22-Year-Old Isabel Getty on Working With Dolce & Gabbana and Overcoming Tradition: New Face, Fresh Style
As the only daughter of '90s socialite Pia Getty, granddaughter of Duty-Free billionaire Robert Miller and great-granddaughter of American oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty, 22-year-old Isabel Getty has lived what most would call a charmed life.
As cosmopolitan royalty, Getty spent her first 8 years in a six-story Upper East Side townhouse before moving to London. She counts her cousins, Princess Marie-Olympia of Greece and Talita von Furstenberg (granddaughter of designer Diane) as some of her closest friends, and like her mother, went to the prestigious Le Rosey boarding school in Switzerland as a teen before moving back to New York City.
Similar to Pia, Isabel is an artist -- though unlike her mother, her chosen medium is not film, it’s music. “I’m ambitious for happiness and I know that music, fashion and art bring me that,” Getty tells Billboard.
As a 4-year-old lady strutting around in her plastic princess pumps singing along to the Spice Girls on her kitchen table, Isabel was encouraged to classically train in piano and song. In London, she became head of her school choir. She was involved in the school band and musical theater, and at the age of 14 -- influenced by Pia, who told Isabel she was “boring” if she didn’t dye her hair -- the natural blonde began experimenting with color.
So far she’s tried blue, pink, white, silver, yellow, brunette, pink, red and lilac. The changes are based on her mood; when everyone warned her about the dangers and downfalls of being a musician, she chopped off her long locks and dyed them silver before moving back to London to focus on her career. “With the development of my music, I’ve learned not to be afraid to be bold and take risks,” she says. Her personal recommendation for color is the famed hair salon Bleach London.
However, for a long time, the shy and sensitive Getty was denying her creativity. While attending New York University, she played with the idea of being a lawyer. She tried to force herself into entrepreneurship and finance, as both are deeply rooted in the Getty heritage. “I felt this pressure to be the person everyone wanted me to be, and I kept ignoring the things that I wanted,” she says, explaining the panic attacks and depression she suffered from during this time.
Eventually, after transforming her poems into lyrics, receiving positive feedback on Soundcloud and visually expressing the content of her songs through painting, Getty transferred to the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU and graduated in May 2016. Immediately afterward, the musician moved back to London to work on Spin, the recently released EP from her band, Jean Marlow.
The group is inspired by a mix of soul and grungy soft rock, which is easy to hear in expressive guitar riffs and Getty’s Duffy-esque vintage vocals. Her lyrics are honest, on subjects ranging from family dynamics and social constraints as a feminist to bumpy love affairs. As the lead singer, she also designs album art for the band, infusing human figures, planets, trees and even pineapples into Jean Marlow’s world. “I came to the conclusion that people are going to talk no matter what, so why not give them a run for their money?” she says.
Her approach to style is similar. Channeling the glamorous bohemian vibes of her jet-setting predecessors, Getty dresses in colorful, androgynous suits, bright flared jeans with biker boots and jackets with hand-ironed patches she collects from London’s Brick Lane flea market.
She was featured in Dolce & Gabbana’s #DGCAPRI sunglass campaign ("It’s a pretty funky experience to see your face on a billboard three times your size,” she says) and walked the Dolce & Gabbana FW17 runway show this past February in a pair of silk pajamas and furry black slippers. “When [Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana] first asked, I was like, ‘I’m not a model I can’t even walk in heels!’ But when I saw my outfit, I relaxed. I mean, talk about a dream!”
Jean Marlow will be touring across Europe and America this coming summer, but Getty says her dreams as a musician won’t be complete until she’s performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, connecting to thousands of fans at a festival she "grew up with -- in my native England.”