From a young age, Wellingtonian Izzy Buttle has been fascinated with fashion. With fond memories of prized clothing and accessories - like her favourite burgundy lace-up boots, Buttle always had an eye for detail. “Clothing and fashion work as an extension of your identity, what you wear speaks for you, and to you. It can tell others what type of person you are, what your values are, and who you want to be affiliated with,” explained Buttle. The proud owner of her first sewing machine at only nine years old, Buttle took her creations very seriously - despite an incomplete knowledge of sewing. As she only knew how to sew forwards, she would fully rotate the fabric to properly back-tack - an arduous task, but one detail-oriented Buttle never left out. An early source of inspiration were the dance costumes designed and crafted by her aunt, who owned a dance company and made all the outfits herself. “Going to her studio was like going to a candy shop; the colours, prints and the designs were so outrageous, I couldn’t stop looking. I wanted to be part of it,” said Buttle. Through high school, Buttle drew on everything - schoolbooks, receipts, even bus tickets - her design ideas were endless.
After high school, the next step was clear; Buttle enrolled at Massey University and embarked on a Bachelor of Design (Fashion), which she will graduate from this year with Honours. Starting out with a love of design, Massey University’s programme quickly illuminated Buttle on how the fashion industry functions, as well as the problems with sustainability which urgently need to be addressed. This knowledge informed Buttle’s core values and gave her a platform to explore those values constructively and creatively. “Fashion on the surface is sold as luxurious, a lifestyle which is highly desired but is unattainable for most. But beneath the surface, there is a lot of ugliness related to the ethics of fashion, including labour exploitation, reckless consumption of resources and environmental disregard,” explained Buttle. This frustrated Buttle and had a large impact on her design process. “My graduate collection ‘Nausea’ is a representation of how I feel about the current state of the fashion industry,” added Buttle. The collection utilised incredibly complex pattern making and construction, which overwhelmed Buttle at times, as well as utilising high-quality fabrics which give the collection a luxurious feel. Working at The Fabric Shop also influenced Buttle and her collection. “Being surrounded by fabrics has undoubted shaped my design aesthetic and identity. I have definitely become a bit of a fabric snob and cannot seem to buy clothing made from synthetics anymore,” she explained. ‘Nausea’ uses slippery, sheeny fabrics in rich, jewel-like tones juxtaposed alongside thicker drapey wools and leathers. The overall effect is avant-garde and infused with both intelligence and artistic flair.
Buttle’s inspiration can come from anything and everything, although she is currently enthralled by unexpected colour combinations. The influence of other designers cannot be understated, similarly to students of any artform. Buttle is influenced by big players in the field as well as local creators. “When I first got into fashion, and only really knew the big names, Prada always stood out with their bright colours and bold use of patterns, as did Dries Van Noten,” said Buttle. On the home front, Buttle loves conceptual brand Otsu, for their intriguing and unique pattern-making. Other influences include Margiela and Comme Des Garçons.
When it comes to the physical skills that back up her penchant for design, Buttle is firmly of the belief that sewing skills underpin excellent design. She loves both the challenge of crafting a garment and the artistic expression of design. “The full process of physically making a garment I can’t seem to get enough of - I get totally sucked in,” said Buttle. It’s this basis of garment construction that now informs Buttle’s design. “The more construction techniques you know, the more possibilities you can design from,” she added. “Every designer wants the image in his or her head or on paper to translate the same way, or better on a 3D form.” Buttle learned, even more, construction techniques during a brief internship with leather accessory brand Yu Mei, as well as gleaning insights into the process of launching a brand and running a small business.
Buttle currently works on a commision only basis, under the name Izzy Thom (@izzy.thom.design). While her love of design has endured, the path to being a fashion designer is no longer as simple as it seemed before her studies. “I’m not sure if I want to jump straight into starting my own label yet,” explained Buttle, who has her sights firmly set on working within the industry in a revolutionary way. She wants to slow down fashion, and disrupt the cycle of environmental and ethical abuses, potentially creating a new system. According to Buttle, the biggest change she has witnessed in the industry is also the slowest. This change is, of course, the push for more sustainable collections by designers and brands, and informing consumers of that much-needed change. “I feel very passionate about trying to do my bit to make fashion a more environmentally friendly industry,” said Buttle. “I would love to work for a company that aligns with the same values that I have. This may be tricky to find; I just don’t want my values to become secondary.”