For most former college students, the summer after senior year involves applying for jobs, taking an extended vacation, sleeping late, or some combination of all three. For Pratt Institute alum Isabel Hall, her immediate post-grad activity was to watch Rihanna dance in a glowing cube to a Calvin Harris track—in a video that's been viewed more than 22 million times (and counting)—all while wearing a glittery jumpsuit Hall designed as part of her senior fashion collection.
In the span of just a few days since the video for "This Is What You Came For" was released, Hall has gone from a complete unknown to an emerging name to watch in fashion, drumming up the type of interest that even more established designers can only dream about. For now, though, she's just trying to find a job. We caught up with Hall to talk RiRi, her design POV, and what's next.
When you first saw your jumpsuit in the video for "This Is What You Came For," did you cry or did you scream?
It was really funny, because I didn't realize she was releasing it at midnight. I was expecting that it would come out at noon the next day or something, so I wasn't looking out for it yet. My friend texted me, like, "Oh my God! Have you seen it?" It was one in the morning and I was already home. My whole family was asleep, so I was alone, the only one awake, watching it. I was shaking. It was crazy. There was nobody, so I was texting my friends and sending my friends links. It was really funny, because it was silent in my house except for me. Actually seeing it was unreal.
How did it end up on Rihanna?
I interned for [designer] Adam Selman, who works a lot with Rihanna and worked on her tour. He also works with Mel [Ottenberg, Rihanna's stylist] all the time. He graduated from Pratt, and he goes to the Pratt fashion show each year, and really pays attention to young designers. And so does Mel—he came with him this year to the fashion show. Adam had told him that he was going to like the jumpsuit beforehand, that he might be really into it. After the fact, Mel wanted to pull the jumpsuit for another project. He did whatever with it and I got it back, but then I got a text a few weeks later from Mel's assistant, saying, "Hey, are you in town? We have something we really need the jumpsuit for." I didn't find out until the next week what it was being used for. It happened really fast.
When was that?
It was a couple weeks ago. One day, I was going into work and Mel was in Adam's office and said, "Did you hear the good news?" He asked me if I wanted to see photos, and that's when they gave me all the details: that she wears it for the whole video, and how she styled it. It was all after they had already filmed the video. It was a total surprise.
How has the reaction been? Have people been approaching you?
It's been really good. The exposure has been unreal, considering that I just graduated college. The response in general has been really cool; I've gotten a bunch of new followers on Instagram, and it's been people from all over who comment, "This is so beautiful. Congrats! It's so great to see a young designer doing cool pieces like this." Getting to be in the spotlight and people actually seeing a young designer's work—it's a huge compliment. That's crazy, and so validating. It's been my baby for a year.
Let's talk about the rest of the collection. How do you describe your point of view?
For me, it's luxury, but I wanted it to be very comfortable and very wearable. One of the things that interests me right now is gender roles interpreted through clothing. The commercialization of gender roles is really interesting—what we interpret as feminine and masculine and why we interpret it that way. Now, people are realizing it's not an obligation based on your gender to be really feminine or really masculine. People are starting to pick and choose, and I think that's really fascinating. I wanted to play with that. I was looking at hyper-masculine sports. How can I take this super-masculine look and put it on a female form to illustrate this contrast?
So, I was looking a lot at '90s skaters and Harmony Korine's film Kids for inspiration. It's so baggy, it's so masculine. It's so entitled. But there's no structure to it. It's so casual, but has so much attitude to it. It's so inspiring. It's still totally relevant today. That was the starting point. All of these pieces I wanted to be super baggy, but then find ways to upscale them through fabrications to make them almost elegant, to make people see what I see when I look at that silhouette.
So, what happens now? What's next for a Pratt graduate who's gotten this huge co-sign?
Honestly? Right now, I'm definitely staying in the city, and mostly applying for jobs. I literally just graduated a month ago. It's kind of wild.