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Success sewn up for Dudley youngster creating clothes for Kardashians

By Doug Wootton | News | Published:

Givenchy, Alexander McQueen and Céline are just a few of the designer brands socialite Kim Kardashian has been spotted wearing in recent years.

Elizabeth Ilsey, 22, in one of her many jackets

The global icon has also taken a liking to the leather jackets produced by the first and currently youngest master to be under the spotlight in the 100 Masters series – Elizabeth Ilsley.

The Dudley-born 22-year-old has been making huge strides in the fashion industry, with an impressive and growing list of celebrity customers, as well as a worldwide fan-base.

Elizabeth’s jackets have also been worn by one of the most famous three-year-olds on the planet, daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, North.

She’s made and sold around 300 jackets so far, and won admiration from singing sensation Rihanna.

Making another of her pieces in her workshop

As a youngster she lived on a council estate in Sedgley and despite now working from her small studio in Digbeth in the week, she still lives in her home town.

She went to Dormston secondary school, and its large theatre gave her first artistic inspiration – singing.

She added: “I was a singer before anything else but I used to do all types of theatre dancing in the hall there.

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I’d write poems, draw portraits of friends and family – I’ve always had that in me.”

Elizabeth Ilsley jackets have been admired by the likes of Kayne West and Rihanna

Being different is something Elizabeth has grown used to. Her jackets – which have been billed as ‘pop art’, ‘feminist’ and ‘punk’ – are often provocative and certainly unique.

After school it was Halesowen College then the School of Art at Birmingham University where during her first year a serendipitous cocktail of being a poor student and reading Patti Smith’s memoirs, Just Kids, resulted in a moment of creativity and her first painted leather jacket was made.

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She had bought a £10 leather jacket from a Salvation Army store in Dudley, but it turned out to be too baggy for her so she painted on the back ‘I shave my legs for you’ which has become her trademark piece.

Elizabeth added: “It was for a boy I was seeing at the time that I really liked, but I didn’t know how to tell him as I’m a bit socially awkward.”

Her social awkwardness proved to be her making, as after posting a photo of the jacket on Instagram, pop star Rihanna ‘liked’ the post and started following her on the social network.

From there the hype grew as did the online followers, going from a few hundred to the 26,000 she has today.

North snapped by Kourtney Kardashian in a jacket

Elizabeth added: “I got an email in September, it said something along the lines of ‘we really like your jackets and we’d like to commission you for three jackets’ and the message was from someone from Kayne West’s website.

"I asked who it was for and she said Kanye (West) has seen your work on Instagram and he really likes it and he’d like to order some jackets for his daughter and Kim – so I freaked out.

"In typical Kayne West fashion – I asked what they wanted on the jackets and they requested for it to be his lyrics.”

North has since been snapped by Kourtney Kardashian in the jacket. “North looks really cute in it,” said Elizabeth.

So how does she deal with the pressure of making clothes for some of the most well-known celebrities of a generation?

With a good dollop of Black Country grounding and irreverence. She added: “I take it literally – a child has worn a jacket. That sounds arrogant, but all that’s happened is a three-year-old had worn a jacket that I’ve worked on.

"I think if I got Beyonce in one, I think I’d just die – but I want loads of people in the jackets and to keep on going with it.”

To view all current masters or to nominate a master from the Black Country, go to 100masters.co.uk. The project is supported by Creative Black Country.

Got a copy of today's Express & Star?

In what is a first for the Express & Star – this article in today's print edition features augmented reality technology.

Before you run for the hills in a technological meltdown, it simply requires the download of a free app onto your smartphone, which should take less than 90 seconds, and will release additional images that will pop up from the page.

In three easy steps, we break down how you can take part in this exciting new territory for a daily newspaper.

Step 1 – Click these links to the App Store on an iPhone or Google Play Store for Android users to download the app.

Step 3 – Open the app and hover it over this page.

Step 4 – Tap the screen – making sure only this page is displayed on your phone – and the app will highlight the whole page.

You will then see a specially-designed graphic ‘jump out of the page’, which you can tap on to find more information about Elizabeth Ilsley and the 100 Masters project.

Here's how it works:

Bring print to life with Layar!

The augmented reality graphic has been designed by West Midlands-based Juneau Projects.

For more information about the project go to 100masters.co.uk

Doug Wootton

By Doug Wootton
Wolverhampton Reporter - @_DougWootton

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