Growing up in Poland and making her way to Texas, Zuzanna Isham has a taste for adventure and a calm disposition that perfectly fits her Western way of life.
Although her roots may not be traditional for someone entrenched in the Western lifestyle, Zuzanna Isham has made the West, specifically Texas, her home. The simplified way of life she experienced in childhood has aided her and her husband, Chad Isham, in their endeavors as vintage business and personal brand owners. Isham may look familiar as she has posed for some of C&I's recent fashion shoots. We sat down to ask her a few questions about her upbringing and her journey into the Western lifestyle.
C&I: Can you tell me a bit about your childhood and growing up in Poland?
Isham: I’m from Poland, the north of Europe, Slavic heritage. I grew up both in an old European city and in the countryside. Most of my happy childhood memories were made on the sunflower fields, haystacks, apple orchards, in the lakes and rivers, around the barns and at the Baltic coast. I have always lived close to animals and nature in a region known for its ancient forests, where Polish bison roam free.
In my culture, grandmothers pass on knowledge to their grandchildren about native plants and herbs that are useful in the kitchen and can cure many diseases. I used to love collecting birch sap in the spring, foraging wild strawberries and blueberries in the summer, drying chamomile for tea and going mushroom picking in the fall. Each season of the year in the Polish calendar is dedicated to a different phenomenon in nature.
C&I: How did you make your way to the U.S. and, more specifically, Texas? How did you meet your husband?
Isham: I spent years working in the Polish fashion industry, first as a young fashion designer, later as an editor for ELLE. I travelled all over Europe and visited many beautiful places, yet none of them gave me a sense of belonging and I never felt inspired enough. I knew I had to travel further and find ‘more space’ to breathe. I wanted to discover a land that doesn’t feel like the Old Continent I already knew so well. I decided to apply for a temporary job in the U.S. and accepted the first offer from Texas. The cowboy country is definitely a fascinating choice for someone who only knows it from the movies.
During my journey through the Wild West I met Chad, my husband, on Instagram. Once we started corresponding with each other, we quickly discovered we have much more in common than the aesthetics that brought us together online. I decided to date him every weekend, by taking a train from Dallas to Fort Worth. It was very romantic. Chad waited at the train station in his tall cowboy hat and it was love at first sight. He drove me out to the middle of nowhere and that’s where I knew I belonged. I found my home in another person and naturally soon after Texas became my slice of heaven.
C&I: Have you always had a love for vintage and antique things?
Isham: As a child I used to love visiting my older family members whose houses were filled with antiques and objects from before and after World War II. I will never forget the smell of the old attics where I was finding the best family treasures. Nothing changed over time. I still borrow clothes from my grandma’s closet and choose vintage things over the trends created by today’s fast fashion industry. My style is inspired by my past, my European roots, my love for western movies, my everyday passions, the places I’ve traveled to and my surroundings. It is a combination of everything that stimulates my heart and imagination. That's why I deal with antiques and vintage — to show my clients the beauty hidden in the quality and craftsmanship of the old days.
C&I: Did you already have an affinity for the Western lifestyle?
Isham: I’ve always loved hats, ponchos, denim from head to toe, cowboy boots and fringe jackets. I was never afraid to dress that way in Europe, and, because of this, people considered my style different or very unique.
C&I: What fuels your creative fire these days?
Isham: Exploring the world bareback, going on road trips, or simply taking back roads home. My source of inspiration is my surroundings. Just a beautiful sunrise and a spectacular sunset are enough for me to keep the fire burning.
Photography by Chris Douglas