I WALK TO ISA'S HOUSE, located in central Buenos Aires. Walking down the street, I nearly miss her place, which looks more like the entrance to an office than a home. I find it though, thanks to fluoro tape, shaped into a street number.
The inside is a home, a home in the midst of being decorated. It’s new and modern. Pictures are propped below where they’ll eventually hang and the room is half-furnished.
Isa’s studio is behind her house, in a garden turning red and yellow and abundantly green. It’s filled with second-hand furniture and looks out upon her mood board, which fills half the back wall. Light is streaming in. It’s a nice place.
So, what is T H E M? It’s a clothing brand started by two Argentine natives. The pair were friends at school, before travelling to London, and have operated successful fashion brands. Now, through one way or another, they are back in Buenos Aires, Argentina, working together.
The clothes, they’re cool; look up T H E M and you’ll see what I’m talking about for yourself. T H E M is casual, but sophisticated and dominated by sharp and bold cuts, lines and shapes. Inspired by art and music, you’ll find a certain rock attitude in their style, without being too literal.
Isa formally ran tu.tu.blu with a friend in London. From a studio in Stoke Newington they designed pieces, which were stocked by Topshop and boutiques located in around London, LA, Paris and Dubai.
Angie was a part of AY Not Dead with another friend. Together they built the brand to become one of Argentina’s most successful labels.
Isa and Angie cut their fashion teeth at Central St Martin’s in London where they selected course-after-short-course to expand their knowledge. According to the girls, every spare moment and penny went into Central St Martin’s.
By about 2010 they were back in Argentina and looking for a new venture. T H E M’s first collection, It’s a Hollywood Summer, was just released in the past southern hemisphere summer of 2011/12.
It’s a Hollywood Summer range was inspired by David Hockney’s art and his time spent in LA. Which in turn, lead them on to Hollywood, music and the Chateau Marmont and it’s infamous pool. You will find bananas, animal prints, forest creatures, a certain touch of rock and a fabulous streak of bling in the range.
Isa and Angie combined silks, leather and suede with geometric cut-outs. The palette is bright but still dark, with vibrant greens, yellows and blues sharing cloth with black and gold to accessorise.
T H E M celebrates the two designers’ love of prints and this area of the label occupies a lot of their attention.
“We put most of our efforts in this area and then try to make a wearable, fashion-aware silhouette that people can relate to.”
While I visited Isa’s house – Angie was out and about – Isa mostly kept working. She was diligent and focused and I enjoyed being in her home and work space.
Some questions I put to Isa:
Why did you return to Argentina from London? Mother Nature caught up and about fours years ago I became pregnant. My husband and I considered our options – stay in London or return home to Argentina and our families. We decided it was now or never. We love Argentina, but still miss London and the areas we lived, in particular Dalston and Newington Green. I’m nostalgic speaking of it now!
Has it been difficult establishing a label in Argentina compared with London? Starting a fashion label is difficult wherever you choose to do it, for many different reasons. There is no perfect place. London is a creative city; its people want to push boundaries and support those that do. Buenos Aires focuses on the business rather than the creativity. This can be annoying, but it’s also a challenge for us to overcome.
Buenos Aires is a creative city – what’s driving this energy? In 2001 there was widespread unemployment in Argentina and it was difficult to secure work. Too many young people were unemployed, feeling abandoned by their country, their government. So people made their own work, became self-employed and engaged in creative projects. When the economy began to recover, these small projects grew bigger and more successful. It showed creative people it was possible to succeed and drew out a community of creatives who you see today in Buenos Aires.
What do you love about your home? Watching my daughter and garden grow – they both change so fast!
Your daughter must have a lot of creative blood flowing through her? (Isa’s husband is Juan Cabral – the creative director behind the Cadbury Gorilla and Sony Bravo bouncing ball ads) Perhaps she’ll rebel and become an accountant... we could always do with one of those in the family!
What comes next? A surprise!