Meet Isatu Harrison, the Fashion Designer Changing Sierra Leone’s Fashion Industry

UK-based fashion designer Isatu’s story is touching and you will be inspired after reading this…

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Born in the Eastern town of Kono, Sierra Leone Isatu Harrison’s first encounter with entrepreneurship was through her mom who was raising her and 3 siblings alone. When the civil war broke out and affected her community in Kono, Isatu and her family had no other option but to flee into the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown.

 

Despite being uprooted from her family home, Isatu had a happy upbringing and knew that there was much more to Sierra Leone than the war which seemed to define it at the time. She grew up watching her mother design outfits for herself and others using traditional West African tie-dyed prints.

Isatu says that her main inspiration and influence is her mother who ensured they didn’t struggle despite all the odds. Although the fashion industry in Sierra Leone was not particularly developed, Isatu sought to pursue her purpose and developed her gifts as a fashion designer.

After a successful career in the corporate world as a HR professional and starting her family, the creativity in Isatu was yearning to be unleashed. Isatu took the leap of faith and launched Izelia at African Fashion Week in August 2014 and London Fashion Week.

By drawing from her Sierra Leonean heritage Isatu has created a modern and sophisticated range of ready to wear pieces. Izelia is a brand for those who want to make an impression in stylish and colourful outfits with high quality fabrics and structured tailoring. Each piece features a new twist on African-inspired fashion and Isatu’s own signature style of design.

Her colourful African tie-dye and prints bring a taste of Sierra Leone to the British high street. Having seen the impact that civil war can make on communities, Isatu wants to be at the forefront of a new generation of ‘AfriCapitalists’ – African entrepreneurs driving growth, awareness and development in Africa, through marketing and selling the best that Africa has to offer.

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In addition, she will be opening a boutique in Winter 2016 in East London where she will be organising training programmes and apprenticeships opportunities for immigrants / first generation citizens in fashion design.

She explains this further in her comment below:

“I intend to inspire and assist women in rural Sierra Leone, be a voice for these women and young creatives. Whilst the brand is becoming well entrenched in the UK, as an African, I feel I have a role to play in the economic development of my continent. Through Izelia, I wish to invest long-term in Sierra Leone’s private sector and I am interested in developing manufacturing, as well as production factories and establishing additional outlets in Africa. I am proud to be among a growing crop of entrepreneurs who are creating employment opportunities and bringing economic growth to our countries across Africa” – Isatu Harrison

 

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