A Conversation with Isla Cowan from Heavy Flow

My vision for Ånde has always gone beyond the storefront. To me, Ånde is a place for people to come together as a community, to engage with each other in meaningful ways while bringing you pieces for your home, wardrobe and life that help to amplify your essence. Pieces you feel represent who you are and come with stories; pieces that encourage you to embody your confidence and express yourself in the most unique and creative ways. When I met Isla from Heavy Flow I resonated with her vision on a deep level. I knew I wanted to bring her designs to our community and I was so stoked she felt the same way. We are so excited to host Isla and her beautiful wearable works of art in the store for a month starting on May 25th. We sat down with Isla to chat about her creative process.




Hey Isla!! I am so excited to talk to you today and am really looking forward to the pop up! Why don't we start off with you telling us a little about yourself. 

I’m Isla! The founder and designer of Heavy Flow. Although I didn’t always know I would end up making clothing, I’ve found my passion in designing and sewing one of a kind garments made with vintage and secondhand fabrics. I spent my undergrad studying Gender & Sexuality Studies and am informally taught in sewing and design. I learn a lot as I go, which can be intimidating, but is also so fascinating and exciting that I can’t get enough of it! Most of my days are spent at the studio where I am sometimes joined by my friend & pattern maker Sarita, and our assistant sewer Curt. We’ve always got something on the go - whether it’s sewing orders, making new Small Batch collections, or designing new styles, our days are always full! 


How did Heavy Flow come to be? Can you share with our readers a little bit about the the motivation behind starting the brand?

Since I was a kid I’ve been interested in clothing, particularly vintage fashion. I used to read Archie comics and sketch out their outfits, or ideas I had based on the artwork. I loved making things with my hands. I would often try to rework thrifted clothes or make costumes for fun. At the time I was mostly teaching myself to sew and create, so these were quite experimental. When I was 22 I started selling vintage clothes with my friend, which I continued for about 4 years. 

Although I loved wearing vintage and thrifted clothes, I never felt the passion to make this endeavour stick. I’d always return to thoughts of bringing my own ideas to life, so I eventually shifted my focus to designing and sewing using vintage and secondhand fabrics. Working with pre-exisiting and one of a kind textiles, is my way to continue working in fashion while remaining conscious of environmental sustainability, which is what I had loved so much about vintage clothing. In 2019 I launched Heavy Flow with a family of three designs and have since grown to offer 20 season-less styles, available made to order through our online shop & our Toronto studio, or from a small rotating selection of ready to ship pieces. 


So incredible. Hearing about the evolution is really inspiring. Ok, I really love the name, can you tell us a little bit about the meaning behind it? 

The name ‘Heavy Flow’ came from the creative mind of my dear friend Amalia when we were about 20 and had decided we wanted to “start a band”. I think it was a tongue in cheek reference to menstruation as well as a musical flow - which is something we unfortunately did not have so we quickly disbanded, and carried the name over to our next joint endeavour which was selling vintage clothing. We worked together on this for a couple of years and then I carried on solo for another two. When I realized I was not happy in this pursuit and decided to switch directions, I kept the same name because of this sweet association to friendship and playfulness. 

You've talked a lot about your love for vintage fashion and I know you use vintage fabrics for your designs. Can you tell us a little bit more about your inspirations and how they inform your process?  

I still draw a lot of inspiration from vintage fashion and design, especially after spending so much time selling and researching styles from different decades. I particularly love the 70s, but there are also details and styles that stand out to me from many eras and it’s a lot of fun to incorporate bits and pieces of these in my work whenever a design comes together. I find a lot of inspiration in the fabrics themselves as well, sometimes they almost tell me what they want to be!

My friends all have and find joy in their incredible style that is so unique to each person. Anytime I’m thinking about a new design, or before choosing a fabric for a particular piece, I imagine how some of my friends would wear it, and if they would find fun or confidence in it. If I can’t picture an idea being something exciting to one of them, I probably won’t end up making it. 

For the past year, I’ve been working alongside Curt, my sewing assistant, who has an amazing eye and really trusts his gut when it comes to making design choices. It’s been such a treat to be able to bounce ideas off one another and see where his vision might lead us, and it’s often to places I had never considered, and I’m really thankful for that!


I love how much friendship is a constant thread throughout your work and I can really feel it in the pieces. When you're designing clothes, what is your hope or how do you want people to feel when they are wearing Heavy Flow? Is that something you consider?

My hope is that by wearing Heavy Flow pieces people feel confident, comfortable, unique, and HOT! 

I also hope that my customers feel good about their investment! I try to be as transparent as possible about our design & production method. All our pieces are sewn by myself, Curt, or Sarita in our Toronto studio. The Made to Order process can be daunting because there may be a longer lead time than an item that is ready to ship, and it also involves a lot of imagination and trust. My goal is that these designs last through trend cycles, and with care our pieces can remain as a favourite wardrobe staple for years to come. 

I really mean it when I say your designs are truly works of wearable art. They are all so unique and stunning. Are there any pieces that you are most excited about in the new Small Batch collection you'll be showing at the pop up?

We’ve got so many fun things we’ll be bringing & sharing for the first time! We recently finished a collection of Small Batch pieces made mostly with antique & vintage embroidered linen. There is a cropped version of our Chore Coat that I’m particularly excited about. It’s patchworked together with a few different fabrics and has some fun features like fringe, pearls, and dramatic lace trimmed pockets. We’ve also got a size run of one of our favourite designs - The Cheer Skirt. Each are one-of-a-kind and have very thoughtful details!

I try to be mindful & intentional about releasing new styles & collections because I’ve never been able to keep up (or even wanted to keep up) with seasonal launches and trend cycles. This collection is made from fabrics that inspired us, into styles that we felt best suited each textile. For example, one of our styles The June Top, which was released in 2021, is still one of our best sellers and favourite designs - it feels timeless!

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today and to share a little bit about you and about Heavy Flow. We are so excited to have your pieces in the store and also to have you at the event on May 25th! Before we go is there anything else you want to say to our community? 

I can’t wait to meet a new community of people who value carefully crafted designs & sustainability in fashion, and to make some new friends! 


Join us and Isla Cowan of Heavy Flow on May 25th from 6-9pm at Ånde. Isla will be debuting her Small Batch collection and we will have some bubbles and snacks! We look forward to seeing you there!
xo Kiersten
photography credits: Clea Christakos-Gee 
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