Updated: Sep 12, 2019
His brand’s name is Color-ful, but Isaac Couch’s clothing shows a deep-rooted fascination with black and white.
The sharply juxtaposed black-and-white pieces are the University of Kentucky fashion designer’s personal representations of Yin and Yang, the concept of dualism: two strong, opposing forces complementing each other and intertwining.
This concept for the UK senior presents itself in the form of large black and white pieces of cloth meeting and intertwining in a way to complement the contour of the piece and the body of the wearer.
Couch said the reason for this artistic decision goes back to his emotional connection with his clothing. He grew up an only child, and he feels that this experience helped make him the “hands-on, creative person” he is today. He said that growing up, he sometimes made things to play with since he had no brothers or sisters. That helped mold his desire to create and helped drive his process, which sometimes includes his visioning pieces at night and getting up to sketch his ideas, then working for months to create them.
This loneliness he felt as a child helped him to find comfort in himself. Although his loneliness helped drive his creativity, he said that it also drove him to a dark place.
“I kind of realized that because of that, I was kind of putting myself in a hole. I was kind of isolating myself from others,” he said.
He’s always been obsessed with the color black, but he chooses to represent the loneliness he experienced in his life in this color because he felt like it was a darkness that enveloped him.
The white in his pieces stands for the good things in his life and how his family and friends have been a positive force and a support system. The first pieces in his current collection of clothing are mostly black, but as the collection grows, more white starts to appear in the designs. This is intentional, as he seeks to demonstrate his own personal transformation.
“I’m starting to embrace that light,” he said.
He now allows himself to make more friends, be more social and get close to people.
Many of the pieces that the merchandising apparel and textiles student makes also feature rips and tears, both of which make another personal statement for him. He wants to demonstrate a theory with these pieces: the idea that fashion is both an “escape” and a “cocoon.”
“The ripped parts, the pieces that are hanging off, kind of represent that unfinished weave or that hole... that yearning to do exactly what you want,” he said.
He recognizes that not everyone can do that they want to do or are passionate about, and he feels that fashion helps accentuate both this escape and safe place where people can represent what they feel by the clothes they choose to wear.
He said that the biggest challenge is knowing how much of himself and his personal struggles to reveal in his clothing, and he wonders if people will accept him after they see that side of him.
“Yeah, I am emotionally connected to these pieces, so how much of myself do I give my audience when I’m posting on Instagram or whatever it may be?” he asked himself. “Do I tell the whole story? Do I kind of allude to it? Or do I just say ‘Hey, here’s a cool thing that I made’?”
It’s an ongoing process for Couch, and one he is exploring more and more as he seeks the right balance.
As for now, he said he will continue to learn and perfect his trade, trying to recreate the works of this favorite designers such as Kanye West, Fear of God and his current favorite, Tom Brown.
His dream job used to be working and designing for a big company like Dior, but now he wants to someday own his own company and compete with his favorite designers.
Persia Woodard, a merchandising apparel and textiles junior at UK who models a lot of Couch’s clothing, said she believes he can do it, too.
“I feel like his work is New York Fashion Week material,” she said. “I definitely think his pieces will be on the runway someday.”
Woodard and Couch began working closely together last semester, after she invited him to be a student designer at a fashion show she was hosting. After his successful pieces at that show, she fell in love with his work. Now, she enjoys modeling his pieces for photo shoots and said they make her “feel like a boss.”
Couch’s dreams of owning his own company someday became much closer to reality in March, when he was offered a full ride to SAIC (School of the Art Institute of Chicago), where he hopes to pursue a master’s degree and perfect his trade.
The 100 percent tuition scholarship he was offered is through a new program called New Artist Society Scholarship, which offers certain students between 50 and 100 percent tuition waivers. According to the SAIC website, normal graduate tuition starts around $1,730 per credit hour, making it about $5,000 per class. For Couch, it would be free.
“It makes me feel great,” Couch said of the offer. “To be acknowledged and accepted into such a competitive program with no formal education on design shows me that I’m on the right path, my work is meaningful and has great potential.”
He added that the offer “reassures me to trust myself, my ideas and my process.”
Story Written by Sarah Ladd
Photos by Michael Clubb