Madam Isatu Harrison is a Sierra Leonean Fashion Designer, creative director, entrepreneur, and founder of the IZELIA Brand. Born in the Eastern town of Kono, Sierra Leone Madam Isatu Harrison was raised by her entrepreneurial single mother with her 3 siblings. Whilst living in Kono, civil war broke out which put her community in danger. Her entire family had to escape from the civil war in Kono and moved to the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown.
Despite being uprooted from her family home, Madam Isatu had a happy upbringing and knew that there was much more to Sierra Leone than the war which seemed to define it at the time. She grew up watching her mother design outfits for herself and others using traditional West African tie-dyed prints. In a country with no welfare system, Isatu’s mother worked hard to ensure that her family did not have to struggle and Isatu hails her mother as her biggest inspiration and influence. Despite there being very few opportunities, particularly within the fashion industry in Sierra Leone, Isatu was encouraged to pursue her purpose and developed her gifts as a fashion designer.
Although her passion for fashion was still at the forefront of her mind, when Isatu arrived in The UK in 2001 she studied for a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at South Bank University and subsequently an MBA. The corporate world overshadowed the creative world and Isatu undertook several management roles in HR within the private and public sectors – including Transport for London.
After starting a family with her husband, and having a daughter who now has a budding career in modeling, Isatu could no longer ignore her true calling; fashion. She invested her savings and started her fashion label, Izelia which interweaves the two cultural landscapes of Britain and Sierra Leone.
Isatu officially launched Izelia at Africa Fashion Week in August 2014 and London Fashion Week in the same year. By drawing from her Sierra Leonean heritage Isatu has created a modern and sophisticated range of ready-to-wear pieces. Izelia is a brand for those who want to make an impression in stylish and colorful outfits with high-quality fabrics and structured tailoring. Each piece features a new twist on African-inspired fashion and Isatu’s signature style of design.
By combining colorful African tie-dye and prints, Izelia brings a taste of Sierra Leone to the British high street. Having seen the impact that civil war can make on communities, Isatu wants to be at the forefront of a new generation of ‘AfriCapitalists’ – African entrepreneurs driving growth, awareness, and development in Africa, through marketing and selling the best that Africa has to offer
In 2016, Isatu Harrison got a breakthrough when her dress worn by the policy adviser for the royal college of midway free. She was going to receive her MBA for her work towards Female Genital Mutilation. . She was contacted to do her outfit to go see the queen, she wanted an African outfit that looks contemporary. Isatu Harrison was inspired by the fact that the out-of-fit was used. I cannot tell you my excitement, having someone wore my piece to go to the Royal palace, it was a big deal for me” she told BBC Focus on Africa.
Madam Isatu Harrison recently launched one of the country’s largest clothing factories called “Izelia Clothing Factory. “The factory has employed 37 core staff who are mainly youth thereby providing employment opportunity to them for a new source of livelihood.
The Izelia Clothing Factory has been showcased on many international platforms especially in the UK. Madam Harrison in her statement said “it has been a long and tough journey but it’s a dream come true and I’m happy to have this factory in my country.’
The Commissioner for the National Youth Commission, Ngolo Katta applauded the initiative which he said aligns with the government’s human capital development drive. He pledges the Youth Sector’s fullest support in working with Izelia for providing jobs for youth through skills training.