Made In Melbourne: Isaiah Wittingslow Of AUTEURENT
Zayyar: Tell us a little bit about yourself Isaiah, what do you do and where are you based?
Isaiah: My name is Isaiah Wittingslow. I grew up in a small town in rural Victoria, Australia until moving to Melbourne for university. I have a Bachelor of Communications (Advertising) and I work for an underwear brand managing their ecommerce and marketing. I am also the founder and Creative Director of AUTEURENT.
Zayyar: How did you first become interested in fashion?
Isaiah: For most of my early teens I wasn’t that interested in it. I wasn’t on social media until I turned 18 so I didn’t really know of any brands other than what was in the local sportswear and skate stores. I first started to take interest in ‘fashion’ when the original Yeezy 350 Turtledove released. I always had small businesses on the side so I started reselling them. While I didn’t actually secure many pairs I began to sell sneakers from Louboutin, Louis Vuitton and Gucci as well as Rick Owens, Saint Laurent Paris and Balenciaga to an international market. Over the initial and only 3 months of running I was selling over 20 pairs a week which then lead to becoming a personal shopper for clients in Australia, the US, Dubai and Europe.
Zayyar: That’s awesome you were hustling on the side there. So were you always interested in starting your own clothing line growing up?
Isaiah: Throughout early highschool as mentioned I wasn’t that interested in clothing and what I wore. I did always want to dress nice though, but the brands weren’t a big thing. I only worked a couple hours a week part time and couldn’t afford new clothes all the time. I would never have thought then that I would be a designer, and I mean not just clothing. I’ve always enjoyed creating just for my personal enjoyment and pleasure. I was sewing clothes and printing t-shirts in my bedroom near the end of highschool as a pastime and to make some cash on the side.
Zayyar: I guess that leads into how exactly did AUTEURENT start and where does the name come from?
Isaiah: AUTEURENT initially came from a desire to find perfect fitting garments for my body type that were high quality, timeless and had those little signature details. I couldn’t find jeans that fit me perfect so I created a pattern and sent it to China. I also wanted to start something that challenged me and would allow me to endlessly create. It did however form into something much more than I anticipated. I felt this desire to write a story. A story not only through words but through what the clothes conveyed as well.
AUTEURENT comes from the French word ‘Auteur’ which translates in English to ‘Author’. In full the AUTEURENT refers to ‘One Author.’ Each new chapter brings a new collection that is based on either situations that I or others have experienced or questioned. Prologue, the first collection formed the foundation of the story, with Chapter 1 currently in writing and to release soon.
Zayyar: From the launch of AUTEURENT what were some of the biggest obstacles and challenges you had to overcome and get around?
Isaiah: There is a new obstacle every day. One of the biggest ones when starting was the financial cost to develop patterns, samples and then actually meeting the MOQ’s (minimum order quanitites) of my manufacturers. Especially when having garments made by artisans in Italy, Japan and Melbourne the upfront costs are very high. This is why you will actually find some of the first garments were produced in China, though no longer will I be manufacturing there. Timing is also everything. All the details from buttons, labels, leathers are made to my specs which adds to development time. The distribution chain is also one that poses a long challenge ahead.
I think though that these challenges occur for a reason. Many of them have allowed me to avoid other issues that would have come up. I enjoy success that don’t come easy.
Zayyar: Thanks for that insight, I think a lot of people don’t realise the raw costs and just take the retail price at face value. What’s your personal creative approach when it comes to designing? Does it come naturally or do you sometimes have to force it?
Isaiah: I never really sit down and set aside time to design, it’s always on the go, spur of the moment and when something comes to mind. These are a few of the ways I go about designing when I have these moments:
For AUTEURENT each new collection is based on a Chapter that I have written. I usually have an idea of what garments I want to show in the collection and then tie these in with the Chapters story.
I often dream about something, often completely unrelated to fashion and it sparks an idea for a new design or a new story. As weird as it is, these experiences tend to evolve into my most creative pieces, especially in my art.
I sometimes like to start with the raw material I intend to use and then design something that not only respects the particular material but is coherent and beautiful. I try to work with natural materials as opposed to synthetic ones. I just don’t think you can replicate something so beautiful as 100% silk or leather or genuine furs.
Most of all though, I tend to design items that I would wear on a day to day basis and fit the core message of the brand and is within my personal style/story. I also like to reference subcultures and minorities. Primarily this being skinheads and punks.
Zayyar: Why do you want to create timeless garments as opposed to high selling trend based ones?
Isaiah: I am a very slow paced person. I don’t like over crowded environments, loud music or fast paced events. I prefer to slow time down and take in what is around me. In saying this, my brain is the opposite. Often it is too fast and I physically can’t keep up and have too many ideas at once.
In regards to timeless garments, I don’t like the idea of buying something only to wear a few times and then move it on. I think people should make more informed decisions and respect the items they wear and have an emotional connection, experiencing it for years, not hours.
Each new design I ask myself, would I wear this everyday if I could? If not I start again.
Zayyar: That is an amazing ethos to have especially in our world right now where everything is about the now. AUTEURENT isn’t your first brand, is it?
Isaiah: I’ve always enjoyed creating through various outlets. I’ve had small business where I would propagate live coral, screen printed t shirts as well as the sneaker reselling and personal shopping business. At heart I’m an entrepreneur and I want to create a collection of my interests and collate them. I also want to share my story and ideas with as many people possible because it might spark something for them or ignite a new idea for myself.
Zayyar: So who are some fashion designers you enjoy and how do you feed off them into your own work?
Isaiah: I don’t tend to feed off solely fashion designers, more so creatives in any field. I also turn to a lot of business oriented professionals. While many of the creatives I look up to I don’t own any of their clothes/would I am inspired by their ability to create a community that follows their journey with them.
I don’t have anything against any designer, everyone has their place and if you have the desire and drive you can present whatever you want to the world, some will hate it, some will love it but most of all they are contributing to inspiring the new generation. Everyday I’m meeting or coming across both established and new creatives that inspire and motivate me.
Zayyar: This seems like a good segway into what are you current personal views on high fashion culture right now?
Isaiah: It’s a weird place right now. I think it is becoming/is over consumerist. Too much emphasis has been placed on certain brands for the wrong reasons. Yes it is great for exposure but I think many people are in the ‘culture’ to earn a place rather than having an actual connection with a brand. I think there is a lack of honesty.
READ: An Insight Into The Art Of Recycling & Value Based Consumption
I’ll be honest, I used to just buy the brand for the flex, but as I’m getting more immersed in my own work and my long term plan I’ve taken the time to respect the items I have now and make informed decisions on what I purchase and why I am supporting that brand. At the end of the day though it is a commercial business that thrives on people making impulse and hyped purchases.
Zayyar: Defintiely agree that seems to be the wider conseus that certain brands are blowing up because of the wrong reasons. So your latest collection will be releasing this month, what new garments will you be releasing?
Isaiah: Chapter 1 will be releasing very soon. I’ve taken a step back to reform the foundations of the brand and the direction I want it to go. This being telling a story, rather than just creating clothes. CHAPTER ONE: VIE ET MORT - It is the story of Life and Death and the importance of progression and not leaving with regret.
In relation to the garments themselves, you’ll have to wait and see. But we have moved all our denim production to Japan. This has allowed us to produce the highest quality jeans that are inline with our core message. I have perfected our A001 cut in raw Japanese Black stretch denim and our washed selvedge Indigo A002 cut.
I have also invested heavily into our basic t-shirts. We moved production to Italy to ensure the highest quality black and white t-shirts you will ever own. The softest Italian cotton ensures a true luxury and timeless piece. There will also be a selection of other pieces that will bring the collection to life.
In addition I’ve been working with Italy on producing a few 100% cashmere pieces that feature 100% sterling silver with white gold plated branding.
Later in the year we hope to release our the Italian made leather jackets which we have been working on and perfecting for the last 2 years. I do however currently produce made to measure leather jackets for select clients.
Zayyar: How do you go about choosing the fabrics? For instance, why did you opt for cashmere and what drew you towards that?
Isaiah: For me it’s all about creating the most luxurious experience for my clients without compromise. That feeling you have everytime you put on a cashmere sweater is beyond description. The softness, the weight and the way it looks in the mirror is what I focus on. I believe too that by using the finest fabrics our clients will cherish them for far longer than cheaper alternatives. It also allows them to feel the message portrayed through the Chapter. I like the idea that someone who purchases a garment from AUTEURENT will take care of it and hand it down to the next generation or to a friend. Much like a timepiece.
Zayyar: Apart from designing for AUTEURENT what other creative fields do you dabble in?
Isaiah: Lately I’ve been focusing on my art. Painting on different mediums from canvas to card and wood. It allows me to have a more creative outlet then my tonal and timeless menswear designs. I work quickly and am spontaneous in what I paint. It also allows me to express current emotions and ideals I may have.
Zayyar: Finally, best coffee, best dinner and best breakfast in Melbourne?
Isaiah: Those close to me know that I’m a creature of habit when it comes to food and coffee. Once I find somewhere that makes a perfect almond flat white and big breakfast they have my business for life. For coffee and breakfast you’ll find me at Adeney Milk Bar in Kew and for dinner you can find me at Maha Restaurant on Bond St in the CBD.
Interview: Zayyar Win Thein
Photography: Matt Ruderman