How Ian Isiah Used His Fashion Expertise To Excel In Music
Photo: instagram/@ianisiah

In this current climate, for some, creating has been an arguable necessity. Within the past few months, COVID-19, along with a civil uprising, has shaken the world globally, putting the spotlight on the racism that the Black community has endured for far too long. “I don’t know how to keep saying support Black,” designer and musician Ian Isiah tells ESSENCE.

For a curator like Isiah, this time has only allotted him opportunities to finally have just that—time. “I think creatives need a break, because we’re always on the move,” Isiah exclaims. “I’m actually fulfilling a dream that I always wanted to do, which is, I execute my ideas and think after that. I never was able to sit down and write my ideas out. So now I’ve got all this free quarantine time. My whole world is filled with lists of what I can do.”

This past Friday, the creative released his second single, “Loose Truth,” featured on his upcoming album, Auntie, which is slated to drop later this year. Accompanying the single is a powerful visual directed by frequent collaborator Thuan Tran (@onlunchbreak). The project features Brooklyn’s essential workers, first responders, business owners, activists, artists, friends and family members through the lens of Isiah. The video pays homage to the importance of community and, most important, the tenacity of Black people.

While detailing his music to ESSENCE, the former designer also hints that Hood by Air (HBA) may be finally ready to drop. Isiah served as the creative director over the brand until 2017, when cofounder Shayne Oliver announced the label would be taking a break. After a two-year hiatus, Isiah says that the brand “is coming back and we’re Black.”

ESSENCE got a chance to chat with Isiah about his love for fashion and music and the intersectionality between both. Read below.

ESSENCE: How have you been your best creative self during quarantine?

Ian Isiah: I treat my creativity like a source. I treat it like its own generator. A global destruction could happen and I still have my own creative generator. That’s how my mind works. It definitely has affected my every day though like money, singing and doing my gigs out loud. But the creativity doesn’t stop. If anything, class is in session even more now. I am more nervous than excited for post-quarantine because I’ll just have so many babies.

“I always knew that I was going to do music” —Ian Isiah

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What can we expect from your next album?

Nothing about my new album has anything to do with anything past 1999. Everything is old and nostalgic and a tribute to everyone that paved the way for me. Also I’m just setting my self up to be like Fantasia. My biggest inspiration is the tribute girls. The girls who come on to do the tribute because those are the real talent. I take pride in being a church kid; all they know is music. With this new album, I just wanted to showcase that old-school feel.

Although you’re releasing music now, a majority of the industry was introduced to you through fashion. Is fashion your first love?

Music is my first love, but I spent 12 years in fashion and culture. And I finally have the time to do music, so I’m just trying to make sure they both weave together and become parallel.

What made you want to take the leap into music completely?

I always knew that I was going to do music, because I always knew that I was music. I’m a man of faith, and I believe in God, so I believe in the gift that God gave me—I always did. But I was shut down at an early age in music. I had to feed my ego and realize that I’m still a human and I need to eat, and it wasn’t making money for me at the time. So I got a job at Urban Outfitters in Soho, and that changed everything. I met everybody under the sun. I just got deeper and deeper involved and was like, “What the f–k. I’m a designer.” It kept happening and now I’ve paved the way for all these other designers I’m excited about. It taught me that I needed to learn leadership, so I could go back into music and apply it. Everything I’ve learned in fashion is what I’m realizing in music.

Have you found that music is more fulfilling than fashion?

Absolutely. Do you know how stressful fashion is?

Is there anything you can tell us about HBA?

Yes, we went on break, but we’ve been working. Again, we’ll collectively group with everybody who’s Black. That’s it. That’s all.


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