Interview: Michelle Butler
by sabine7 / June 8, 2006

One of the hits at the recent ICFF show in New York was ISOLYN, a British company headed up by designer Michelle Butler. ISOLYN specializes in soft furnishings like cushions and wall hangings made of festively-coloured felt. The wall hangings are especially fun due to an interactive component: movable felt flowers. The flowers contain magnets, so everyone can custom-design the placement. The arrangement can always be changed to suit the mood. And speaking of moods, one of the reasons that Michelle and her products made such an impact on MoCo Loco was the sunny disposition of the ISOLYN brand. We followed up with Michelle when ICFF was over. Read the interview after the jump. SM

ML: Michelle, ISOLYN carries gorgeous products that fall primarily into two categories: fashions (bags, slippers) and furnishings (wallhangings, cushions, throws, pouffes). Do you see yourself leaning more heavily towards one area or another?

Michelle: When I first started ISOLYN, the main category I was designing for was furnishings as I had just completed a degree in Textile furnishing design, but now I would like to concentrate on the wall hangings and the fashion accessories.

ISOLYN wallhangings at ICFF last month.

ML: The ISOLYN line is made mostly of materials such as wool, leather and sheepskin. What sort of materials had you worked with previously?

Michelle: I have included denim in ISOLYN lines previously. But I do not want to harm the environment, so I have decided to use sustainable materials such as leather, sheepskin and wool. I recycle my garbage at home and try to be as green as possible.

Cocoon Rug - felted wool.

ML: Good for you. And speaking of green, the florals that came out at ICFF are new. I suspect we will be seeing more shapes or themes at ISOLYN – what do you delve into for inspiration?

Michelle: Yes, there will be new shapes and themes for the ISOLYN wall hangings, I am not quite sure what they are going to be, but I am sure I will be inspired by my travels. My family is from the Caribbean, and I truly love colour. The wall hangings I displayed at ICFF were (to me) like murals of carnival-coloured flowers, which takes me back to when I was a child and took part in the Nottinghill Carnival in London, with music, dancing and happy faces.

A variety of cubic cushions.

ML: Well, the happiness certainly comes across. There is a joy in those flowers! Michelle, you used to compete in the arena of synchronized ice-skating. How has this athletic experience influenced your design work?

Michelle: When I was a skater for Britain we (the team) did a lot of travelling to compete internationally. So I experienced different cultures and different foods. Actually, when I was leaving high school I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a chef or an artist. At the time I was very much into my painting and hadn’t yet touched a sewing machine. But I was accepted into one of London's best art colleges, Central Saint Martin's, and felt that I had to go for it and see where the path would lead me.

Being a skater has given me a lot of self-discipline. I trained for over 12 years and during that time I attended school and completed all of my exams, including my degree. Now that I work for myself there is always so much to do. I look back to my skating days and ask myself how did I do all that, and I say to myself if I could do that, I can do anything.

Isolyn's new slippers.

ML: That discipline tells me you are planning ahead. What’s next for ISOLYN?

Michelle: If you look on the website, you will see that there is an empty Jewellery section, that is my next task. I have just started designing stationery products for a company in Hong Kong, which is completely different to what I do, so is a nice change, and a company in New York wants me to design some products for them, so hopefully that all goes to plan.

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