V&A Dundee

Festive Design Market: Isolated Heroes

On the run up to our Festive Design Market, we talk to some of the exhibitors about their work, their inspirations and process. Hear from Samantha Paton, founder of Isolated Heroes, as she explains what it was forging a path in the Scottish fashion industry as a Dundee brand.

Dundee has a fantastic creative community and is a great place to work and collaborate. You really do have to seize all creative opportunities as they come and make sure you are networking, collaborating and forming creative relationships when you are based so far outside of the main fashion hub of London. At Isolated Heroes we are so lucky to have grown an international audience of loyal customers and we use every opportunity possible to share our story with them, opening the doors to our design studio for a virtual behind the scenes of our design process.

A woman standing in front of a large window.
Samantha Paton, founder of Isolated Heroes

Starting out in the fashion industry is hard. No matter where you are based and you have to make sure you are cutting through the noise. We find that in smaller cities there is less of a competitive nature with other businesses in our field and a much more collaborative approach. Our studio may be in Dundee but our audience is international. We have grown significantly as a business through online sales and developing our relationship with our customers by taking them on the design journey, every step of the way. The Scottish fashion industry is a very exciting place to be at the moment and should be taken seriously - it is worth a whopping £2.8 billion to the Scottish Economy. We have amazing heritage mills, fantastic pattern cutters, seamstresses and groundbreaking digital design resources on our doorstep, so it is the perfect place to launch a start up fashion brand.

At Isolated Heroes we love creating a design story around a collection, and this is where we always start. We storyboard the styling and photoshoot and then work backwards from the campaign. For example, our Summer Outlaws collection was based on runaways and we knew we wanted the models to look like they had just left the scene of a crime. So we hired a pink Cadillac and shot the campaign as if they were travelling across California and sleeping in diners etc. It was so much fun scouting locations in Scotland that could pass as LA. For the collection, we designed 90's inspired sequin dresses, a digital starstruck print fabric and some sequin ball gowns. We wanted it to look like the models had to leave in a rush and had packed a mismatch of all their most treasured items out of their wardrobe.


We always use sequin fabrics and embellishments within each collection and have an underlying 90's aesthetic in terms of our fit and silhouette. However, each collection takes on its own inspirations and tells its own story. For our Autumn/Winter 2021 collection we are looking at sustainability and what it means for individuals as well as how it can have both negative and positive connotations. We're looking at sustainability from all angles and how beauty can be seen in the macabre. We have designed high-end, ultra glam sequin suits and long evening dresses. We wanted to create high fashion looks in a dystopian setting so we are shooting the pieces in a scrapyard. The location is a weird and wonderful place which has underlying themes of reuse, repair and recycle. It is essentially a space where a hoarder has excessively collected various objects and left them to rot as they are unable to throw items away and don’t want to contribute to the waste problem.

An item of clothing being made using a sewing machine.
A close up of a sequin smiley face.
  • Creating garments

  • Hardcore Happiness

2021 has been a huge year for Isolated Heroes. We have had some major projects with Urban Outfitters, St James Quarter in Edinburgh, V&A Dundee, Scotland Re:Designed and Princes Square in Glasgow. We have also doubled our staff numbers! Each time we sign for an exciting project or take on a big retail collaboration we can employ more people within the creative sector which is so important to us.

Models walking down a runway
We can't wait to take part in Scotland Re:Designed

Before the end of the year we have two major events coming up. Firstly, we'll be trading at this year's Festive Design Market at V&A Dundee on the 6 and 7 of November. Then we will be launching our new party wear collection at V&A Dundee's first ever runway show as part of Scotland Re:Designed! We are so excited to be part of this. The opening event will see Isolated Heroes and a host of Scottish designers participate in this renowned annual showcase and runway show which has taken place across Scotland, the UK and internationally since 2005.

We really want to focus on retail in 2022. We want to change the retail landscape - bringing life and excitement back to shopping centres and retail destinations with in-person shopping while educating consumers and making them think more sustainably. We have just signed a contract with Princes Square in Glasgow for a very exciting retail project in February which will combine our themes of made to order and sustainable manufacturing with interactive in person shopping. We can't wait!

You can find Isolated Heroes at our Festive Design Market all weekend.

Festive Design Market is in collaboration with Tea Green Events.