Ashley Isham



Fashion designer Ashley Isham, born Eshamuddin Ismail (b. 1979, Singapore), is one of Singapore’s most prominent figures in the fashion industry. Isham has been based in London since 1996 and his collections are often showcased during London Fashion Week. He once owned two boutiques in London.1 His first flagship boutique in Singapore, Ashley Isham, was located at the Fullerton Hotel.2 Isham was awarded the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year Award in 2007 for his achievements in his profession.3

Early life
Growing up in a conservative Malay family, Isham often watched and helped his seamstress mother with her sewing. He started designing his own clothes because he was dissatisfied with the extremely limited designs in local shops. Isham started sewing his own pants at the age of 12 and his younger sister, Khaty, was often the “live Barbie doll” for his design experiments.4


Harbouring a desire to “see snow”, Isham ventured abroad in December 1995, heading first to Amsterdam. After a year in the Netherlands, Isham travelled to London to pursue a diploma in fashion design at the Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Although applications had closed three months earlier and it was the first day of the semester, the school’s director was impressed with Isham’s portfolio, and Isham started school on that very day. At the school’s fashion shows, his designs had caught the eye of an executive at investment bank, Substantia Invest AG. Consequently, the bank agreed to sponsor his further education, first at the London College of Fashion and then at Middlesex University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with honours.5

Isham admitted that he would never have had such opportunities in fashion design if he had remained in Singapore. His family had been supportive of his pursuit in fashion design from the very beginning and he has often cited family support as a great boon to his successful career.6

Career
Isham set up his own label, Ashley Isham, in 2000 and created his first collection in the same year. Although his applications for an “on-schedule” main show for two seasons of the 2001 London Fashion Week were rejected, his breakthrough moment occurred at the well-received “off-schedule” presentation of his collection at his studio apartment in London. From then on, he was always “on-schedule”. Attaining an “on-schedule” fashion show was significant because of the media attention that such shows receive, especially as Isham’s collection was shown alongside those of international labels such as Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood.7


Isham garnered international attention when Zara Philips of the British royal family was photographed in one of his designs at Royal Ascot in June 2002.8 He made his debut at London Fashion Week in 2003.9 Shortly after, he was appointed the official womenswear stylist for the 2004 British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), where he dressed stars such as Angelina Jolie and Keira Knightley.10 One of the gowns from his 2006 Spring-Summer collection also made the cover of the 100th issue of the British travel magazine, Conde Nast Traveller, in December 2005.11 In the same year, Isham was invited to be a guest judge on the fifth season of America’s Next Top Model.12

Isham opened his first boutique, acQuaint, at Covent Garden in London in 2001, and his second boutique, Ashley’s, at Conduit Street in November 2004.13 In June 2008, he launched his first flagship boutique, Ashley Isham, at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore. This was followed by a multi-brand boutique in Orchard Central in 2009.14

Isham’s designs integrate feminine, well-draped cuts with Southeast Asian inspired motifs and detailing. Such Asian influences feature prominently in his collections because Isham feels the need to assert and be proud of his heritage as an Asian, especially when there are so few Asian designers in London. His Spring-Summer 2006 collection, for instance, contained elements of Balinese art and Asian threadwork.15 Isham’s creations have appeared on the pages of Italian Vogue, British Vogue, Wallpaper, Elle and In-Style, and are available in New York, Paris, Spain, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Dubai.16

Isham shuttered all his retail outlets with the expiration of their leases by the beginning of the next decade, as “retail has changed completely with the evolution of shopping online”. His latest boutique, Ashley Isham, is located at The Village, a fashion-and-lifestyle mall in Seminyak in Bali. The collections showcased at the boutique include swimwear.17

Isham has also been actively involved in Singapore’s fashion scene. His collections are shown at the local fashion weeks and he has had multiple collaborations with local designers and brands. Working with a team of DesignSingapore scholars, Isham and the group won a 2008 Evening Standard Window Display Award at the London Design Festival for their multi-disciplinary installation, My Garden.18 In 2009, Isham collaborated with Lee Hwa Jewellery by designing a jewellery line for the brand. The jewellery pieces were paired with Isham’s creations and showcased at Singapore’s Audi Fashion Festival and London Fashion Week held that year.19

Besides his collaboration with local brands and talents, Isham has also designed for international brands such as Coca Cola. In March 2009, he created “Jewel in your Hand”, the first-ever Coca Cola can and bottle design by a Singaporean. The design was used on over one million commemorative cans and 100,000 bottles of Coca Cola light for Singapore’s 2009 Audi Fashion Festival. In the same year, the limited-edition mobile straps that Isham designed for the Samsung Ultra Touch mobile phone were auctioned online to raise funds for the Go Red For Women Campaign, an initiative by the Singapore Heart Foundation.20

In 2007, Isham received the Berita Harian Achiever of the Year Award for his achievements in his profession as a fashion designer. He is the youngest recipient of the award thus far.21

Education22
Jubilee Primary School, Singapore.

Nan Hua Secondary School, Singapore.
Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, London, United Kingdom.
London College of Fashion, London, United Kingdom.
Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom.



Author

Hong Xinying




References
1. Boey, D. (2005, September 26). Staying rootedThe Straits Times, p. 4; Leong, S. (2006, January 23). And sew the story goes. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Ashley Isham comes home. (2008, April 12). The Business Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. John, A. (2007, July 6). Hot young designer Ashley Isham is BH’s top designer achiever of the year. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Leong, S. (2006, January 23). And sew the story goesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Leong, S. (2006, January 23). And sew the story goes. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Leong, S. (2006, January 23). And sew the story goes. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Leong, S. (2006, January 23). And sew the story goes. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Charms of the orient. (2004, September 26). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Boey, D. (2005, September 26). Staying rootedThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Leong, S. (2006, January 26). And sew the story goes. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ashley Isham gown makes cover. (2005, December 15). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Lee, S. Y. (2006, January 4). Presenting... judge from SingaporeThe Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Boey, D. (2005, September 26). Staying rootedThe Straits Times, p. 4; Leong, S. (2006, January 26). And sew the story goesThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Ashley Isham comes home. (2008, April 12). The Business Times, p. 22; Tay, S. C. (2008, June 22). Ashley & companyThe Straits Times, p. 63. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; De Souza, J., Ong, C., & Tao, T. (2016). Fashion most wanted: Singapore’s top insider secrets from the past five decades. Singapore: Straits Times Press Pte Ltd, p. 122. (Call no.: RSING 746.92095957 DES)
15. Boey, D. (2005, September 26). Staying rootedThe Straits Times, p. 4; Leong, S. (2006, January 26). And sew the story goes. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Seah, L. (2005, March 24). Runway success. The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. De Souza, J., Ong, C., & Tao, T. (2016). Fashion most wanted: Singapore’s top insider secrets from the past five decades. Singapore: Straits Times Press Pte Ltd, p. 122. (Call no.: RSING 746.92095957 DES)
18. A step towards design excellence. (2008, September 20). Today, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Cheah, U. (2009, December 11). Iconic inspirations. The Business Times, p. 73. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Lim, Y. L., & Lee, D. (2009, May 6). Design inspiration off the runway. The Straits Times, p. 49; Zhang, Y. T. (2009, March 28). Coke gets a local ‘flavour’. The Business Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. John, A. (2007, July 6). Hot young designer Ashley Isham is BH’s top designer achiever of the year. The Business Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Leong, S. (2006, January 26). And sew the story goes. The Straits Times, p. 4; Boey, D. (2005, September 26). Staying rootedThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2009 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Fashion designers--Singapore--Biography
Ashley Isham, 1979-
Arts>>Design>>Fashion design
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies