Issa's Daniella Helayel Talks Dressing Her First Celebrity, Casting Supermodels & Label Expansion

07/06/2011 01:01 am ET | Updated Sep 04, 2011

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To welcome HuffPost UK to the fold, the Style section tracked down designer Daniella Helayel of Issa -- a Duchess of Cambridge favorite -- to talk about swapping Brazil for London, casting real, live supermodels in her shows and her plans for expansion. Peruse what she had to say and peep another British fashion force's answers here.

HuffPost Style: Why did you choose to settle in London after growing up in Brazil and attending F.I.T. in New York? What is different about fashion in each of the cities?

Daniella Helayel: I ended up moving to London in November 1999, as I was bored with work in New York and needed a change. I was looking for something new and exciting, somewhere in Europe -- although I wasn't sure exactly what and where it would be when I left New York.

I find London one of the most exciting, fashion forward cities to be based in as there's so much heritage surrounding you, but at the same time it's home to some of the most avant-garde designers. I love cycling around in the summer and pick up a lot of inspiration from women walking around the city, we have freedom to dress however we choose here and there's such a huge range of styles in the city.

HP: Brazil seems laid-back in terms of wardrobe and London is known for its sometimes eccentric street style -- what should Americans pull from each way of dressing?

DH: I keep the Brazilian vibe in my mind when designing. The relaxed, laid-back atmosphere you get from spending time out there is reflected onto my easy-to-wear designs. I like to combine this freedom and casual attitude to clothes with the more structured, chic, elegant and fitted European vibe. I feel sometimes that we live in a grayish-toned world, I like my world to be colorful, uplifting and joyful and that's the effect my prints have!

HP: In December you spoke to Women's Wear Daily about your plan for expansion -- e-commerce in the US, Baby Issa, opening six freestanding stores in Brazil. How is that coming along?

DH: Plans are going really well for our e-shop, online is the way forward for everyone I believe. Social media, e-commerce, inter-active websites - we really can't underestimate the impact of online coverage and exposure. I have always dreamt of my dresses being available to women all over the world and the internet is the best way to make that become a reality. So there are very exciting times for Issa ahead -- this is our moment!

HP: Who was the first celebrity you dressed?

DH: The very first celebrity to be seen in Issa was Scarlett Johansson. After I met her at Cartier Polo she was super excited to try some Issa designs and wore one of our classic Lucky dresses, with a sheer back, to a masquerade ball in London, 2006.

HP: When did you know you'd made it in fashion?

DH: I'm not sure there was ever a single definitive moment for me, but I remember how incredible it felt when Madonna starting wearing Issa. It had always been a dream to see my idol wearing my clothes whilst I was growing up.

HP: You close every show with a guest model -- sometimes a supermodel like Naomi Campbell or Yasmin Le Bon -- why? Is there something missing from modeling today?

DH: It's fantastic having a classic beauty like Naomi Campbell, Andrea Dellal or Yasmin Le Bon at the show, not just the models of the moment but real superstars. They seem to automatically make the other girls raise their level -- stronger walks, fierce attitude, smiling, enjoying themselves and it also goes to show that Issa is for all. My design philosophy has always been that women shouldn't have to compensate on style for the sake of comfort, women of any age, shape or size can wear fabulous dresses which make them look beautiful and elegant whilst feeling confident, sexy and at ease.

HP: And how about the Duchess of Cambridge? Were you overwhelmed by all of the pre-royal wedding dress designer speculation? What do you think of her more recent outfits?

DH: Kate has a very strong sense of personal style, she knows what works best for her and her body and won't wear something purely because it is on trend. She is a very chic young woman and always looks effortless, timeless and perfectly dressed for the occasion -- a classic beauty.

Check out some of Helayel's work.


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