK: The couture shops are only in Monaco and London so far. I would like to open up later ...

AO: What is the destination for a new boutique?

IK: Well, is definitely the States. Through my whole career, it's very funny because if someone had said to me you are going to have four children and a full time business, I would have said to them: you must be absolutely mad. But it just so came that I started my career and when it evolved with my four children, three of them one after each other ...

AO: So, how did you manage with this?

IK: (laughing) Some people thought it like a military camp when they were small. But no, it was always incredibly important for me to have both. I can't really see myself having one and not the other. Since the moment I had my first daughter, I always wanted more children. And if I hadn't had my career, I would have had seven for sure. But when I reached four and my business was so busy, I didn't want to lose any time with my kids. For them growing up, many of the decisions I took was because of them. Because I had a big opportunity to go to the States ten years ago and open up a whole bunch of shops and extend the brand in a wonderful way but I didn't like the idea of moving my children there at that time and start all over again. I gave birth to all of them in the UK, they grew up in the UK and then we moved here. So, I already moved them once and I think that was enough.

AO: They were involved in your career?

IK: Yes, funnily enough. I'll show you a picture of my youngest daughter who is modelling the wedding collection. They all contributed, they all have been involved. They have been to so many of my shows and my daughters pushed me a lot to do my younger collection which is the clubbing collection.

AO: What is the difference between the clubbing collection and the couture collection?

IK: (laughing) The clubbing collection is a more affordable range because it's not the whole couture thing. But it's a dress that is greatly needed. Like I said, I have many clients like mothers and daughters and the daughter wants a dress for her 21st or something. And, I'm very popular with my daughter's girlfriends (laughing)!

AO: The dresses for the clubbing are also sold here?

IK: We are going to sell them online. They are not really sold here in the shop because we don't have anymore space.

AO: What would be your future projects besides the underwater fashion show?

IK: Well, I would love to do more costumes for movies.

AO: Which one would you like to work with?

IK: A beautiful one with loads of evening gowns.

AO: Like in the Gatsby...

IK: That is the ultimate dream. Yes, I mean whoa!  Those scenes are just to die-for, honestly! I love a good challenge even if it was for a movie that does not have any evening gowns, and then I'd still be up for it because that would be a challenge to create something like that. And I love a new challenge. The thing I love most about my job in all these years is that I was never ever bored even for one day. Because the minute something starts to be boring, I begin to create something else. And this I love! Many times I failed, I would make a beautiful drawing and we would begin to make the dress and when the dress was finished, it looked like the drawing but it was horrible. And other times, I would do a drawing and then when it's finished, I'd go like it's so amazing. Looking forward to see who is going to wear that.

AO: There are moments and moments...

IK: Yes! I always said to my children: even if you fail something, just get up and do it again. Just try again! No one is perfect. But you must never give up.

AO: So, what would be your advice for the new women designers who want to have a fashion career?

IK: I think you have to stick to your original idea. Even though people say that it cannot be done or it's impossible or whatever, there's always a way. I'm a very stubborn person, if I believe something, I would definitely try every single way I can do it and if I finally can't do it, then, ok, I give up. And sometimes, when you do that, you make big mistakes (laughing). The wonderful thing about creating a dress that you had never done before, even like the little tiny dress for Paris Hilton (is challenging) ... there is a plane piece of fabric and you have to weave the crystals in a way that sparkle the most. Actually, when it was finished and I saw it, I was so excited because it was exactly how I imagined it in my head. And, sometimes, with the big gowns, especially wedding gowns, when you make a beautiful big gown with trains and lays and embroidery, it's so beautiful that you just want to put it there and don't want anymore that someone buys it (laughing).

AO: So, your advice for the women who read our interview? What would you tell them more about you?

IK: Dress wise! Dress wise should always go with what makes you feel comfortable in. You should never pick an evening gown because someone else persuaded you to have it unless you feel really fabulous in it. You will only look super fantastic if you feel super fantastic in it. If someone advises you to have a yellow gown and you hate yellow, please never do it. Just go for what you feel comfortable in because it is so much about the person who wears it. And every woman has something beautiful. If you want to have a fabulous time, you got to feel it. Even the simplest dress can just be changed with a fabulous handbag and shoes or a belt and this, I think, is so important that you can change your outfit round. I think that if you have a couture gown and the time to come for fittings and you spend the money to have it made, you must keep it in your cupboard for a long long time and bring it in and out again. When people say to me they are going to wear it once, I am always like Oh, what a shame! (laughing). It's a piece of art, made by hand ...

AO: The final question, what is your favorite fashion designer?

IK: I have many! I love Chanel! I think she was a great inspiration. She inspired me especially in her scents. I love the fact that she did her best collection when she was 86 years old or something like that, and she went to work in her shop, she worked all day. Then she went to have dinner, went home and died in her sleep.

AO: More Coco Chanel than Karl Lagerfeld...

IK: Yes! Of course, I love his designs and I think he's amazing but when I say Chanel, I say Coco Chanel. She was my inspiration from the beginning. If I wanted to do a job so many hours as I do, 24/7, it had to be something I loved. One of the first things I thought Oh, my God if I turn 60 and I have to stop that would be terrible. I would like to do it forever and ever. And she inspired me so much that she did it till the end with her most amazing collection, the fact that she made clothes that women felt so comfortably in it, it was so beautiful. I really loved! And I love Thierry Mugler, Azzedine Alaia, especially because they love the women's body. I love Tom Ford for his chicness. There are many!

AO: Thank you very much for your time! It was such a pleasure because you are such a nice person not only on the exterior but also on the interior. That it can be felt!

Editor Andra Oprea




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